Fedal 40

Today at Wimbledon, we'll see the 40th chapter in the long and storied rivalry between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. Today's semifinal will be their first match on grass since the epic 2008 Wimbledon final that is widely considered the greatest match of all time. As I write this, Novak Djokovic has just beaten Roberto Bautista-Agut and awaits the Federer-Nadal winner in the final.

Nadal pretty much erased Federer at the French Open six weeks ago, but then again, Rafa still pretty much erases everyone on clay, just as he's done for his entire career. But Wimbledon is grass, Federer's favorite surface, so we won't see similar today. I don't think there's any way to overhype this match. It's too bad it's not the final, but the two-seed battling the three-seed seems right for a semi, with Novak having been the clear number-one for the past year.

Is it okay if I just accept that I'm not getting jack-shit done with my day until this match is over? I guess it has to be. Because I'm not getting jack-shit done until it's over.

A Few Thoughts on the Match

At 1-1 in the second, Roger had double-break-point against Rafa's serve. Rafa saved the first one, and then Roger flubbed the return on the next. Rafa won the next couple of points, and afterwards we witnessed something that I have come to understand as the crucial flaw in Federer's game: he is capable of getting mad and staying mad at himself when he misses an opportunity. That's clearly what happened here. Roger got broken at love in the next game, Rafa consolidated, and things only got worse as Rafa broke Roger again in Roger's next service game. Rafa won the set comfortably, 6-1. An interesting statistic: Federer won only three of the final 23 points of that set after that missed return.

Oddly, though, it was Nadal who looked out of sorts the rest of the match. We got to see Rafa the Never-Give-Up Fighter at the very end of the match (starting at the two match points Rafa faced on his own serve at 3-5 in the fourth, through Roger's break-point save at 30-40 5-4) but otherwise, for the final two sets, Roger was clearly in control. I can't think of a time that I've seen Rafa look dejected, but his frustration was evident in the final set of the match. I'll be curious to hear if he was dealing with a slight injury or an oncoming illness.

Roger won the match without burning too much energy. He'll nevertheless be a substantial underdog against an on-fire Novak Djokovic, but we'll cross our fingers and hope for a great final.

“Let’s Start Here” Is Starting Here

Pop the champagne, everybody. This post right here marks the official(-ish) release of the first episode of the podcast Jerry and I have been working on, Let's Start Here.

Jerry and I had hoped that we would release Episode 1 on the first Monday after the solstice, but for a variety of technical reasons, we put it off for a couple of weeks. Some of those reasons still obtain (for example, that we don't have all the information we need to get the thing onto iTunes, and that we haven't created a dedicated website for the podcast yet), which is why I say, "Official-ish," but I don't want to delay anymore, so here we go.

Today, we move boldly forward on our path to world domination.

Special Tottenham Hotspur Champions League Semi-Final Preview

If you are a smarter person than I, you didn't watch Tottenham Hotspurs' 0-1 self-immolation at Bournemouth on Saturday. So let me give you a little context: a win again bottom-half Bournemouth would have guaranteed Spurs a top-four finish and Champions League football for next season. A return to the Champions League is absolutely crucial to the future of the club.

So here in a nutshell is how the game played out:

  1. Spurs took about 1000 shots, but failed to score.
  2. In a move that will probably someday end up in a training video called "Properly Given Straight Red Cards" that they'll show to referees-in-training, Heung-min Son got sent off for smacking a Bournemouth player in the back of the head while the referee was looking directly at him.
  3. In another play from that same video, Juan Foyth came on as a second-half substitute and, in his first action of the game, got sent off for a knee-high studs-up challenge.
  4. Nine-man Spurs held the game to 0-0 up into stoppage time, at which point they gave up a goal off a corner to get the loss they so richly deserved.

In that summary, I'm not even mentioning that in the first half, Eric Dier twice committed fouls that should have earned him a second yellow card and gotten him sent off as well.

Based on the poise and professionalism that Spurs demonstrated in this match, they'll give up about 600 goals against Ajax today. I'll be actually a bit surprised if we don't end up witnessing a beatdown of almost comical proportions.

Even if Tottenham Hotspur or soccer or, frankly, sports in general don't interest you, the stuff I'm talking about here might actually matter to you. We're talking about top-level soccer players, the best of the best, and they are absolutely melting down at the end of the season. If you think in terms of stressors and energy flow, what's leading to Spurs' free-fall might make a bit of sense. What might that perspective suggest to us about the costs we accrue as normal people living normal lives, when we push ourselves beyond our limits?

Podcast Update

Today Jerry and I are doing our third pre-production test-recording session for the podcast. In the first recordings, we were basically zero-drafting: not concerning ourselves with final product, just listening for feeling, for rhythm, for a sense of what works and a sense of how our rapport translates to recording.

Today I aim to have some basic production sheets prepared ahead of time. At this point, I know what I want our first half-dozen or so episodes to cover. So today we're going to do pre-production takes on at least two of those and see what we learn.

If all goes well, these will be our final test recordings. After this, I think we'll have learned enough that we'll be ready to move the project into actual production.

Later in the week, I'll share some thoughts about how today went.

Federer in Madrid

Exactly a year ago today, I arrived in Madrid, my first time back in almost 24 years. The next day was my first day at La Caja Mágica, the modern but kind of weird facility where they hold the Madrid Open.

As befits a place called the Magic Box, my time at the Madrid Open was pretty magical. I watched a lot of Denis Shapovalov, who will likely be my favorite player once Federer retires. I watched Maria Sharapova from up close. I told Ekaterina Makarova that I could probably help her with her injured shoulder (and I could have). I saw Dominic Thiem beat--truly beat--Rafael Nadal in the semifinals.

What I didn't see, not there nor at any of the other three tournaments I attended during that trip, was Roger Federer play. For the past couple of years, Federer has skipped the clay-court season in order to focus on preparations for Wimbledon. Federer--my very, very favorite player--remains the only major player I've never seen play.

But perhaps because life sometimes has a cruel sense of humor, he's not skipping the clay-court season this year. He'll play his first match in Madrid tomorrow.

If you see me this week and my eyes seem a little distant, it's because my heart is in Madrid.

Champions League Semis: Tottenham – Ajax, Leg 1: Not As I Hoped, But Pretty Much As I Expected

Tottenham 0 - Ajax 1

Spurs under Mauricio Pochettino have generally been fun to watch. They play high-pressing, short-passing, ball-control-oriented attacking football--basically the general formula played by every team that has successfully internalized the insights that Barcelona gave to the world with tiki-taka. So it was less than fully satisfying to watch Spurs resort to blasting long-balls up the field, and all the more so because a substantial number of them were aimed not at tall Fernando Llorente but at really-quite-short Lucas Moura. They might as well have put WE DON'T ACTUALLY HAVE ANY IDEAS up on all of the big fancy screens in their new stadium.

Ajax, on the other hand, played high-pressing, short-passing, ball-control-oriented attacking football, and they're really good at it. It's not hard to see how they beat Real Madrid and Juventus. Tottenham looked totally bamboozled for the first 30 minutes, and substantially the lesser team for the rest of the game. Spurs were lucky to escape with a 0-1 loss.

I read a cute article in the soccer press earlier today that argued that Spurs still totally have a chance to win the tie. Ajax might rue that they only won by a single goal, the writer argued. Well, in order to advance, Spurs have to go to Amsterdam and win. So, I wracked my brain and came up with all the reasons I could think of to believe that Spurs are capable of beating Ajax. Here's my list:


Will I watch anyway? Sure. There's reason to think it could be an entertaining match. Spurs have to win; it's that simple. That means they can't hold back. If they can't hold back, then they'll be vulnerable to the counterattack, and Ajax certainly have counterattacking capabilities. Every goal that Ajax score means that things get more desperate for Spurs, which means they have to commit even more to the attack, which makes them ever-more-vulnerable. It's not crazy to think that Ajax might find the back of the net more than a few times. I'm not likely to see my team make their way to the final, but it could be a fun game nevertheless.

Champions League Semifinal Preview: Tottenham Hotspur – Ajax

What's the most insightful statement I can offer in preview of today's Champions League Semifinal, in which red-and-white-hot Ajax come to visit my beloved Tottenham Hotspur?

I'm definitely feeling nervous. Lords knows what the people actually involved in the game are feeling.

Oh, but you want to read something about the actual game? Okay, I'll do my best.

There's no serious question that this is the most important match in the history of Tottenham Hotspur. The team just opened a new stadium; it is widely reported (in the English-language press, anyway) to be the best football stadium in the world. And tonight (in their time zone--the game starts at 1pm here), all eyes are on them. They will be playing in front of a truly world-wide audience.

So hey, no pressure, right?

Ajax have been giant killers this year. They knocked out two of the top European teams ever, Real Madrid and Juventus, in the round of 16 and quarterfinals, respectively. Everyone thinks they are punching above their weight. They have a very young team that no one expects to stay together a whole lot longer, the economics of soccer being what they are.

And here's Tottenham Hotspur, showing off a new stadium and with it announcing to the world that the balance of power in European soccer has perhaps shifted.

I mean, what do you think if you're a 21-year-old up-and-coming star at Ajax, knowing that you'll be transferred soon to a bigger, richer club that plays in a bigger league than the Eredivisie will ever be? Do you not walk into this brand-new palace of football and think, Maybe this is the future right here?

On paper, it would seem that Tottenham should be the favorites in this tie. They play in the Premier League, after all. But they arrived here tonight by a grace-of-God near-miracle--that the final goal against them at Manchester was ruled offside. They lack their two biggest players: Harry Kane is out with an ankle injury, and Hyeung-min Son has been suspended for yellow-card accumulation. Meanwhile, Ajax have all the momentum--they've just run roughshod over Real Madrid and Juventus. So today, we may see a flat Tottenham side meet an on-fire Ajax side, and just limply exit the stage.

As a long-time Tottenham fan, I can assure you, that would be a very Spurs way to finish this little European adventure. This weekend, against West Ham United at home--a team they should beat, in other words--they played to a so-so stalemate in the first half and got soundly outplayed in the second. Did this present a clear picture of what they're bringing to the table right now, late in a long season, their small squad now all the smaller? Or was it that they just couldn't really muster the energy for a Saturday match when they knew that Tuesday, they'd be bringing everything they have to this one?

As a fan, I have to hope it's the latter. This could be our moment. A trip to the final would be enormous for the club and the squad. That they would be widely expected to lose that final, against either Messi's Barcelona or Klopp's flying Liverpool, wouldn't matter. They'd be playing in the biggest match in the European club year. It would be amazing.

I don't often watch a match live, but this is certainly the time. Wish me luck.

Oh, yeah: and Spurs, too. Wish them luck, too.

A Thought on the Economics of Living In Summit County

This thought isn't fully formed yet, but it struck me as interesting enough to zero draft about/revise just enough to share.

I was walking over to the local Target this afternoon, and something about being so present in the reality of moment-by-moment life got me to realize one aspect of what makes living here so challenging. It's that there's no obvious way to move forward economically. You can survive here as a wage-earner--you are probably working two or three different jobs, and you live in a place with a roommate or three, but you can survive.

To move up, though, is very difficult. Wages are flat, because there's a constant influx of short-term workers who are willing to work for zero dollars an hour (roughly) and a ski pass. But the economy works: tourism provides enough jobs that workers can find a way to make ends meet. However, cost of living, which is to say cost of housing, keeps rising, and quickly, because of a few factors: 1) supply is limited; 2) demand is high, because a) simply being here is desirable, because it's beautiful and there's a lot to do; b) all that tourist money coming in makes vacation property-investment profitable; c) There are enough investment bankers and corporate lawyers and cardiologists for whom buying a $700,000 condo as a vacation property isn't that big a deal.

But notice: there is no real incentive for the economy to produce the kind of jobs that move people up in the world. You survive via tourism or outside money. The result--for most locals, anyway--is a pervasive defeatism that only gets sufficiently assuaged because this is an incredible place to live. After all, even if you're broke, you can have an epic, amazing day. It costs nothing to, after all, to go hiking.

Podcast Production, Part Two of Many

You know what articles on proper podcast production techniques definitely won't tell you to do? They won't tell you to boost the gain on your voice tracks, throw a compressor into the signal path, and then follow it up with a juicy reverb on the Master channel. What I have just described will definitely not produce the classic podcast voice sound.

It will, however make it sound like I AM SPEAKING DIRECTLY INSIDE YOUR HEAD.