Especially to those of you in Dallas, Baton Rouge, and Falcon Heights, Minnesota. You are in our thoughts at this time of national challenge. We wish you only Love.
Love and Football. Because thanks to France 2 Germany 0, after 35 days of lukewarm Copa-Euro action, we were finally treated to some fantastic action. Hosts France trumped Germany for the first time in major tournament play since 1958. They did not so much win a game as shatter a hex that the Germans held over them. What life truths do we have to hold dear now?
Germany could not fill the Mario Gomez-shaped hole in their frontline. They ultimately paid the Iron Price for having a coach who gave his players permission to put their hands in places they should never go. Félicitations to the French. Their team was a global laughing stock after their mutiny at World Cup 2010. Ever since then, the squad has been on a national mission to restore their pride at EURO 16 on home turf. November’s terror attacks made that feel ever more vital. That they are now just one game away from glory is in large part down to the play of Drake’s No. 1 Fan, Antoine Griezmann, who, with victory, would etch his name into an elite French pantheon alongside Michel Platini and Zinédine Zidane. Griezmann is a player whose talent was dismissed often as a child, on the basis of his diminutive size. His success is a reminder that in youth development, mental and tactical ability can often trump sheer physical advantage.
France face Portugal, a team who have done more with winning ugly than anyone bar Timofey Mozgov. Iceland finished higher than the Portuguese in the group stages as Ronaldo’s mob failed to win a game. When the Real Madrid striker lambasted Iceland’s “small mentality” then proceeded to miss a penalty against Austria, many consigned his elite moments to the past. Yet Ronaldo is Risen. Freshly waxed-preening Show Pony he may be, the star has reinforced a fact at EURO 2016: his competitive spirit and will to win outstrips all of the bile and vitriol haters can pour his way. His team will line-up on Sunday in their hospital scrub-colored jerseys, and attempt to play spoiler to the host’s party. And they will fancy their chances.
I cannot wait for the Final which we will savor and break down on VICE Sports Sunday, July 11th at 5 p.m. ET, immediately following the final whistle for our last episode of “Men in Blazers: Euro2000&Copa.” A massive thanks to Premier League champion Christian Fuchs, who dropped by the Panic Room for yesterday's VICE show to talk Euros, his future in America and his new soccer academies in NYC and NJ. You can watch our interview with him HERE. If you’ve had the good fortune of missing any of the content we’ve produced for VICE Sports, it is all available HERE.
On behalf of
“Positive” Davo: @embassydavies
Producer JW: @JonoWilly
Producer Lexi: @tannneal
I. Three Questions with The General Bob Ley
One of the great joys of Euro 2016 has been watching our broadcasting hero, great American, and recipient of the very first Golden Blazer Bob Ley captain ESPN’s coverage. His depth of knowledge and full head of hair never ceases to amaze us. In this edition of Three Questions
, we ask The General about the marathon nature of covering a month-long football tournament and Parisian dining with Sir Ian Darke.
: You have covered football tournaments dating back to the 1982 World Cup. Where does this one stack up in terms of quality of football? Where does it stack in terms of narrative? Would it be fair to say, the latter outstripped the former?
Clearly, the football in Euro 2016 has not been scintillating. When it's been unimaginative or tactical to a fault, we've tried to call it out on the air - both on the host set and at the venues. Folks at home know what they're seeing. But the other narratives in this month - the initial violence from fans (organized Russian mayhem, classic hooliganism from some others) - the emergence of Iceland, the promise of Wales - have all provided us a string of stories that have carried it through this month. As I type this, France - the nation - has just calmed down from its party last night after Les Bleus' victory over Germany. This team's development - Deschamps' management and decisions along the way - have all been fascinating to watch. We hope for a final as entertaining as the first half of the Germany-France semi-final, but Portugal may not be ready to accommodate.
One image or scene - good or bad - that will stay with you long after Euro 2016 ends?
I wish I could send you this picture, but it's on my higher-end camera and will be downloaded upon my return to the States. It's taken just below the cemetery at Omaha Beach, in Normandy, where more than 9,000 American service people rest. There's a walkway and bluff above the beach itself, and there is a large display of the order of battle for that fateful day, the pivot point of the 20th century - June 6, 1944. It's a long large table, on which the various landing beaches are shown, and the Allied military units which attacked each beach, and the German forces which defended the northwestern coast of France. It is a graphic display of how this day was won. And as a colleague and I approached it - having already visited Omaha Beach - a group of French schoolchildren were gathering about the D-Day display, summoned by their teacher. The kids may have been 11 or 12 years old, and their teacher was calling them together to begin explaining what had happened 72 years ago (almost to the week), and what sacrifices had been made to free their nation and Europe. And on the faces of those kids there was rapt attention. They were clearly drinking it in. For any adult, it was almost impossible not to as we were standing between the cemetery and the beach. But that these youngsters were respectfully - even eagerly - listening to this story was a most emotional sight. More striking than any moment on the pitch. Later in the day, after lunch, we drove up to Pointe du Hoc, where the U.S. Army Rangers had scaled the impossibly tall cliffs. The landscape remains pockmarked by artillery depressions. The German defensive structures are still there, and you can climb through them. And you can glance out to sea and imagine what it must have been that morning when the largest invasion force ever assembled began the job of freeing Western Europe, and bringing order to the world.
Covering a tournament is a marathon stamina-wise. Particularly at the beginning when the games can be three a day. What is the biggest lesson you have learned about successfully broadcasting a month of football?
Experience is the greatest teacher here. From bringing as many creature comforts from home as you can pack (including, a good Bluetooth speaker for tunes in your room) to emptying out your mini-bar (no, not consuming it all) to make room for snacks, late night meals and water and juices from local shops. I have to re-set my body clock. Normally I'm up before 5am, but here, I am often going to work at 530pm and finishing after midnight. So managing your sleep is important, as well not being too proud to take naps when you can.
MiB: Best meal you've had in France... with or without Ian Darke?
Well, I've been reading Hemingway's "A Moveable Feast" while over here, and Sir Ian is - himself - a feast without portfolio. So whether it's breakfast over eggs and "L'Equipe" (the French sports daily newspaper) or late night drinks in the hotel bar, any time with him is joyous. However, the highlight may have been an expedition to a long-standing Brasserie near the Sorbonne, recommended by Jeremy Schaap's French photographer, Pascal. Jeremy, Ian, Andrew Hush of ESPNFC.com and yours truly walked down the Boulevard St. Germain a mile or so to the Latin Quarter to Rue des Ecoles, for a marvelous meal. I was happy to suggest a delightful Cote du Rhone, and Jeremy invoked the Golden Rule of French desserts… which is: when there are Profiteroles on the menu, there is no other dessert. All of that, for a marvelous several hours of the Darke Side.
II. Elie Wiesel RIP
Like many of you, I read Elie Wiesel
’s work as a kid. His book Dawn
had the greatest impact on me. When I was in University, he came and spoke at the Oxford Union. Hundreds of us dropped everything we were doing and drove through the night from all points, in a flotilla of battered student automobiles, to go and hear from a man we thought was so old, we were sure we would never have the chance to listen to live again. That was 25 years ago. America being America, I ended up having a daughter in the same school class as Wiesel’s granddaughter and so got to spend time around him in a personal capacity. My experience of him never faltered though. He moved through the world like a living prophet. With a charisma best captured after his passing by GFOP David Simon who tweeted
“Read ‘Night’ at 11. A year later, in a hotel lobby, I shook his hand. What I remember is having no words to say.”
III. Kevin Durant vs. Zlatan, Who Ya Got? With Marc Stein
The Premier League Scriptwriters appear to be locked in a storytelling breakdance battle with their NBA counterparts. It started last Thursday with Zlatan, in true Zlatan fashion, announcing his own transfer
to Manchester United. Then, over the holiday weekend, Kevin Durant shifted the NBA’s tectonic plates by joining the Golden State Warriors. So. Much. Narrative.
With questions swirling around both moves, we turn to a man ensconced in both football’s transfer window and NBA free agency. Marc Stein
is ESPN’s NBA Insider and host of Soccer Today
[every Sunday at 9 a.m. CT/10 a.m. ET] on 103.3 FM ESPN Radio Dallas alongside Steve Davis
. He is also a MASSIVE City fan and GFOP of the highest order [Listen to our Pod with Stein HERE
]. In this edition of The Raven we lay out a series of questions and ask Stein: KD vs. Zlatan, Who Ya Got?
Which move is more surprising?
Zlatan. Only because I really, really wanted to believe he was on the verge of a move to MLS. Can you imagine him in our league? On these shores? We'd have to cover him like we cover the Warriors or Cavs.
Who has more to lose?
Durant. His "transfer" will be under the microscope so much more. It's so much more polarizing. Zlatan, by contrast, has already moved around a bunch. Do we really spend a lot of time dwelling on how his Barca stay didn't quite reach the heights of Peak Zlatan? I can't even remember how many clubs he's played for by now. Can't see how his legacy will be impacted hugely by this one stop.
Between the lines - who fits in more quickly?
Durant. It's a mistake to presume that the Warriors will be some sort of turn-key operation -- it's going to take KD some time to find a comfort zone alongside three other All-Stars who need the ball too -- but how Zlatan fits in is always is a significant question mark. As great as he is.
In the locker room - who fits in more quickly?
: Durant. By several streets as Rog would (probably) say. He has close relationships going into the deal with Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala. Not sure the home dressing room at the biggest ground in the Prem is big enough for Zlatan.
this to your football curious friends. Let's see if we can bring them over to the dark side. The Ian Darke Side.
“We should be careful / Of each other, we should be kind / While there is still time.”