Dreaming of north-south (Korea) soccer final | The Latte Guy | June 18

I watched the much-anticipated USA vs. England World Cup soccer match on a wall-mounted television set in the “Breakfast Buffet Room” of the Holiday Inn Express in Merced, Calif.

For that reason, I will always associate the game with the smell of burnt waffles and freshly applied deodorant. I wasn’t in Merced just to watch the soccer game, of course. I was also there to attend the wedding of Wendy’s nephew, which was convenient since he happened to be getting married in Merced while we were there.

I had never been to Merced, which lies 110 miles southeast of Sacramento in the heart of the San Joaquin Valley. It’s about halfway between Stockton and Fresno, which, I believe, is where we derive the term “Halfway House.”

A recent article in Business Week referred to Merced as “Ghost Town, USA” due to its many abandoned neighborhoods and paved driveways leading to vacant lots.

Merced ranked 370 out of 373 cities nationwide in a recent “Most Livable Cities” poll, although the authors indicated that they thought Merced was “definitely on an upward path.”

Oddly enough, I liked Merced. It’s a nice place to visit if you have a hankering for unobstructed clear-blue skies, oceans of agriculture and excellent Mexican food.

The wedding we attended was on a charming little organic farm just outside town, and was a lovely affair. Adding to its appeal, there are three In-and-Out Burger outlets lying just off Highway 99 between Merced and the Sacramento airport.

Now that the wedding is behind us, I’ve been able to devote my full attention to the World Cup. My interest in this quadrennial event increased markedly when I learned that Fado’s Irish Pub in Seattle would be broadcasting all World Cup games live from South Africa. Which means that for the next couple of weeks, Fado’s will be televising soccer matches from 4:30 a.m. until after lunch.

Nothing says big time fun like two hours of Algeria vs. Nigeria soccer before breakfast.

This year for the first time I’ve entered a number of World Cup pools. I’m confident I’m going to win at least one of them because I’m pretty sure I’m the only person in any pool who picked North Korea to win the tournament. In fact, I’m hoping for a North Korea vs. South Korea final that will not only decide the World Cup championship, but also possibly head off World War III.

If I’m right about that, I may win both my World Cup pool and a Nobel Peace Prize in one fell swoop.

I’d also be interested in seeing a Japan vs. Germany final pitting the former World War II Axis of Evil allies against each other under slightly less hostile circumstances. (I’ve seen the German team play, and the phrase “slightly less violent” seems about right).

It would be great to see an all-African final between Ivory Coast and Cameroon. Unless it turns out that Cameroon is not in Africa, in which case I’d substitute in Ghana, which I’m pretty sure is in Africa.

And wouldn’t it be interesting to see life imitating art’s imitation of life by having South Africa and New Zealand play for the championship in a déjà vu-ish rematch of their recent historic rugby match captured in Clint Eastwood’s film “Invictus.” At least I think that was a Clint Eastwood movie. Maybe I’m thinking of “Iwo Jima?”

I’d also like to see a World Cup final involving a combined team from Slovakia, Slovenia and Serbia (which I happen to think are really all the same country) against the colorful Brazilians. That’s one of my favorite sports teams from Brazil, second perhaps only to the Brazilian women’s Olympic beach volleyball team.

I told the folks at the Merced Holiday Inn Express that I’d be back to join them in front of the television set in the Buffet Room if either England or USA made it to the World Cup final, a promise that now appears a bit rash, particularly since Wendy has only got the one nephew.

In the meantime, think good thoughts about the North Korean team; my fate and fortune may lie in the hands of their feet.

Tom Tyner is an attorney for the Trust for Public Land. He is author of “Skeletons From Our Closet,” a collection of writings on the island’s latte scene.

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