World Cup: This was a fantastic World Cup. Probably the best I can recall since 1998, which is kind of appropriate since 1998 was the last time France won the whole damn thing. In general, I'm a fan of 'not the usual suspects' winning the whole thing. Italy being out helped that cause. Germany being decidedly non German and losing to both Mexico and South Korea and crashing out in the group stages. Brazil being good but not their usual level of good. Argentina continuing the waste the dwindling prime of Lionel Messi. By the time you got to the semifinals, you had two teams that people expected (France and Belgium) and two more teams that you probably didn't (Croatia and England.)
England was enjoyable to watch. Normally that shouldn't be a sentence that out of the ordinary to type, but England was enjoyable to watch. They had an identity. They had young guys and a refreshing paucity of egos. They were all about pushing forward and trying to score goals. Multiple goals! If there was a bus, England left it in the parking lot where it belonged and didn't just sit on a single goal lead! THEY WON A PENALTY SHOOTOUT! Normally, watching England is an incredibly frustrating experience- this year it was the polar opposite. The results were hard to argue with: England posted its best result since 1990.
As much as I was quietly rooting for Belgium to live up to their 'on paper' talent levels, France looked slightly sleepy at times in the group stages, but got rolling in the knockout stages. This Pavard goal should be preserved in amber for all time. Kylian Mbappe announced himself as the next great superstar of the sport and made this insanely beautiful pass (which Olivier Giroud promptly fucked up and didn't turn into a goal.) And sure enough, France got into the final and despite a valiant effort by Croatia to make it interesting and Pussy Riot to make it even more entertaining than it was, they won!
Qatar is going to be weird. It's going to be in the winter and there's the whole issue of slave labor being used to build stadiums. If I'm honest, I'm kind of looking more at 2026 when it comes to North America... but before we even get to either 2022 or 2026, we've got to head back to France next year, for the Women's World Cup in 2019!
I hope England continues playing football exactly like this- only ever-so-slightly better! I hope the USMNT makes it to 2022! (I also hope the Dutch get there as well... I missed the Dutch this time around.) At the end of the day, this one was an amazing World Cup! Can't wait until the next one!
The B1G Numbers: A couple of interesting podcasts episodes- one of Hawkeye Nation and the other of their sister podcast Bigger Ten got the old wheels turning on a couple of interesting debates/discussions that Miller & Deace got into in these episodes. First question is probably the most thought-provoking one: Should Iowa be expecting more success given our revenue ranking?
We're 18th in the nation in revenue, but 54th in the standings of the Director's Cup which measures the success of schools across all sports overall. Now I can't say that as a fan I pay attention to or give a shit about the standings of the Director's Cup. It seems very 'inside baseball' to me, but as a measure of the overall success on the field, it seems to be a pretty good barometer. And there is a pretty hefty gap between where our revenue is and where the overall success on the 'field' is. In the podcast, the usual thesis was applied: outside of football and men's basketball the amount of give a damn that fans usually have drops off pretty severely. Sure, wrestling has their hardcore fans and women's basketball has a following and now that they're tasting some success so does Iowa baseball, but really it's the big two that drive fan interest and fan perception of what 'success is.'
Miller & Deace seemed to land on the opinion that football is pretty consistent and decent, but men's basketball is still off the pace set back in the Dr. Tom and Lute Olson eras (consistently upper tier of the B1G, making the tournament three out of every four years.) But where I think their thesis of the big two driving fan interest falls down some is with Iowa baseball.
Pre-Hellerball, if anyone gave a shit about Iowa baseball I never met them. Ever. I mean, I knew we had a baseball team and it played games and stuff, but was it relevant? Did people care? Not really-certainly not in the numbers that they do now. Which proves to me that the right AD (which I don't think Barta is) making the right investments and the right hires can generate interest and success. Iowa baseball proves that with our fanbase, 'if you build it, they will come.'
So, do I think Iowa should be expecting more success overall, given our revenue ranking? Yes, I do. There's no reason to me why we can't be more competitive across the board in all sports. I think women's basketball is probably the best kept secret on campus. I don't know why they can't get more butts in seats, but I think the Athletics Department should put it's shoulder onto the problem and see if they can get some more buzz around that program. Field Hockey, given it's record over the years should be the same way. You can argue that maybe we shouldn't care so much about 'non-revenue' sports, but a sport is a sport. If we're going to spend money on facilities and scholarships, as fans we should expect silverware in the trophy case. I know I sure do.
The second question (from the Bigger Ten podcast) is an early preview of the Realignment Bingo that's a couple of years away from starting up again. If (or when- probably when) the B1G goes to sixteen, who do we take? Right now, M&D seemed to be of the opinion that it's the ACC who's on the backfoot. The Big 12 is within striking distance of the SEC in terms of dividends and the SEC is right up there with the B1G, but the ACC is lagging and they were late to the network game.
I think it's too early to get into the prognostication game just yet- but I do think if it all starts up again, Georgia Tech is getting an invite. I know we've been all about geography and maintaining a footprint so far, but I think demography is destiny and planting our flag in Atlanta is going give the B1G far more than any other school I can think of.