Tag: Sports

The Curious Case of Internet Anonymity

Marcus Fitzgerald, the younger brother of NFL star WR Larry Fitzgerald apologized for writing disparaging remarks about QB Kurt Warner on his Twitter account.  LB Nick Barnett, LB Robert Henson and C Kevin Love have their own Twitter snafus.  Two Wisconsin Deputy Sheriffs burn a dummy wearing a co-worker’s uniform and post the video on Facebook, leading to their dismissal.  Employees at the National Science Foundation were fired for looking at porn at work for 331 days.  What do these incidents have in common?  They are all examples from the last week of people doing something stupid on the Internet and being SHOCKED when they are caught.

It seems like I hear about another story like this every day and I can’t seem to figure out why.  When the Internet first starting becoming popular in the late 90s, it was not uncommon to hear about people being fired for looking at porn at the office, buying illegal items over the Internet or trying to meet up with underage children.  I chalked that up to stupid people bringing their shady offline behavior to the Internet and not understanding that the Internet is basically public.   I figured that people did not realize that pretty much anyone could find out about what they were doing since the Internet was new.

Fast forward to 2009.  It’s been a decade since people started to become familiar with the Internet.  Everyone in the United States should have heard hundreds of these stories in the last ten years.  It wouldn’t surprise me if most Americans know at least one person personally who has done something stupid online that has led to adverse consequences.  Why does it continue to happen and why are people who slap videos up on YouTube shocked when they are discovered?  Why do people have a sense of anonymity and privacy with the Internet, when in reality, the Internet is probably the least private place in the world?

Why do underage drinkers post pictures of themselves on Facebook for the police or school officials to find when they would not post those pictures on their lockers?  Why do teens send nude pictures of themselves to their classmates over their cellphones or on Facebook when they would never give pass around a hard copy?  Why do grown men go to chat rooms and try to proposition children and go to meet them, even after the popularity of Chris Hansen’s To Catch A Predator, when they would never approach a child on the street (or even on the phone) with the same advances?  Why do people post rants on their Facebook or Twitter pages when they would never put the same information into a newspaper or say it to the person’s face?  Why do people do illegal things and post them on Youtube or Facebook video when they would never send them to their local news station?  Why do people post all sorts of things online that they would be mortified to do in real life?  Why are they shocked when they are caught?

I truly don’t understand it.  They have to know better.  They have to have seen examples of people getting into trouble for posting things online.  I cannot figure out why people have a sense of anonymity online when in reality it is the exact opposite.

I think about 20% of the people who do these types of things are just stupid.  They are equivalent to the guy who walks into the grocery store and waits for an employee to walk by, then shoves a frozen turkey under his coat.  They just don’t get it.  There is another 5-10% of people who just want to be “YouTube famous” and will post just about anything to be popular.  There is no helping these people.

My hypothesis for the rest of the population is that people who are posting these types of things online are generally alone, in their office or their home, and are lulled into a false sense of security.  They think that they are alone at home, so how can anyone else see what they are doing?  I don’t think that they are crying out for help or trying to get caught.  I think there is something about the isolation that is caused by computers and the internet that gives people the idea that they being private and careful, when in fact, it is the exact opposite.  They view the Internet as their own personal world, without regard to the rest of the people who happen to inhabit their virtual world as well.

I wonder if this is the height of the problem and history will look back at 2003-2009 as the crazy years when people were naive about the Internet, posting whatever they wanted and doing whatever they wanted, without regard to the consequences.  It could also go the other way, where everyone becomes desensitized to the stupid things people do online, but I do not think so.

Help me understand.  What’s your hypothesis as to why people slap pictures on Facebook and videos on YouTube that can get them in trouble? Why do so many people have a sense of anonymity online?  Will it continue?

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August Book Reviews

I read three very different, but interesting books in August.  All were non-fiction, but had to do with completely different areas.

Soccer Against the EnemySimon Kuper.  Kuper is an English journalist who covered soccer at the start of his career, moved to finance and economics but got bored and moved back to soccer.  This book is similar to Franklin Foer‘sHow Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization, one of my favorite books from last year.  Kuper travels around the world attending soccer matches right after the fall of the Berlin Wall.  Each chapter could stand alone as a short story, but they flow together well enough to create a narrative about soccer around the world.  My favorite chapter in the book was the one about Dynamo Kiev, the biggest and most successful club in Ukraine.  Dynamo has turned into a huge business, not just a soccer club.  Any foreign company that wants to do a joint venture in Ukraine tried to partner with Dynamo for tax reasons and because everyone in Ukraine knew Dynamo and would be more likely to support the project.  It’s interesting to see how sports teams become bigger parts of an economy and become “Més que un club” or more than a club, which is FC Barcelona‘s motto.  If you like soccer, check out this book.

The 4-Hour WorkweekTim Ferriss.  I had skimmed this book a year ago, but had not gotten a chance to read it carefully.  Whatever you think of Ferriss, the book contains so some worthwhile time management skills, business strategies and ideas that make you reexamine your lifestyle.  Ferriss tells the story about how he went from an office job where he worked many hours per week to creating a product that lets him travel the world and only requires him to work as little as four hours per week.  I agree with his ideas that “mini-retirements” should be spread out throughout life, rather than working your entire life to retire when you are in your 60s and I enjoyed hearing how he has used the new global supply chain to launch a product with minimal up front costs, but he lost me with his story about how he won a gold medal at the Chinese National Kickboxing Tournament and has a world record in Tango.  While Ferriss comes across as a bit of a loner who believes that the ends justify the means in pretty much all facets of life, it would be a mistake to completely dismiss the book because of the arrogance of the author.  I’m confident that if you read the book, you’ll find at least a few of his ideas worthwhile.

A Pint of PlainA Pint of Plain: Tradition, Change and the Fate of the Irish PubBill Barich.  I started this book because I had just gotten back from a week in Ireland, visiting, among other things, a few Irish pubs.  The book is about Barich’s attempt to find a traditional Irish pub to be his “local.”  The book starts off well, but is pretty slow and delves too much into each pub’s individual history for my taste.  His chapters on how Ireland has changed in the last 5-10 years as a result of globalization are interesting, but the most interesting take away from the book was his stat that bars in the UK that change formats to and Irish pub see 3x greater turnover than from before the format change.  There is something powerful about the Irish pub that makes it successful all over the world.  I wouldn’t bother reading this book.  Instead, check out your local Irish pub or go take a trip to the real thing in Ireland.

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Soccer, Politics and the World Cup

Yesterday, I made the trip down to Chicago to see the US soccer team take on Honduras in a World Cup Qualifier at Soldier Field.  It was the first time the US had played a qualifier in Chicago, mostly because the US Soccer Federation is worried that Chicago would not give the US a home field advantage, as there are many immigrants in the Chicago area.   It turns out that they were right, but the US still was able scratch out a 2-1 come from behind win, just about guaranteeing the US a spot in South Africa 2010 with five more qualifying matches to go.  I would guess that at least 35,000 of the 55,000 fans in attendance were sporting el bicolor (white and blue stripes), and it seemed like even more, as the Hondurans knew how to cheer and make noise. There is nothing more intense than attending a well played international soccer game.  

I went to the 2006 World Cup in Germany and have yet to find another sporting event that matched the passion, enthusiasm and national pride of the fans.  I’ve been to some great Badger football, basketball and hockey games, Packer games and Brewer games, but none matched the intensity of even the Costa Rica vs. Ecuador game in the group stage of the World Cup.  The feeling that I had singing the National Anthem in Nuremberg 2,000 or so other Americans was electric and unforgettable.

If you are a soccer fan, or even if you only casually follow the sport, make a point of going to a World Cup Qualifier or Gold Cup Match if there is a game in your area.  The fans are into the game, Sam’s Army is singing and chanting and the opposing fans are playing drums and blowing horns.  It’s an amazing atmosphere and mostly friendly, but I was disappointed by some Americans, mostly drunk college kids, in the crowd who yelled things like “go jump back across the border” or “go back to mexico” at Honduran families.  Its unoriginal and dumb and I wish more people would have told them to stop. In the US, sports and politics don’t usually mix.  

To me, the coolest part of the game  was that most of the Honduran fans were clearly immigrants to the US, spoke English, and were still proud of where they were born.  Many of the  Honduran fans sang the US National Anthem and joined in the cheers of USA, USA, USA after the game, but wore Honduras shirts and cheered intensely for Honduras during the game.  The woman in front of me made it very clear that while she was cheering for Honduras, she “loved the USA” and “cheered for the US” whenever they weren’t “playing Honduras.”  One of the most amazing parts our country is that immigrants assimilate into society and love the country, unlike many European countries where immigrants are shuttered in slums by de facto segregation.  It was also cool to see most Hondurans telling their own fans to stop throwing empty cups over the second deck in the second half when they were upset with a call.

In other parts of the world, soccer and politics mix all the time.  Ivory Coast’s qualification to the 2006 World Cup stopped their civil war.  Iran’s qualification to the 1998 World Cup caused massive celebrations, alcohol fueled parties and women throwing off their veils, that some thought might be the spark that overthrew the government.  When Iran beat the US in France ’98, the entire country rushed into the streets to celebrate.   A 1969  riot during an El Salvador and Honduras World Cup Qualifier caused la guerra del fútbol, the soccer war, that claimed over 2000 lives.

Iran is back in the news as it tries to qualify for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.  On Friday, the Financial Times featured an article ahead of Iran’s must win Qualifier against North Korea that claimed the Soccer Result Could Affect the Iranian Election.

Some argue that failure to qualify – Iran needs to win its remaining three fixtures over the next 11 days to be guaranteed a place at next year’s World Cup finals in South Africa – could damage the re-election hopes of Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad, the president. “The government of Mr Ahmadi-Nejad has shown it would like to make the best use of sports in politics and failure in football will surely have negative impacts on his votes,” said a senior reformist politician. The comment might be seen as wishful thinking by a government opponent but it is echoed by a fundamentalist politician, sympathetic to Mr Ahmadi-Nejad: “The results of these football matches might shift a significant number of votes from one candidate to another.” In an election expected to be close – and where Mir-Hossein Moussavi, the rival reformist candidate, is said to be gaining support – that could be significant.

Iran was banned by FIFA from international competition for a few weeks back in 2008 because the President fired the head of the Football Association and appointed a political hack.  After Ahmadinejad backed down and brought the old FA head back, Iran were allowed to continue to compete. This story put me in the awkward position of rooting for North Korea to do something good for a change, in hopes that Iran miss out on the world cup and throw the horrible Ahmadinejad out of office in favor of a more reform-minded alternative.

In Saturday’s qualifier in Pyongyang, Iran and North Korea played to a 0-0 draw, leaving Iran on the outside looking in.  Iran need to win both of their next two games in order to qualify and hope that North Korea and Saudi Arabia do not do well.  It will be interesting to see how the next few weeks shape up in Iranian soccer, as well as politics.

Don’t Mess With Lightning

I was scheduled to ref a soccer game last night in Madison and, as always, I checked the weather before the game. It looked like there was going to be some rain in the first half, and then the potential for thunderstorms in the second. Refs are always trained that if they see any lightning, no matter how far away it is, to stop the game immediately. We are supposed to send everyone to their cars and wait for 20 minutes without any more lightning before restarting the game.

I started the game at 530 and heard a few rumbles of thunder in the far distance, but did not see any lightning. We played the entire first half, and I still had not seen any lightning. During halftime, there was a quick burst of heavy rain and the skies got darker. Still no lightning.

Twelve minutes into the second half, out of nowhere, BAM!!! There was a flash of light, with a huge clap of thunder seemingly simultaneously. A parent on the sideline fell to the ground and his umbrella that had been planted into the ground flew away from him. Three players fell to the ground, shocked either by the lightning or just the loud bang. My assistant referee, who was about 10 yards from the guy who was hit, felt the electricity and I felt buzzed for over an hour.

Everyone sprinted to their cars. The players slowly got up and seemed to be ok. The guy who’s umbrella was hit was laying on the ground for a few seconds, and was helped up and seemed ok. We cancelled the game and made sure that everyone was off the field as quickly as possible. We were incredibly lucky and I am happy that nobody was seriously hurt.

I have never been in a situation like that where the first bolt of lightning is right on top of us. Normally there is some warning, but this time there was not. I have stopped many games in my almost 12 years of reffing after seeing lightning in the distance, only to be called a wimp or worse.

As I was leaving the soccer park, I saw another game still being played. I couldn’t believe it. I drove over, laid on the horn and told them that a guy had been hit near us and that “this was stupid and that they needed to get these people out of there.” They stopped and got everyone to their cars.

If you are ever in a situation like this, don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself and get out of the situation. Many people have a macho attitude about lightning and ridicule people who go inside after seeing the first bolt. You can be hit by lightning up to 30 miles away from a storm: If you can see lightning, you can be hit. Its better to be safe than sorry. Get inside and stay safe.

I’ll leave you with a video that should be required viewing for all refs, coaches and parents of youth athletes. It was a professional soccer match in Africa where two players died as a result of a lightning strike. Its in German, but you can see the flash and the aftermath.