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No Lions in Paris

(EPA)

(EPA)

Dutch tourism to France may be at an all-time low next summer.

The Netherlands soccer team suffered a devastating 3-2 loss today against the Czech Republic, who were not very kind visitors in the Amsterdam Arena. Missed opportunities for goals throughout 93 minutes, porous defending in the back and Robin van Persie’s miscalculation that resulted in an own goal sealed their fate.

It should be noted van Persie did score against the Czech Republic, along with Klaas-Jan Huntelaar.

Since the Dutch were hanging by a thread of hope and a prayer (a must-win game and Iceland victory) before kickoff, the odds against their qualifying for the playoff to then qualify to the UEFA Euro 2016 tournament in France were very high.

Still, the Oranje players and dedicated fans (myself included) had faith in an epic turnaround.

Despite injuries to key players (including, but not limited to Arjen Robben, Jasper Cillessen and much of its defense), it was expected that the Netherlands would be able to control its games and earn enough wins and ties to book its ticket to France in the summer of 2016.

They didn’t.

“…Netherlands finished fourth in the group and failed to qualify for the European Championships for the first time since 1984…”
–Tom Webber, Goal.com

Great teams in all sports experience injury woes that can paralyze their chances at grand success. Some of these teams manage to squeeze out wins, even when the odds were all against them. Even though the Dutch have had their pitfalls throughout its history (internal turmoil, lack of motivation), they have also had moments of glory and the best kinds of shock-and-awe. Just last summer, the Dutch finished third in the World Cup.

And this is where this defeat stings the most.

The expectations were and are sky high for this squad, as in a championship-level altitude. Some of the best players in the world are on this team. Let’s take a closer look with their age in parenthesis:

  • Arjen Robben (31)
  • Wesley Sneijder (31)
  • Robin van Persie (32)
  • Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (32)
  • Rafael van der Vaart (32)

The fact is those listed above, a golden generation in their own right, have world-class talent, pace and vision. Age has not slowed them down. However, the reason for listing the aforementioned players who define the explosive and creative offense identity of the Dutch is to acknowledge that this was the last UEFA Euro tournament they could have competed for within their peak years.

As a tried-and-true Dutch fan for more than 15 years, it’s painful to even concede this reality.

The final score today was a disqualifying loss, but the opportunity to play for and potentially win a defining European championship was the real loss and it was (and is) gut-wrenching.

There are many questions to be answered in the coming days, weeks, months:

  • Is head coach Danny Blind to blame when he had such a limited, bleak chance of success?
  • Who will be the head coach for the 2018 World Cup qualifying?
  • What players listed above will be leading the Dutch towards the next World Cup in Russia?
  • Aside from Daley Blind, can the Netherlands find high-quality defenders?
  • How quickly can this team fix its problems and return to playing world-class soccer/Total Football?

Fortunately, the KNVB’s current golden generation has a proficiency for answering its harshest critics every couple of years. They have one more chance lift a trophy to solidify their golden Oranje legacy.

From Russia, with love of strength and the World Cup trophy, 2018 is the mission of a lifetime.

RIP

Gut-wrenching tragedy.

In the early hours this morning, WDBJ reporter Alison Parker and photographer Adam Ward were shot and killed during their live broadcast in Moneta, Virginia. Absolutely horrific. As a former broadcast journalist, this devastating news sent chills down my spine. They were just out doing their jobs. There are no words.

Despite the fact the suspect’s name has been released and there is video of the murder, that footage will not be shown on this blog out of respect for the victims. And the name of the murderer will not be disclosed here because he is nothing but a hellish monster.

We need to remember the innocent victims:

(US News)

(US News)

RIP Alison Parker.

RIP Adam Ward.

Prayers are with their loved ones.

When Art and Life Collide

Last night’s episode of The Big Bang Theory was the show’s first in 2014. It had its funny moments (not counting Sheldon’s definition wordplay) and its not so funny moments (Leonard and Penny). The writers and producers made certain not to debut 2014 lightly, but instead with a substantive episode interwoven with real life discussions and heartbreaks.

Will Penny make it as an actress after a decade of pursuing her dream?

Does Leonard honestly think Penny will make it as a successful actress?

One important distinction made last night was the primary difference between a drama and a comedy. Specifically, consider when someone says there is a “one in a million” chance something will happen. In a comedy, like Dumb and Dumber, that’s a punchline filled with hilarious delusion. In a dramatic situation (even within a situation comedy), the “one in a million” response is a metaphorical, and partly literal, punch to the gut to the recipient.

The only delusion of the latter is the harsh reality of contemplating just how large the number one million is and how small the number one is in comparison. And then understanding who represents the number one.

Devastating.

The event that led to the “one in a million” talk between Leonard and Penny was when her small diner part in NCIS with star Mark Harmon was edited out from the show. It didn’t make the final cut. Leonard and Penny discussed the realistic prospects of her future as an actress and the results were nowhere nearly as pretty as Penny herself.

The show ended with Leonard and Penny’s argument (and future) unresolved. But here is where the show got really interesting.

While reading Chuck Lorre’s weekly Vanity Card at the end of the episode, which can range from funny to thought-provoking to inappropriate, there was an instant realization that his message was as substantive as the episode itself. It was simultaneously real and surreal.

That’s truly rare and it deserves to be expanded upon.

Without a word-for-word recap, the message detailed how Penny’s part in a major CBS show (NCIS) was cut in the final edit and, therefore, did not air. Her excited friends and family, sadly, did not see her “big break” that she had worked ten years for in Los Angeles. Ironically (and unbelievably) the exact same thing happened in last night’s Big Bang Theory episode! An actress who had a small part with Raj and Stewart in the mall was cut in the final edit. It was going to be her big break, very likely with her family and friends gathered together to watch her act in one of the biggest shows on television.

Unfortunately, her part (like Penny’s) was cut in the final edit. However, Big Bang co-creator and executive producer Chuck Lorre made sure to let America (and the world) know in his Vanity Card that he wanted to apologize to the actress and that it was only because of time that her part was not included in the show’s final version. He made certain to note to her and her family and friends that she absolutely nailed the part. He then added that he will work hard to get her back on the show sometime in the future.

Wow!

It’s a case of life imitating art or art imitating life or art and life getting an apartment together in downtown Pasadena to enjoy a glass (or bottle) or white wine before their next audition.

Either way, it was real, surreal, heart-breaking, inspiring and unbelievably amazing all at the same time.

In the episode, Sheldon, in his quest for comedic dominance, stated that “comedy is tragedy plus time” after Penny left the room following her realization that her part was taken out of the show.

It seems Chuck Lorre waited the exact right amount of time to say something that turned a tragedy into something not necessarily funny, but still something that likely brought joy and a smile to a dedicated and disappointed actress’s face.

Funny how life turns out from time to time.