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How football…explains America

 

By Ahmed Tharwat
Last Sunday, more than 180 million Americans congregated in living rooms, bars, restaurants to eat, drink and watch the Super Bowl 50 championship game between Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers.  This is the biggest sporting event of the year, with highest TV rating (39.1 points); the game day ticket price averaging $10,466, it brought more than $500M economic value (debatable) to host city, a 30 second ad costs $4.5m, in fact, last year a FIAT 500X crossover car covering one minute ad costs $9m, that for the first time mixed cars and Viagra. American football is not just a game, it is a huge entertaining culture exhibition, where one hour is stretched to more than 3 hours of festivities. The actual playing time according to a ​Wall Street Journal study, is 11 minutes, with commercials taking up about an hour. As many as 75 minutes, or about 60% of the total air time, excluding commercials, is spent on shots of players huddling, standing at the line of scrimmage or just generally milling about between snaps.
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Three Shots Of Tee

 




Three shots of tee

Ahmed Carrying bagIn sports as in life as you grow older, the game gets slower and the ball gets smaller (pun intended). For me, I moved from playing football (soccer), to tennis and now to the game of golf.
As a kid growing up in Egypt I had never had the chance to play this elusive game of golf or even see a golf course in person. But as Greg Mortenson, a controversial American social activist, in his book “Three Cups of Tee,” talked about an Afghani elder’s conversation with him while building schools for Afghani girls without consulting with the locals, “in Afghanistan” he advised, “First cup of tea you are a stranger, on the second you are a friend and with the third cup of tea you are a family member.” In golf, on the first tee shot we are just strangers. By the time we are on the fifth tee shot we are golfing friends. On the ninth tee shot, we are drinking buddies (non-alcohol for me, please).

GreenFor someone who played football (soccer), a game of proximity and improvisation, the individualistic and much disciplined game golf requires quite an adjustment.

Golf thrives only in a culture of abundance where each player brings his/her own balls, bag, shoes, umbrella, raincoat, hats, cart, clubs and caddy. Soccer thrives in a scarce culture. All you need to do is to show up at the park with the clothes you have on. No equipment needed, only one ball shared by all players, and a “one for all and all for one” team spirit. But in America, there doesn’t seem to be any respect for a sport that doesn’t use hands or equipment.

LakeIn soccer you can literally use your head, but shouldn’t think so much in handling the ball. It’s better to rely on your instincts. In golf you can only use your head to hit this small ball straight on the fairway, every time. Trying to make that little ball go where you want, is one of the most deceptively simple tasks you will ever encounter.

Your relationship with other golfers isn’t quite clear. They aren’t your opponents but aren’t your teammates either. It all depends on what is going to happen on the golf course. Fellow golfers want to score higher than you, but while you play they also give advice on how to best improve your game.

As an Arab-American, getting on the golf course for the first time is a refreshing experience and a wonderful treat. On a typical day, people assume I’m the authority on all things Arab. They ask me tough questions about the Middle East, what ISIS is up to or why general Sisi is getting into the construction business and building a new capital for Egypt. On the golf course, I’m not seen as a hyphenated American. Golfers transcend race, color and ethnicity; the only thing we see is the color of the green. We are just men in a man’s world, no cultural sensitivity or diversity training required. I’m just another golfer – a bad golfer maybe, but never a bad Arab.

Golf courseOne of the golf courses in town is surrounded by big houses. My crooked tee shot went straight to the high voltage tower and made a very loud noise! I told my American friend (a former public prosecutors), “I hope you don’t think that shot was a terrorist attack.” He gave me another ball to hit.

Our human energy is consumed with hitting this small ball. The exhilaration of smashing this ball onto the fairway overwhelms our bias, racism and ethnocentric behavior.

For a long time I had subscribed to the notion that golf is played by old men wearing ugly pants. Now, golf is played by young men with “nice pants.”

the tunnelGolfing is a mental relaxation exercise, where your cognitive process is taken over by your instincts to stay the course. This is a quite a treat for an Arab-American who had been consumed by the never-ending political wrangling of biblical proportion, years of jihad over the fate of the holy land. In golf the only holy land that I care about is the golf course. This is the only jihad I have and I’m the only one who can do anything about it. Golf anyone?

 

 

Ahmed Tharwat
Host/Producer
Arab American TV show, Belahdan
“A show with accent for those without one”
Ahmed blogs at “Notes From America”
www.ahmediatv.com
www.twitter.com/ahmediatv
www.facebook.com/ahmediatv

 

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How Football…explains America!!

Notes from America: How American football…explains America

  /     /

Ahmed Tharwat

By Ahmed Tharwat

Last Sunday, more than 140 million Americans congregated in living rooms, bars, restaurants to eat, drink and watch the Super Bowl XLIX  (49). This is the biggest sporting event of the year, with highest TV rating (39.1 points); the game day ticket price averaging $10,466, it brought more than $500M economic value (debatable) to host city, a 30 second ad costs $4.5m, in fact, so a FIAT 500X crossover car covering one minute ad costs $9m, that for the first time mixed cars and Viagra. American football is not just a game, it is a huge entertaining culture exhibition, where one hour is stretched to more than 3 hours of festivities. The actual playing time according to a ​Wall Street Journal study,  is 11 minutes, with commercials taking up about an hour. As many as 75 minutes, or about 60% of the total air time, excluding commercials, is spent on shots of players huddling, standing at the line of scrimmage or just generally milling about between snaps.

 The way the game is played with oversized, over-coached and over-equipped players, representing our modern gladiators who are facing off to the death over territories. The game is organised play-by-play in a book before even they start, everyone knows his exact role on the battlefield. The game is linear, which is a little different than FIFA “world” football, which is more spontaneous, creative, complex, multi-faceted, and inclusive.  Unlike American football, it is not so much about occupation of territory and smashing your opponents; it is about shifting positions, manoeuvring and running a series of attacks and retreats, winning without physical elimination, but avoiding opponent’s strengths, while American football is all about Americana, where Americans play alone with themselves, and the game reflects white middle class suburbia.

Although the game is played mostly by African-Americans, still we saw the debacle of penalising an African-American Muslim player for kneeling down after scoring a touchdown (NFL admitted that he shouldn’t have been penalised). World football invites people from all over the world to pay the game.  G. Gordon Liddy explained why he hates world football “Whatever happened to American exceptionalism?” David Brook calls this American parochialism; we just don’t want to participate in world culture.  World football is not all about winning; it is about the art of playing the beautiful game.

World football, is a game about life drama and disappointments , most of the attacks end up foiled by defence and goals not achieved, which teaches us more about real life; it is a sport where the players’ movement of their feet and hands as they try control the ball is like a dancer on a stage. The players seem to lots of Americans to exaggerate their injuries on the field, which it is to condemn violence and not to condone it.  In the World Cup, every four years, small countries like Slovenia, Slovakia, South African, Chile, or Algeria can challenge their former colonial powerhouse like Russia, England, Netherlands, Franc and Spain without fear of retaliation or invasion.

As the Atlantic magazine stated, it allows a chance “where postcolonial matchups include the U.S. versus the UK, Portugal versus Brazil, and Spain versus almost everybody else”.  What is so different about the FIFA World Cup games than our local games is that it is not all about winning, it is about representing your country; each national team’s style of playing represents its own culture on the field. The direct, organised English style; the defensive Italian style; the obnoxious eccentric style of France; the creative strength of the African style; and Brazilian samba football that everyone around the world enjoys and admires.

Franklin Foer’s 2004 book “How Soccer Explains the world”, describes the logic of Nigerian footballers on the pitch: “They had ingenuity that could make a bland Eastern Bloc team look downright continental.”  It is a real clash of cultures where countries can compete on a field that is just and fair, to compete in a frontier where Americans do not, and cannot, yet dominate.

The World Cup, where countries can’t outsource their national pride, means that every four years, everything is put on the line. Ann Coulter, the conservative firebrand Fox pundit, declared jihad against world football in America, terrified by the millions of Americans who started playing and watching it, but she managed to find a historical cultural explanation for it .  “No American whose great-grandfather was born here is watching soccer.”

She declared that almost 25 million Americans watched their team playing Germany, which is not entirely true. This is more than any other sporting event in America, short of the Super Bowl. More Americans went to Brazil to watch the World Cup than any other nationality other than the host nation. “[I]n soccer, players use their hands,” she went onto explain, and using hands is what differentiate us from beasts,” she added.

America’s foreign political position represents the game of American football; that it is always motivated by a sense of American exceptionalism, that sets us apart from the rest of the world. Conservative Americans were utterly surprised when the rest of the world didn’t agree with them. For Americans, winning is the same as it is in their football: all about physical elimination of the enemy (opponents) and acquiring their territories on the field all the way to the end zone (Kabul, Baghdad), or, for Obama the new American black quarterback, sending the drones.

Ahmed Tharwat Producer/Host of the Arab American TV Show Belahdan

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NFL : Flagging A Muslim …!

Gatorade celebration

Albert Campus in his Novel The Stranger, published, 1942, he talks about emptiness of life, after killing an arab on the beach in Algeria where he lived, Which inspired a musical band “The Cure” to have a hit song by the same name “Killing an Arab. This is the NFL version of “Flagging a Muslim” on the football field.

 

I don’t usually watch or follow football, let alone Monday Night Football. It involves too much hype and too much violence. It’s too patriotic, too black and white, too territorial — too American. A game that celebrate American exceptionalism.

But like millions around the world, I heard the news about the Muslim player who got penalized for praying on the field. And I heard lots of discussion and debate about the motives and the double standard and the National Football League’s Islamophobic culture.

The Washington Post opened its story with a headline that is not so strange for Muslims nowadays: “NFL penalizes Muslim player for praying.” Muslims are constantly flagged in airports, subways, shopping malls and streets. Then it reported: “When Kansas City Chiefs safety Husain Abdullah intercepted a Tom Brady pass and returned it for a touchdown Monday night, he did what so many other NFL players do to celebrate a big play: He paused to make a religious gesture of thanks.” The report went on: “But Abdullah, a devout Muslim [by the way, I have no idea what that means], found that his religious display was met with less latitude than, say, Tim Tebow when he brought Tebowing into the NFL.” According to the Post, “Abdullah was penalized 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct because he slid to the ground, then knelt in the end zone.”

Tebowing is another religious kneeling celebration that involved the ground. Apparently, celebrating by dumping a tank of Gatorade on a coach is also OK.

I don’t think this is about religion. It is about NFL control. It is about keeping the biggest American sport — American. keeping the NFL brand clean, and Islam free. No terrorist praying monkey business.

I have no trouble understanding this double standard. The NFL is in the business of promoting major sponsors’ products, not God.

It’s a sport where violence is permitted and celebrated, constantly cheered on by half-naked young women on the sidelines.

I never was a big fan of displaying religious symbols or prayers in professional sports. Like, Dude, I don’t really care about how much you love God. You are making hundreds of thousands of dollars for every few minutes on the field. If that’s OK with your god, it is not with mine.

Muslim prayer as a post-score celebration has been common in the world of “football” (soccer) for years. That sport features players from all over the world, and each celebrates in his own ways and culture — including Muslim players who score goals. But in our post-ISIL beheading era, we here in America live in a very different world, where people on the street, politicians and the media (led by Fox News) call for the beheading of Islam.
Of course, the NFL has clarified the kneeling ruling, saying “Abdullah should not have been penalized.” Michael Signora, the league’s vice president of football communications, said in a tweet: “Officiating mechanic is not to flag player who goes to ground for religious reasons.”

As Winston Churchill once said, “You can always count on Americans to do the right thing — after they’ve tried everything else.” The NFL’s penalizing a Muslim for praying was a mistake, but not as big a mistake as our drones make every day in Afghanistan and Iraq, Yemen and Syria.

Abdullah tried to see the funny side of all this. He said he spoke with Chiefs coach Andy Reid, who explained that the flag likely came for the slide, not the prayer after the “pick six.”

“Stop before you drop,” Abdullah said.

Now Abdullah has two choices: stop bringing his faith to the field or stop intercepting passes.

Given that the Chiefs smashed the Patriots, 41-14, sportswriter Larry Brown wrote on his website that “maybe the referees thought Abdullah was rubbing it in and didn’t realize his gesture was a simple prayer.”

ReallyRick put it more bluntly with a tweet: “You can rape, murder, beat, fight, etc but dont even THINK about praying!”

The difference between raising your hands to the sky or kneeling to the ground could be, for the NFL, just 15 yards. But culturally, it is a much wider distance.

Coach Reid rained on this end-zone prayer debacle with a very interesting analogy. Reid didn’t agree with the penalty, but he also didn’t make much of the controversy. News reports quote him going on to say: “When you go to Mecca” [for him, the end zone], “you should have the privilege to slide anywhere you want to slide. We have two priests in here. I think they will vouch for me.”

Good timing, coach, especially just as millions of Muslim pilgrims are reaching Mecca right now in the time of hajj. I can’t help thinking of some hard-core football fans sliding around the sanctuary house in celebration.

For anyone wondering why angry Muslims join ISIL, this whole saga along with not having “Shattaf” bidet in public bathrooms, could easily make the list.

 

 

Ahmed Tharwat is a public speaker and hosts the Arab-American show “Belahdan” at 10:30 p.m. Mondays on Twin Cities Public Television. He blogs at www.ahmediatv.com.

Ahmed Tharwat is a public speaker and hosts the Arab-American show “Belahdan” at 10:30 p.m. Mondays on Twin Cities Public Television. He blogs at www.ahmediatv.com.
#habdullah39
#why_angry_muslims_join_isis
Ahmed Tharwat/ TV Host/Producer
BelAhdan with Ahmed Tharwat Airs on Public TV
Mondays, 10:30pm
Public Speaker
Blogs at
In the middle/
www.ahmediatv.com
lives in Minnetonka, MN

can be reach on fBook, Twitter, Google, Plus, Linkedin, @ahmediatv

— Ahmed Tharwat (@ahmediaTV) September 30, 2014
#habdullah39

Finally the Parrot spoken

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Football Nation…

Brazil14 Ann Coulter the conservative firebrand Fox pundit declared jihad against soccer in America, although that millions of Americans tuned in to watch their team impressive run in world cup in Brazil, she managed to find a historical cultural explanation for that . “No American whose great-grandfather was born here is watching soccer.” She declared, Which is not entirely true, almost 25 millions Americans watched their team playing Germany, this is more than any other sporting event in America short of the Super Bowl, More Americans went to Brazil to watch the game than any other nationality other than the host nation. In soccer players use their hands, she went to explain, and using hands is what differentiate between human and beasts she added. The biggest debate now is which sport that represents our country and the American way, and why lots of people and Im one of them still believe that soccer is an align game, and will be always the future sport in America. lots of sports fans raise the question of which America we will have when it comes to sports. And to really understand American politics and the contrast positions between the simple conservative (myopic unilateral and go it alone) and the complicated contradictory one of liberal (shifting multilateral internationalist), you need to look elsewhere; you need to look at the contrast of the American football and world football (soccer) game. President Bush’s position represents the game of American football; that is always about exceptionalism, being different and being special, and the one that sets us apart form the rest of the world. President Bush for example is not moved and was utterly surprised when the rest of the world didn’t agree with him. With his sense of entitlement he believes that the rest of the world should follow his lead; he is the world quarterback, and once he calls the play you had better run his direction or you are out of the play (contracts). For him, winning is all about physical elimination of the enemy (opponents) and acquiring their territories on the field all the way to the end zone (Kabul, Baghdad). Obama position on the other hand represents the game of world football (soccer), it is inclusive, eloquent complex and multi-nationals, in world football (soccer) it is not so much about occupation of territories; world football (soccer) is about shifting position, maneuvering and running a series of attacks and retreats, wining without physical elimination. American football is about staying the course, in your face overly specialized; when you are on the offense there is no retreat. Soccer however is about retreat from defense to offense with such fluidity, in soccer you need to understand not just your skills and capabilities but at the same time avoids the opponent’s strengths. Self centered Americans, always, inviting people from all over world to the American way; in the other hand world football (soccer) invites people from all over the world to be a world football (soccer) fan, a citizen of the world; so to get us out of the quagmire of Iraq we need to a president who plays world football (soccer) not American football ; and speaking a foreign language won’t heart either. Ahmed Tharwat Producer/Host of the Arab American TV Show Belahdan

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