Meet Marcus Willis, the Iceland of tennis

Somebody whose come across this blog post with no further context might be a bit confused by the title. But for those who read yesterday’s post, about Iceland’s unlikely triumph over England in the European Championships, it will be a smooth transition.

But before I hit my stride on today’s topic — in which, for better or worse, there is no coming back from — I must once again comment on the global significance of the current events that have taken place recently.

I haven’t even gotten to touch on the recent death of two sports icons, Pat Summitt, a legendary and historically successful women’s college basketball coach who was a pioneer for female athletics, and football coach Buddy Ryan, a defensive genius who helped coach my beloved New York Jets to their only Super Bowl win in 1969, and whose son, Rex, led the Jets to their most successful back-to-back seasons I’ve witnessed since I’ve been supporting the team.

Rest in peace. Your respective impacts on this world will be felt for years to come.

And then there was the devastating suicide bombings inside the Ataturk Airport in Istanbul on Tuesday night, one of the world’s major transit hubs, which killed 42 people and injured more than 200. ISIS is suspected — though it’s not confirmed — to have committed the attacks.

Istanbul airport

What more is there to say? The world can too often be a devastating place.

Finally, the Supreme Court made a few landmark decisions this week, most notably dismissing recent Texas laws that created too many restrictions for women seeking abortion as unconstitutional. The decision, a 5-3 vote, redefined the most recent notable abortion decision, “Planned Parenthood vs. Casey” in 1992, which had allowed abortion clinics to create certain restrictions. But this ruling clearly draws a line in the sand and is a major victory for abortion advocates.

OK, that’s all done now. You have all been briefed. Back to sports.

I informed you all just how miraculous Iceland’s plight is in the European soccer championships this year. Well, somehow, the team might have been outshone.

Wimbledon, the world’s most prominent tennis tournament and the only one with a dress code, is currently ongoing in England.

Earlier on Wednesday, one of the most unlikeliest of competitors got to play against the best tennis player of our generation and arguably the best player in the history of the sport.

Marcus Willis, of England, is ranked 772nd in the world. He’s a part-time tennis instructorMarcus Willis tennis who almost quit playing the sport professionally earlier this year. He won six qualifying matches just to make the tournament, and then, somehow, went on to win his first round match against 54th-ranked Ricardas Berankis, the highest ranked Lithuanian player of all time, in his first ever official tour match.

That paired him against Roger Federer, 17-time grand slam winner and 7-time Wimbledon champion, in Round 2. Federer crushed him. But there were entertaining volleys along the way, and he was treated by his home crowd as a hero.

That, my friends, is what sports is all about.

He’s 772nd in the world. That’s like the most talented player at your local rec center making Wimbledon. That’s like the best pitcher in a beer league starting the World Series.

By advancing to the second round, Willis earned 50,000 pounds. In his entire career before that, he had earned about 220,000 pounds combined.

An with his accomplishment, Willis has earned even more an important pound.

A fist pound. From me.

It’s just a notch below a victory at Wimbledon.

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Iceland, the world’s newest underdog story

The world loves an underdog story. And it’s easy to understand why. It reinforces our belief that the impossible can happen.

That we can dream big.

There’s a reason why no one has ever had a single bad thing to say about the 1993 film “Rudy,” where an undersized, athletically challenged undergrad shows indomitable spirit in accomplishing his dream to play for the Notre Dame football team.

We seek underdog stories. We want to root for someone who defies expectations.

And now, the latest team to fulfill this insatiable desire of ours is … Iceland?!

Iceland soccer

When most people think of Iceland athletics, their mind might immediately jump to “D2: The Mighty Ducks,” when Iceland was the team to beat and primary obstacle for the Ducks during an amateur international hockey tournament.

Of course, that probably had nothing to do with the country’s history in ice hockey — in fact, they’ve never been ranked higher than 33rd in the world — but rather because their country name simply has the word “ice” in it.

But anyway, the Iceland youth national team lost that epic battle to Emelio Estevez, Pacey from Dawson’s Creek and Kenan from SNL in the movie’s final showdown, and since then, no one’s really thought about the country except for when they listen to the band Of Monsters and Men.

Oh, did you just learn right now that band is from Iceland? You’re welcome.

So let’s just say that Iceland athletics was overdue. And this past week, they shocked the world.

Until this year, Iceland had never competed in a major soccer tournament. And that’s Rudy2understandable, considering their country only has about 300,000 people in it. By contrast, the state of Wyoming has nearly double that.

That being said, it was quite a miraculous accomplishment that Iceland even qualified for this year’s 2016 UEFA European Championship, which is currently happening in France.

It was even more astounding when Iceland then went on to advance past their group, which they did by defeating Austria on a dramatic, last-second goal.

It was a goal that brought their home announcer to a level of joy never before witnessed in the history of the universe. That alone brought Iceland to noteworthy status.

But like all underdog stories, the magic continued. Unbelievably, Iceland is still in this tournament after they defeated England on Monday night, 2-1. Some are calling it the biggest upset in soccer history.

And as you all know, England isn’t exactly having the best time right now.

Although, Iceland, too, has been facing its own troubles since the release of the Panama Papers, which implicated many of its government’s senior officials in sketchy tax evasion schemes. So they needed their own distraction.

Next up, Iceland will play France on July 3 — as in, the country that’s hosting the tournament. It can’t possibly continue, right? Right?

I guess it’s been too long since I’ve seen Rudy.

Viva la Iceland!

What America can learn from the Brexit

If you told me that the residents of a nation would give into fear-mongering, populism and xenophobia, I would have never guessed it was any country besides the United States.

Turns I had been giving the British too much credit my entire life.

Call it reverse stereotyping, but I always assumed that just because some one is British, that they are smarter. They dress fancier, they sound more eloquent, and their use of the English language is impeccable.

All of that changed last week when British voters stunned the world by voting to leave the European Union.

The post-war bloc of 28 nations represents the world’s largest single market. Goods and labor flow freely through the member states’ open borders. When a country faltered economically, the E.U. would step in and do everything in its power to pick it up (see: Greece).

Remain reacts

But — and tell me if this sounds familiar — the European Union’s open borders also allows the free flow of people to immigrate from one country to another. That fact, coupled with the fear of refugees from the Middle East and North Africa, has stirred a huge sense of nationalism that some politicians have exploited and baited in recent months.

The unprecedented vote has divided residents and created economic uncertainty for the U.K. The stock markets plunged. The value of the pound plummeted. Northern Ireland and Scotland might secede. And young people, who voted overwhelmingly to remain in the E.U., are angry at their elders for sacrificing their future.

Oh, and their prime minister is resigning.

And amazingly, after the vote, campaigners on the Leave side are suddenly backtracking on some of the “facts” they claimed would be beneficial if Britain left the E.U.

But the most astounding part in all of this was when news came out that the top Google eu-google-trendssearches after the vote from British residents were: “What does it mean to leave the EU?” and “What is the EU?”

Here’s where America can learn. Witness the turmoil that is occurring in Britain right now. Feel the regret.

What’s happening in Britain right now is what happens when you give into fear. When you make short-sighted, impulsive decisions simply because you have the option to. When you take out your anger and frustration in the form of a protest vote without understanding the consequences.

If we elect the man who is currently the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, the reality will sink in the next day. The ramifications of what it means will suddenly set in. And mark my words, we will wish we can go back and change it.

Fortunately, the vote hasn’t happened yet. We still can alter the future.

We have one chance to get this right. There’s no practice vote. Because once we place those ballots, there is no do-over.

So America, I’m going to put this as delicately as possible. Look at the anguish the British are experiencing right now. They wish they were in our shoes, and still had the opportunity to make the smart decision in an important referendum.

America, we have four months left.

Get your shit together.

Finally, a united stand against guns

At first, it looked like the same old story. A crazy person with a gun walks into a crowded, public place. Unleashes mayhem and tragedy. Mass casualties. The nation mourns, hopes and prays.

Congress does nothing.

Rinse, repeat.

But this time it was different. This time, the nation cares too much. This time, everybody is watching.

It began with a filibuster. Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy, who once represented a district in Connecticut not far from Sandy Hook, stood on the house floor last Wednesday, June 16, for 15 hours to urge Congress to vote on two gun control measures. He was joined by more than two dozen of his fellow Democratic representatives.

His bill included measures that appeared to be common sense — ban anyone on the FBI’s terrorist watch list from being able to purchase guns; and close the “gun show loophole,” which would mandate background checks on private gun sales, both of which have the support of some 90 percent of Americans.

Democratic sit-in

As Murphy stated during his marathon speech, one restriction does not work without the other.

Five days later, Murphy’s bill, along with one other Democratic proposal and two Republican bills tackling similar issues, were all voted down.

But again, the tide was changing. It was palpable. I even texted a friend later that day — “it’s only the beginning.” But even I didn’t know what was coming next.

It culminated yesterday when members of the House Democratic Caucus staged an unprecedented sit-in on the floor of the House of Representatives. It began at 11:30 a.m. EST, and lasted until about 3 a.m. after Speaker of the House Paul Ryan abruptly adjourned the session despite Democratic protests.

A sit-in. As in, the thing we read about in history textbooks in middle school but didn’t Democratic sit in2know they still existed. Seeing it happen before my eyes was as surreal as if I saw a real-life dinosaur. The Democrats might as well have played the theme from Jurassic Park for dramatic effect while they sat .

Technically, what happened was illegal. If the House is not in session — which it wasn’t since Republicans left — then the proceedings are not supposed to be televised. But Democrats filmed their protest on the social media site Periscope, and CSPAN picked up the live feed.

That’s right folks, for one night CSPAN was the network to watch. I care about politics and I still couldn’t even tell you what channel it is. I still can’t, even though I put it on last night.

The sit-in was led by civil rights hero John Lewis. Democratic leaders gave interviews throughout the day. Many held signs in protest, including photos of the victims of the Orlando shooting. Some sang. Many supporters flocked outside Capitol Hill as a sign of solidarity.

And on Twitter, #NoBillNoBreak was trending nationwide. It was truly a historic occasion.

This is powerful stuff, and I just hope the momentum continues.

Furthermore, we have a watershed election cycle rapidly approaching, and now’s the time when we, the people, have the ability to replace those who did nothing.

I’m the laziest person in the world. My ideal day is one where I sit on a couch and do nothing. I’m the biggest advocate of doing nothing.

But when it comes to passing common sense gun control laws and saving American lives, doing nothing is absolutely not an option.

This time it’s different.

Cleveland’s triumph, an actor’s sudden passing, and the Brexit

Man, the news lately has been crazy. Or as Gwen Stefani might say, B-A-N-A-N-A-S.

Side note: Hollaback Girl is probably my least favorite song of all time. And bear in mind that’s considering the existence of Nicki Minaj.

But anyway, I mentioned it briefly yesterday, but the Cleveland Cavaliers are NBA champions. And I was rooting for them. I’m sick of the Warriors winning and I actually like post-Miami LeBron.

I loathed him as a member of the Heat. But I feel like he has matured since then. He returned home for all the right reasons. And he clearly loves his hometown.

Cavs champsSo I was satisfied with the result. And on top of that, Game 7 was just an epic game from start to finish. High quality entertainment at its finest.

LeBron cemented his legacy on Sunday night. Hate him or love him, he’s the greatest basketball player on the planet.

But let’s move on. There’s a lot to cover.

I must say, I was extremely saddened to learn about about the sudden death of actor Anton Yelchin on Sunday. He was only 27, but had already been in a lot of quality movies.

He’s being heralded for his work in the recent reboot of the Star Trek film franchise, but if you really want to see his talent, check out the 2011 film Like Crazy, a romance he starred in alongside Felicity Jones. The film didn’t follow an airtight script, and instead let the actors improvise and act naturally. Both excelled in the roles.

Felicity Jones went on to be nominated for an Oscar a few years later. Anton Yelchin will never have the chance.

And it was even more frustrating to learn of the freak nature of how he died. His Jeep Cherokee rolled down his driveway, crushing and pinning him against a cement mailbox.

The big bombshell came today, when we learned that the car had been recalled by Fiat Anton YelchinChrysler because it’s unorthodox gear shift was confusing drivers who thought the car was on park, only for it to be on neutral, and then roll unexpectedly. And in this case, it cost a life.

Farewell, Anton. Thanks for the good movies.

Continuing the news frenzy, someone tried to assassinate Donald Trump, and it seems like nobody cares. Yes, it’s true that the effort was extremely futile and never even came close to fruition, but you’d think this would be something that would draw a stronger reaction.

Although, I’m still not convinced that the would-be assassin may not have been a future time traveler who returned to the year 2016 in attempt to save the world.

Donald Trump lives on. I want him badly beaten in November, like many other people do, but let’s not go crazy, folks. Let’s show our opposition in the ballot box, and not by going commando at one of his rallies.

And last but certainly not least, I must end this post by discussing something of great importance, even if most Americans don’t actually care — the Brexit.

I probably will not have time to post tomorrow, and considering that Thursday is when British voters decide if they want to remain in the European Union or not, I need to at least address it in some form.

People don’t realize that there are Trumpist movements going on globally, and most heavily in Europe. Xenophobia is running rampant, especially in a continent where refugees are roaming all over the place.

Jo CoxThings have gotten so poisonous in Britain that a Member of Parliament, Jo Cox, a staunch supporter of remaining in the E.U., was murdered in the street.

I mean, that’s just freaking terrible.

One of the reason Britons want to depart from the E.U. is to embrace a greater sense of nationalism and sovereignty. Many feel that the E.U. has been to soft on refugees, especially with its open borders, and feel that drifting away will better the chances of keeping them out.

But the potentially devastating economic impact that could arise if the U.K. leaves the E.U (I know, that’s a lot of acronyms) has been highly documented. It would affect not only the local economy, but the entire economy of Europe, and even have a harmful effect on the United States.

The U.S. employs more than one million people in Britain, and has $588 billion in investments in the country. That business relationship is considered by many as the U.S.’s primary gateway to the European Union, which would be tarnished if Britain leaves.

And on top of that, if the Brexit happens, it may pave the way for other countries to leave, like the Netherlands or France. And if that happens, then we have to deal with more stupid nicknames, like the Nexit or Frexit.

After that, you know what’s coming next — the Weinblog’s departure from the Blogger Union.

The Weinxit.

Yeah that nickname literally hurt to type.

 

Sometimes the best decisions in life are spontaneous ones

Devout follower(s) of the Weinblog (hi mom!) know that I am a live music junkie, with a particular fondness towards music festivals.

I’ve said it many times, but if you’re ever feeling a bit disenchanted with the world, or are even beginning to lose faith in humanity for whatever reason — attend a music festival. Because your faith will be restored.

I know a lot happened over the weekend, between LeBron James earning the city of Cleveland its first major sports title in 52 years; developments in exactly what happened in the Orlando nightclub nine days ago; and even more recent news about GOP senators blocking gun control legislation; but I have the whole week to get to that.

Today I want to recap my weekend. Because it was a great one.

I have attended the Firefly Music Festival three years in a row. It’s basically become the premier music festival on the East Coast. Recent headliners have included the Foo Fighters, Paul McCartney and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, among others.

This year’s headliners of Kings of Leon, Florence + the Machine and Mumford & Sons was quite tempting, but various circumstances led me to decide not to attend this year — despite the fact that I had free tickets waiting for me at will call via my old job.

One of those mitigating circumstances was the fact that I was seeing Mumford & Sons that Friday night at a different venue, in Forest Hills, Queens. Which I went to and enjoyed.

But sometime during that night I had a thought. What if I woke up early enough, hopped in my car, made the three-plus hour drive to Dover and spent the day there? I had nothing better to do. Might as well see some free music with my free ticket. I had friends there I could meet up with, and although I had no place to sleep, it was something to worry about later.

Cut to the next morning, 7:30 a.m., I’m awake, lying in bed, contemplating it over one more time. By 8:45, I was on the road. By 1 p.m., I was at a Chic-Fil-A drive-thru in Delaware. Some 40 minutes later, I was taking a selfie in front of one of Firefly’s seven stages.

Throughout the gorgeous, sunny day, I saw several great bands, talked to many people I had never met before, and enjoyed the privileges that my free media ticket allowed me — not only free entry, but access to the VIP areas and Super VIP areas, which contained an open bar and free massages. Ayoo!

But I didn’t realize how convenient the timing was. What happened in Orlando hurt. I haven’t felt completely right since that day. I also mentioned how disappointed I felt with how some people in the country were reacting to it.

Well, spending the day in the woodlands at Firefly, surrounded by tens of thousands of people simply enjoying life amongst their friends and a whole bunch of live music, you’d never know that there is any hate that exists at all in this country.

It was a beautiful reminder of how wonderful we can be when we’re all together and simply living in the moment.

And just when I thought the day couldn’t get more perfect, I decided during my drive home overnight to listen to exclusively Taylor Swift on my iPod. It amounted to 43 songs in a row. And you’re damn right I sang my heart out.

The culminating memory was the piece of advice I received from my friend that Friday afternoon, who I’d potentially be meeting at Firefly, when I shared with him my spontaneous idea to drive down to meet him the following day.

“Don’t think, just do.”

Take that one to the bank, kids.

Note to parents: animals are dangerous

You know that a particular region has not had a good month when one can ask, “Did you hear about the tragedy in Florida?” only for the response to be: “Which one?”

But before we talk about the latest incident to occur within the state, we first must address some key developments that took place today in the aftermath of the Orlando shooting.

We wondered, after Newtown, after Aurora, after Roseburg, and after San Bernardino, what it would take for both political parties to finally come to agreement on common sense gun control.

Well, it appears it took the deadliest shooting in United States history.

NRA2.jpgWhile Democratic senators filibustered all day (which is still ongoing as of 9 p.m. EST) to demand Republican action on gun control legislation, there was a momentous and unprecedented step taken this afternoon by the National Rifle Association.

They endorsed gun control.

Granted, it’s the most obvious form of gun control that could ever exist, but nonetheless, it’s a step in the right direction. As most people know, the NRA is so powerful that they own pretty much all Republican legislators, and are the basically the reason why talk of gun control always ends up going nowhere.

Today, however, the NRA said that individuals who are on the FBI’s terrorist watch list should be investigated upon their attempt to purchase a gun.

This, of course, comes just about seven months after they clearly voiced their concern for such action, which is a shame, because it if it was implemented earlier, then perhaps the FBI could have prevented the Orlando massacre.

Omar Mateen purchased guns 12 days before he killed 49 people in a nightclub. You’re telling me that if the FBI was alerted of his actions, that they might not have been able to stop him?

It’s a shame that it took such a tragedy to finally open people’s eyes.

But anyway, we’ll see what comes of it. In the meantime, let’s discuss another horrible thing that took place today.

By this morning, the nation had all but given up hope that a 2-year-old boy dragged into a lagoon by an alligator at a Disney resort was still alive. At about 3:30 p.m. on, the boy’s body was found. 

And I know it’s hard to place blame on anyone. Everyone did what they should be doing.Alligator.jpg The toddler was playing in the shallow water. The parents were nearby. The alligator sensed prey.

It’s also worth noting that five different alligators were trapped and killed during the search.

But after what happened with Harambe the silver-backed gorilla in a Cincinnati zoo last month, and now this, I think we all just need to take a step back and reassess the awesome power of nature.

Humans have represented the dominant species on Earth for a minuscule portion of the evolutionary scale. Before us, every living being knew to tread very, very carefully. One wrong step could be your last.

Now I’m not saying to live each moment expecting a pack of wild hyenas to come roaring down the street. But we need to respect that there are vicious, predatory creatures out there. Not everything on this planet exists for us.

I think some people forget that. What happened was an absolute tragedy, and it’s devastating that a 2-year-old boy is dead, and his parents now have to live the rest of their life with the guilt of believing it was their irresponsibility and negligence that killed their son.

But if we start respecting nature a little more, then not only can human lives be spared, but maybe animals also wouldn’t have to be killed simply for acting like themselves.

And you know what? While we’re at it, we should be afraid of hyenas. They deceive us masquerading as dogs, and can only be distinguished by their bushy tails.

Plus, they were antagonists in the Lion King.

#FearTheHyena