A WC final to remember: FRA 🇫🇷 v CRO 🇭🇷

A TV broadcasting a charged match featuring the French national team in the corner of a bar; not football, it’s the 2007 Rugby World Cup. I never really offered much attention to the sport prior to then, but what the hell, when in Rome (or France in my case). I sat at the table attempting to figure out the rules; friends put their best efforts in to assist me, but most importantly, the atmosphere and game action were intense: the timing to be in France was perfect. Well, unless I time-hopped back to 1998 to witness the French football team win their first World Cup.

Today an even better day to watch a game on a pub TV in Mulhouse; France playing Croatia in the World Cup final – 2018 edition. My heart always with Les Bleus, unless Spain or the United States are playing. Croatia gave me so much to cheer for this tournament, but the heart wants what the heart wants.

I awoke before the game (8:00 AM kick off in Los Angeles), drank my water, and immediately brewed up a Nespresso coffee to sip from an espresso mug. In 2007 the day after my flight landed at Mulhouse’s airport, which they share with Basel, a my friend and I departed the train station for her hometown. Along the way, we had one stop in order to switch trains and I drank my first coffee in France. I barely kept it down – the strength was overwhelming. Cheers to you Emilie!

Watching the pregame, however, did present the game more like (at least for me) no matter who won, the football world triumphs. So many Croatian players, including their leader, Modric, struggled as refugees to arrive at this point. They walk as heroes forever.

First Half Thoughts

Croatia began this final proving to any doubters that they truly belong in this match-up. The first ten minutes were a masterclass for the men in checkered shirts. France started the game a bit frantic, playing advantage to a Croatian team with tired legs after three consecutive games that went to extra time. Perišić and Croatia really tested the French right back, Pavard, doing everything but score a goal.

To Deschamps’ credit, France possessing the ball not necessarily part of the game plan, but they awaited their opportunity, which the first came from a Griezmann set piece. This opened the game for France, which they capitalized with a beautiful strike in the 19th minute which glided off the head of Croatian forward Mario Mandžukić. The foul was questionable, and Mandžukić (possibly Croatia’s best player in the half) was a bit unlucky to give France the lead on an own-goal.

Croatia never allowed that to unsettle them, forcing Ngolo Kante to pickup a yellow card early by putting him in a position to give up a set piece. Within ten minutes of France’s opener, Croatia equalize with a phenomenal strike from Ivan Perišić in minute 29.

VAR appeared for the first time in a World Cup final in the 35th minute – after the referee first declaring a cleared corner a goal kick, the Argentinian reviewed the decision, and later determined Perišić’s hand was in an unnatural position in the penalty area, thus conceding the first penalty of the World Cup final. With Griezmann at the penalty spot, the goal seemed inevitable: France 2 – Croatia 1.

The first half ended with fire. The Croatians play with a grit unmatched by many others. They were down by score, but statistically they’d been the much superior team. Of course, as they say, the only statistic that matters is the score, and France carried that category into the locker room at half.

Second Half Thoughts

The second half picked up where the first left off, but if possible, more fire. Within two minutes of play, both goalkeepers were forced to make saves in an end-to-end bit of play. Within five minutes, Croatia earned two corners really pressing the French defense, who seem cool under the pressure, but keeping their fans’ nerves on edge – no doubt.

With the back and forth play and an open game, it was completely ruined by a group of spectators (I won’t call them fans) who charged the field to put an end to a Croatian counter-attack.

France made a tactical change in minute 54, pulling Kante, who had a yellow card, for Steven “Not Kondogbia” Nzonzi; Kante arguably the most impressive player of this tournament.

Not to worry, they still fielded Paul Pogba, who four minutes later had his initial shot blocked but deflected back to his feet, and with a second chance, made the most of it: France 3 – Croatia 1. This all began with a wide open pass to Mbappé, who, streaking down the right side, completely opened up play in the middle. Mbappé’s speed and skill threaten defenses immensely, and ignoring him is not an option.

You’d think things would really begin to unravel after that goal. Neymar’s coming out party, was clearly put to bed when Mbappé scored France’s fourth goal; given space at the top of the penalty box, there was no chance to deny the young phenom. The hearts and spirits of the Croatians would crushed in that moment: France 4 – Croatia 1.

That is until Lloris’ howler of an assist to Mario Mandžukić to put Croatia within two; hope reinstalled, but short lived. If France can get 100% credit for one thing this tournament, it’s their ability to win games. They did that today, Croatia were a great adversary, and in truth, the final score does little to indicate how this match felt.

France claiming their second World Cup crown and earning that second star on their shirt felt fitting. Loaded with young talent, they will be a top contender for a number of years to come so long as health accompanies them.

Well done France, Allez Les Bleus!

Final Thoughts

This World Cup created so many memories, so much heartbreak, and so much entertainment. The United States failing to qualify dampened the tournament, but only slightly. This was by far one of the most entertaining World Cups of my lifetime, and it’ll be difficult to forget it. Part of the tournament I spent in Canada and another part on a road trip throughout California, but the excitement gave me enough reason to pull aside in moments on the road and tune in.

Until next time, Amunt!

Spinning new adventures into my routine

Have you tried spinning? Not the kind your head does when you’re stressed out, the kind on a stationary bike.

Okay, bad joke, but I’m in my 30s so I can make them.

There is a comfort in having a routine. I love it; it gives me stability. My wife can hate that I love it, but that’s why she’s perfect for me, she helps me throw off my routine for new and exciting adventures. Adventures are what keep us young and thriving.

Here is what I did on Memorial Day: I woke up with my wife and decided to try a spin class for the first time, ever. My initial takeaway – my weightlifting allowed my legs muscles to keep up, but my lack of cardiovascular endurance really crushed me.

Our instructor (Emily B) was great. She helped me set up the bike and explained a little of what to expect. I appreciated it, she was thorough, but not overbearing. Most importantly, even though it was hard work, it was FUN.

You can definitely do this at your own pace, but the tricky thing is getting your functional threshold power (FTP) accurate. There is no way to know without trial and error. I set mine too high, which made things a bit more difficult to keep up.

My lesson: Go, and go frequently. There is nothing quite like it, and I am so happy I gave it a shot. These are the type of classes that can make you feel invincible – but be prepared for some seat soreness the next day.

Spinning, like all types of exercise, allow you to challenge yourself. But unlike lifting weights, which can be intimidating for some folks when they see others preforming at a high level, only you know what setting you’re on, so there is no shame in being a beginner. Look, I was bad, probably embarrassingly so, but let that be a motivator to you – just know you won’t be as bad as I was. Then again, when you are pushing yourself, there’s no such thing as bad, only a baseline.

I encourage you to try it. I’ll be back again on Sunday, God willing.

Be well everyone and Fight On!

Yoga journey continued

Quick update; I’ve stayed true to the promise I made to myself, I’ve continued my commitment to practicing yoga at least once a week. My flexibility is not the greatest, but I can already feel some pretty wonderful improvements; it probably helps that I’ve also stayed committed to stretching each time I finish a weight lifting session.

Today I did a quick 16 min session with my wife. It was nice to have a partner to struggle alongside me – even though she said my breath smelled of coffee; I blame Nespresso for being so delicious.

That’s it for this beautiful Sunday from Southern California. Stay healthy everyone, and Fight On!

My little mission: accomplished

Alright folks, I have a confession to make. In my adult life, I don’t think I’ve ever had a blood test done. I’m terrified of needles; I hate getting shots, but I can usually tough out a quick injection in the shoulder. A blood draw, that’s been a giant obstacle for me.

That is until today.

Here is the proof everyone

I bit the bullet and did it. I was very lucky to have a great compassionate nurse and doctor to help me through it.

The thing is this, after today’s experience, I feel a bit invincible. Getting a blood draw was single-handedly the most challenging thing I have had to overcome. It may sound really strange to many, but for YEARS I have declined the procedure (if you can call it that) when I would have my annual exam.

This is all to say this, we all have little things that seem like mountains to overcome, and even if it seems like not such a big deal to others (flying, riding a roller coaster, or petting a dog), those fears and anxieties can seem debilitating when you are put in that situation. You don’t need to be ashamed of it, I know I was for a long time, as coworkers and relatives would roll their eyes at my terror.

Even if it’s nothing to you (or maybe you feel the same way I do about getting a blood test), I am very proud of this achievement today.

This is just one challenge checked off the list of things to do – now time to move onto the next.

Challenging my flexability

Earlier this week my wife started a subscription to MyYogaWorks, which I promptly broke in with a 20-minute session. It wasn’t my first time doing yoga, but I can almost guarantee that I could count each time I’ve practiced yoga with one hand (maybe two fingers). Nevertheless, I’ll call this my “first time.”

For those unfamiliar, MyYogaWorks is an online yoga studio, where instructors go through their sessions on the web and you, the viewer, follow along. The instructor generally has a few people in the class to demonstrate each pose or movement while they glide through the studio describing the actions and feelings you should experience; my instructor was Melanie Lora Meltzer.

I’m going to challenge myself to do each of Melanie’s classes on the site – attempting one to two per week – she has to 118 sessions, to date. Some of the videos are under ten minutes while others can be longer than an hour. The difficulty may be finding the time to accomplish the longer sessions – but I recall a great and inspiring section of George W Bush’s memoir – Decision Points – when he said, if it’s important to you, you’ll find time for it (which is how he explained his ability to workout daily while his time as POTUS). Additionally, to make matters a bit more difficult, I still plan on hitting the gym as I normally would, I do not want to supplement this for weight training.

I’ll keep you posted along the way, wish me luck!

What makes a home?

Every so often (we try for once a week – but it’s probably closer to twice a month) my wife and I take a stroll from our small two bedroom apartment in Pacific Palisades and hike to the beach with the dogs. It’s a nice walk, the weather is so temperate, and seeing the ocean never gets old; we’re incredibly fortunate to be where we are in our lives.

The walks are great, but there is an eyesore; there are increasingly bigger and gaudier boxy homes replacing small single-family dwellings in the community. This is an internal conflict for me: on one hand, I’m a firm believer in the free market and individualism – I’m a libertarian at heart; however, I’m also disappointed in the direction some of these developers and eventual home buyers have taken.

These giant homes just don’t jive with my vision for the world, which, doesn’t necessarily mean my vision is the right one, but it is mine.

All this is to say one thing, I recently found these modular homes made by MADI – an Italian home manufacturer – and they brought a smile to my face. I don’t think every home on the planet needs to look like this, but I generally enjoy the idea that a home can be nice, energy efficient, spacious, and compact.

When I walk through neighborhoods in the LA area, I often wonder, what about a backyard? I see kids kicking a soccer ball on sidewalks because there is nowhere else for them to play – that’s not for me. I know my vision is shaped in part by the lifestyle of my childhood, which included a large backyard during the school year and a 150 plus acre farm when I wasn’t confined in “town.” However, the thought of my future children needing to kick a ball that skids across a paved sidewalk or back alley because there is no yard or field to let their wings spread is disheartening.

I think we can do better than “keep up with the Jones’.” However, it feels like my opinion is not only mine – especially as those in my generation seek out jobs not for the material paycheck but also for the social connection they feel with the organization – whether that’s the direct mission of the company or it involves their company’s corporate social responsibility initiatives.

That’s my two cents for today.

How I keep it consistent

Let me first say, I’m not a certified trainer or a fitness expert; however, I love going to the gym. If I could ever offer advice about fitness, it would be to find a small handful of experts you trust – don’t look for the person that posts the best youtube videos, look for the person that is the most helpful and trustworthy. Second, I, like many, struggle with consistency in the gym, but over the past five months, I’ve hit a nice stride. I’m going to share the things that have helped me with getting my behind to the gym, and things that have helped me stay intense without feeling burnt out.

Make it a routine

It’s very cumbersome and annoying to hit the gym if you have to go out of your way to do so. That’s why it is so important to ensure your gym location is super convenient: close to home, close to work, or somewhere along the way. I like my gym close to home. I get out of the office a bit earlier than most, and it makes it easier to beat traffic if I get home and then head to the gym. For my wife, it’s the opposite, she beats traffic if she goes to the gym before she heads home, so it’s important to her that the gym is close to work.

Vary it up

You have to switch up your routine, which makes it NOT a routine. In my experience, if I am doing the same workout for more than 5 or 6 weeks, I am exhausted. I try to change my workout plan every four weeks or so, but I don’t necessarily put a timeline on it. If I find a fun routine, I stick to it a bit longer. I do stick to a core set of exercises that I feel comfortable with performing, but I enjoy varying up the structure, and reps. For example, right now I’m focusing on more high rep work, however, I think the next plan will focus more on low rep circuit training with supersets and a greater volume of sets. Keeping my workouts fresh and new help me stay motivated.

Gradually increase intensity

My tendency is to dive headfirst into the gym, but that can be a mistake if you’ve taken some time away. It’s important to ease yourself back into fitness. Your muscles, joints, and body overall are no longer accustomed to taking the beating that is running, cycling, or lifting weights. Start small, but over time, push yourself to new limits by increasing the intensity. That doesn’t mean you can’t take a day or week of light training here and there, that can be a nice regroup for your body. However, I find that pushing myself to new limits only generates more drive and passion for improvement.