Take me back to Theroux’s plain of snakes

Theroux book 2I’d read half of Paul Theroux’s new book, “On the Plain of Snakes,” when I went to hear the author speak Wednesday night, Oct. 16, 2019, at Seattle’s Town Hall. That was probably a mistake.

The night before, I had heard Tim Egan speak on his new book, “A Pilgrimage to Eternity.” Since it was published on that very day, I had obviously not read it.

So Egan’s speech was an introduction to the book. Theroux’s talk was probably an effective intro to his book, but for me, I wanted an expansion on what he had written and I had read.

What was behind President Clinton’s Operation Gatekeeper in 1994 that changed the U.S.-Mexico border from a simple line that Mexicans crossed every day to work, shop and visit to a place of “fences, patrol cars, security technology and massive deportations”?

Why was President Obama’s Fast and Furious program to sell high-caliber guns across the border so that they could be traced when cartel members committed crimes with them, such a failure?

Tell me more about Trump’s insults to Mexicans, the effects of NAFTA on Mexico’s poor and why Mexico’s government is so corrupt that Mexicans have little time to complain about the corruption in Trump’s administration.

More about the violence in Mexico and how the police and drug cartels are often the same.

Theroux 1But he did expand on some things he had written in the book, like his reaction to what he calls “the fence.” In the book, he wrote:

“An ugly steel fence you might associate with a prison perimeter, twenty-five feet high, like nothing I had seen in any other country. A Texas congressman had called it ‘an inefficient fourteenth-century solution to a twenty-first century problem,’ which was accurate because, like a medieval wall, it was merely a symbol of exclusion rather than anything practical, and easily climbed over or tunneled under. In an age of aerial surveillance and high-security technology, it was a blacksmith’s barrier of antiquated ironmongery: old rusty ramparts running for miles, a visible example of national paranoia.”

Theroux has written more than 50 books, many of them from his travels around the world. He says the southern border is the oddest one in the world, like a Christo environmental art project. He describes walking through the door in the fence at the end of a Nogales street as an Alice in Wonderland rabbit hole experience. “Open the door, and suddenly you are in Mexico.”

Despite this oddness, the border is a back-and-forth flow, with most of it nowadays going north. Mexicans still come across, although now they have to stand in long lines with their legal documents to get to their jobs, etc.

One surprise for Theroux was the large number of what U.S. officials call “Special Interest Aliens,” people caught trying to cross the border from India, China, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria and from African nations, mostly from Nigeria. In some Southwest U.S. detention facilities, fewer than half are from Mexico.

So why do they leave, Theroux asked. They are at home surrounded with their culture, family, religion and places they know. But they pay a coyote thousands of dollars to take them to the border and maybe across it. They have everything except that “they ain’t got no dinero.” Annual income for people living in the southern Mexico states of Chiapas or Oaxaca is similar to those in rural Kenya or Bangladesh: $3,400. People living in Eritrea fought for years to win independence and freedom from Ethiopia and are now the top group trying to get into Europe. After fighting like that, why would you leave?

“On the Plain of Snakes” tells the stories of some of these people. It’s not a travel book that will “tell you where the best tacos are in Merida,” but a book that will “see things as they are,” Theroux’s stock in trade.

The other reason I like this book is because it covers a place and a way of travel that I did with my friend Jeff in 1974 and 1975, traveling in the back of trucks that stopped for hitch hikers, in second-class buses and crowded train cars. Not sure if we saw things as they are, but we had a lot of fun traveling through Saltillo, Torreon, Durango, Mazatlan and Tepic, with a few “near death experiences” that Theroux calls the essence of travel books. And Theroux is 78-years-old; it’s not too late to do it again.

Jeff

John

 

Tim Egan seeks faith to avoid the big burn

Tim Egan's bookWriting a book about religion seems a radical departure for Tim Egan, whose previous eight books have covered history, mostly in the American West. But judging from the talk he gave Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019, at Seattle’s Town Hall, his new book will be as good as “The Worst Hard Times,” for which Tim won the National Book Award.

Loved that book, but others say “The Big Burn” is even better. It’s beside my bed on a looming stack of books to read.

Tim and I crossed paths for a while when he was an intern at The Seattle Times. I also met up with him while teaching at the University of Montana. I was assigned to escort a visiting journalist from South Africa to a panel discussion. The topic was politics in the West – or something like that — and I only remember one thing about the panel: Tim knew more and expressed it flawlessly. Mostly I remember hoping the others would shut up so Tim could speak.

Tim EganHe did not disappoint on Tuesday night when he talked about “A Pilgrimage to Eternity,”  which records  his physical and spiritual trek along the Via Francigena, from Canterbury in England to the Vatican in Rome. He described himself as a lapsed Catholic, like about half of USA Catholics. He’d gotten to the point in his life where he was “too damned complacent,” but was then set in motion by two things: Trump dystopia (“Has anyone had a good night’s sleep since the election?”) and the death of his mother, who led him to a life of writing. She was a devout Catholic, but on her deathbed said she didn’t know what to expect, where she was going. I have my doubts, she told Tim.

If she had doubts, then where does that leave the rest of us with our “malnutrition of the soul,” as he put it. It was time, he said, for a “stiff shot of no-bullshit spirituality.”

Plus, he really likes the new pope. Pope Francis ministers to the poor, respects science and is named after St. Francis of Assisi, one of Tim’s favorites: “You have to admire someone who talked to wolves.”

Egan says he considers himself more of a time traveler than an historian, but it looks like there is lots of history in the book. Tracing Christianity from the 2,000 adherents 30 years after Jesus Christ’s death to the 2.3 billion today, the largest faith in the world. He stops along the way to tell the stories of Saint Thomas Becket, Saint Joan of Arc, Martin Luther and a couple of names hardly connected to spirituality: Napoleon Bonaparte and Oscar Wilde.

He pointed out discrepancies between what’s in the New Testament and how Christianity is sometimes practiced today, and talked about a miracle that might have happened to him.

The end of the evening came with questions from the audience, including the final one from Roger, a great journalist from The Seattle Times and the Los Angeles Times: So after all this, did you (Tim) return to the church?

Tim, now a “lapsed but listening Catholic,” answered: “Some resolutions, but I’m not going to tell you what they are.”

Time to read the book.

 

 

USA remains “team of the future” forever

Baboon on rock

In my last post, I had some of the numbers wrong (since fixed) but not the conclusion: Japan goes to the quarterfinals if the Scotland game is played and they win. They did, 28-21.

Scotland opened the scoring with their fly half running through Japan’s defense and it looked like the usual suspects would end up emerging from pool play. But then Japan put on a wonderful show of offloading the ball to open runners, going into half with a 21-7 lead. They added another try and conversion early in the second half before Scotland found its footing and scored two more tries and conversions. Japan held on for the win.

Speaking of mistakes, the USA Eagles made plenty last night in their loss to the Tonga “Ikale Tahi” (Sea Eagles), losing 31-19. The United States led at half 12-7, but fumbled away the ball on offense and could not stop Tonga’s well supported running. Nice to see Seattle’s own Olive Kilifi starting some of the USA’s scoring.

So the USA Eagles, often referred to as the team that will someday become one of the usual suspects in the post-pool play World Cup, didn’t win any of their four games. They were in the “Pool of Death” against England, France, Argentina and Tonga. I thought they had a chance against Argentina and Tonga. Not so. Maybe in four more years. Or maybe forever.

I found another baboon photo to post. It seemed appropriate as I am correcting a mistake I made yesterday, only one of two mistakes I think I have corrected in four years of this blog. I try to be transparent here, letting all hang out, as this baboon is doing.

Missed 20 rugby games to hang out with baboons

Baboon and baby

I missed watching 20 games in the 2019 Rugby World Cup to hang out with a bunch of baboons.

I thought I could watch the games on an iPad while on a 12-day trip to Kenya and Tanzania, but that did not happen. For one thing, NBC Sports Gold streaming service that I paid for is not available outside the United States. Should have read the fine print. Actually it’s in big type under the FAQ, but what male asks for directions or reads the instructions. Another problem was that my international calling plan from AT&T doesn’t cover Kenya and Tanzania. Then there was the spotty wifi coverage in game camps where we stayed. Missed hearing from friends and family, but a nice break from wars, presidential high crimes and misdemeanors and other worldly troubles as we spend our time watching “slavering animals and colorful natives” as Paul Theroux says in “Dark Star Safari.”

Well, sorry Mr. Theroux, but we enjoyed it probably more than you did in your endless bus ride across Africa.

This blog’s future posts will try to introduce those animals, slavering or not, as I edit almost a thousand pictures and videos. Lions, no tigers or bears, but lots of wildebeest, leopards, zebras, cheetahs and birds will come knocking at your door as one baboon did at the Ol Tukai Lodge in Amboseli National Park in Kenya. Kathy and I were dressing in the morning when the door suddenly swung open, and there, standing on his two hind legs with his forearms stretched in front of him, was our friendly baboon wake-up call. He stared, we stared and Ian, one of our traveling companions, said from outside, “You should lock your door.” A few yells and Mr. Baboon went away but returned later to peek in the window and eat a small snake just to the side of our porch.

Baboon in window

Speaking of simian behavior, let me tell you about some of it that appeared at the Rugby World Cup before we disappeared into East Africa. The last newspaper we read in the Amsterdam airport was the Sept. 28 edition of The Times of London (lovely to have a paper that covers your favorite sport). Alex Lowe, the Deputy Rugby Correspondent, wrote about the disconnect between World Rugby’s “promised clampdown on dangerous tackles” and the referees and players on the field. In the first week of RWC play, four potential red cards were missed by the referees. Two Samoans got three-game bans for dangerous tackles in their 34-9 win over Russia. But the suspensions came after the game ended when the governing body and judicial hearings used 28 camera angles and Hawk-Eye technology (whatever that is) to spot the offenses missed by the single referee and his two assistant refs (touch judges, as we used to call them).

Reece Hodge, an Australian player, also received a post-game “red card” for a tackle that left a Fiji player concussed. In his hearing that led to his three-game suspension, Hodge “admitted to having no knowledge of the interpretation of rules on high tackles and had not been given any training on it,” according a an article by Steve James in The Times. That seems to have left the Australian coach fuming. Michael Cheika said he coached his players to tackle around the waist and “we do not need a framework to tell them how to tackle.” That framework, he said, is for referees “to decide whether there is a red or yellow cards in a game.”

That did not work in the England-United States game where Piers Francis was charged with foul play after concussing Will Hooley, a USA back. For Francis there was no yellow or red card or even a penalty in the game. The charge came later, and as Ian points out, getting 10 minutes in the sin bin (yellow card) or ejected from the game (red card) forcing your team to play a man short, could have an effect on the game if referees called them. Given that the United States was beaten 45-7, England might have won with10 men. But in another game? Could make a big difference.

Also in the news of Sept. 28: Wales was trying to figure a way to beat Australia (they did), and Ireland’s coach Joe Schmidt said he “hoped to put more width on the ball” in the their game against Japan, according to an article by Peter O’Reilly. I take that to mean get the ball out to the backs more. It didn’t work. Remember when I said Ireland beating Scotland didn’t prove much about their strength? Losing 19-12 against Japan probably says more. Still hoping for the Irish side to take the tournament, but I’m not laying any green on that pick.

Emerging from Africa and reading the Oct. 10 edition of The Times of London in the Amsterdam airport, we find that Japan and the Rugby World Cup there are battened down as Typhoon Hagibis sweeps over them. So far, there are two people dead and nine missing from the storm.

Three RWC games have been canceled – England vs. France, New Zealand vs. Italy and Namibia vs. Canada. Each of these teams will get two points, as in a tie, in the pool standings. England and France are both going into the quarterfinals and the game would have sorted out seeding. Now England goes as top seed, and France as the runner-up. Italy was going nowhere in a disappointing RWC appearance, and New Zealand will go out as top seed. It would have been nice if Canada or Namibia could get a win in the tournament, but they will have to wait another four years.

Scotland vs. Japan is where it will make a difference. If that Sunday game (starting at 3:30 a.m. in Seattle) is canceled, Scotland will lose its chance to advance out of pool play. Ireland, beating Samoa 47-5, moved into top spot in Pool A. Japan, with 14 points, is second and Scotland with 10 points is third. No game, and Japan ends with 15 points and Scotland with 12. Japan goes on as Pool A runner up, and Scotland goes home.

This, according to Owen Slot, Times Chief Rugby Correspondent, would “discredit the entire event.”

“This is the very stuff of which World Cups are made; it is two teams fighting for survival. To dispatch Scotland from the tournament because of Typhoon Hagibis would make a farce of the event.”

Probably not if players, refs and fans got carried away by flooding rivers, but let’s talk important stuff here: Scotland got screwed in the 2015 by a bad call in their quarterfinal game. The RWC should do all to give them a chance in 2019, even though I am hoping for Japan to go forward as a team outside the usual suspects: South Africa and New Zealand in Pool B; England and France in Pool C; Wales and Australia in Pool D; and Ireland in Pool A.

So far, the United States vs. Tonga game is still on (10:45 tonight). Another rugby all-nighter coming up. And tomorrow, I will sleep like a baboon, as one of the African guides said last week.

Coming up: Rhinos and USA Eagles and “Ikale Tahi” (Sea Eagles).

 

 

Can Trump change the human species? If not impeached

While living in Oxford, England, in 2015 to attend the Rugby World Cup, we did more than attend rugby games. We also took advantage of cultural events in that university city. Museums, art exhibits, musical events and lectures, including the best Kathy and I have heard on Shakespeare. The question that came up then was: “Why don’t we do this at home?”

University dons and students don’t go around in black academic robes as in Oxford, but Seattle is no intellectual desert. But it seems we’re “too busy” to find our way to those events that would exercise our minds here at home. We have season theater tickets, attend an opera here and there, once in a while a symphony and visit museums when friends and family come to visit.

Kathy takes advantage of classes and lectures put on by Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. John? Rarely.

Well, that’s changing. Spurred by the memory of all we did in Oxford, we have loaded up on season tickets to plays, lectures, photo exhibits and book readings. By spring, we may start wearing black robes.

That means, as it did four years ago, the rugby reporter may get interrupted by off-field activities; scrums, rucks and mauls interspersed with things like:

Fenner

“Stories of Human Migrations,” an hour-long talk given by David Fenner from the University of Washington’s Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies. Sponsored by the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the UW and held at the University House in Issaquah, WA, the talk was one of many lectures and classes for those of us over 50. Kathy and I are well qualified.

Fenner’s talk made me realize that Trump is trying to change the human species. (Ed. notes: Fenner never mentioned Trump. I’m to blame for the spin here. Fenner supplied facts, and if they are wrong in this piece, it is because of my faulty note taking and should not reflect on Fenner, an excellent lecturer.)

Trump is going against the tide of humanity, which started migrating some 150,000 to 200,000 years ago from the Great Rift Valley in Africa – and it has never stopped no matter how many walls, borders and prejudices it ran up against. About 50,000 years ago, homo sapiens reached Northern Europe, where they found another species, the Neanderthal, which they interbred with (Did Fenner say that’s what accounts for rugby players?). About 12,000 to 15,000 years ago humans reached the Americas. Not until 1,500 years ago did they get to New Zealand, the last of the Rift Valley migration.

But it didn’t stop there. The Jewish Diaspora spread the Hebrew people across Africa, Asia and Europe, and the height of the Arab Wars took conquering Muslims from Spain to India in the years from 660 to 750 A.D. Four hundred years ago, slavery emptied 12.5 million souls from Africa and sent them to the Americas with two million of them dying along the way. Of eight million people in Ireland in the 1840s, two million of them left during the Potato Famine. One million of the six million who stayed behind died.

The Indian Removal Act of 1830 moved those who first got to what would become the United States farther West and further along the newcomers’ genocidal path.

Others came to the United States on their own, attracted by self-governing and democracy spelled out in the Declaration of Independence in 1776. And they were welcomed:

“The bosom of America is open to receive not only the opulent & respectable Stranger, but the oppressed & persecuted of all Nations & Religions; whom we shall wellcome to a participation of all our rights & previleges, if by decency & propriety of conduct they appear to merit the enjoyment.” — George Washington in letter to Joshua Holmes, 2 December 1783.

With the world’s population now at seven billion, one billion of them are migrants – 250 million trying to move from one country to another and 750 million “internal” migrants moving to better circumstances within their nations.

It’s what the human species does; moving to where the grass is greener. The International Conference on Global Trends predicts an increase in human migration over the next 25 years, no matter what Trump says or does. Some will pick up on their own, like the 250 million (three-fourths of the population of the U.S.) on the road in China, once considered “economic” migrants but now also “climate” migrants as desertification affects parts of that nation.

Others will be forced. United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reports that in 2018, there were 70.8 million forcibly displaced, mostly from Syria, Afghanistan and Sudan. Closer to home, those coming north from Central America are being “kept in a pressure cooker” by U.S. actions that will only make the situation there get worse with more people fleeing unstable governments, gang violence and poverty. I take that to mean: Increasing aid there, helping those nations keep their people. Trump’s idea is to keep asylum seekers there among those who have threatened them with harm. One more incentive to start north and take your chances at the U.S. border.

The International Organization on Migration holds that migration is inevitable and desirable – if well-governed. That is not the case in the United States, and getting an immigration policy that goes beyond the wall seems impossible with who’s in the White House and this Congress. Right now, Fenner says, we are a long way from that George Washington quote.

We’re all refugees from the Rift Valley, and we have “moving” stories to tell about how we got here. That’s the story of the human species, and we should be telling them to remind ourselves that we are a nation of immigrants and that our species probably won’t change before Trump is gone.

Fenner books

Fenner agencies 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A bad day/night/morning for North American rugby

These are trying times for North American rugby in the 2019 Rugby World Cup. Actually, there are not many tries for Canada and the United States in their games in Japan.

By the time I got out of bed and to the TV, Canada was down 10-0 to Italy 10 minutes into the match. Poor tackling, too many balls fumbled forward, too many penalties. At 17-0, the announcer said Canada had “staunched the flow of points.” But that did not last long.

Fifty-eight minutes into the game, Italy gets a penalty try because Canada collapsed a maul – and a Canadian player sent to the sin bin for 10 minutes. We’re up to 36-0 when a Canadian try is called back because it came off a knock on while trying to field a kick.

Canada did get a try at 69 minutes, but Italy scores at 73 minutes and again once more before the game ends, 48-7 for Italy. Canada did not remember how close they came in 2015 RWC, and Italy looked better than when I saw them play against Ireland in Chicago in November.

So I settled in for a hour-long nap before the England-USA game started at 3:30 a.m. Alarm set, I thought. It was not. Woke up at 5 a.m. and the USA was down 30-0. England scored three more tries and the USA got a try with time expired, 45-7 for England.

The score was bad enough, but flanker John Quill got a red card for a shoulder charge, which will keep him out of upcoming games. Will Hooley was carried off the field in the “pitch retrieval” system – a stretcher – with a concussion, and prop David Ainu’u went out with an ankle injury.

The road ahead for the USA looks treacherous:

Oct. 2 against France

Oct. 9 against Argentina

Oct. 13 against Tonga

Another rugby all-nighter, but only 2 games

Getting ready for another rugby all nighter with Canada playing Italy, starting at 12:45 a.m., and then the United States taking on England at 3:45 a.m. I should be a champ at Pilates at 10 a.m.

I hope Canada remembers how close they came to beating Italy at the Rugby World Cup in 2015. They were behind 13-10 at half but regained the lead with a try. Italy came back with another try, 20-15. Canada added a penalty kick, 20-18, and Italy finished with another penalty to win 23-18. I thought Canada could have, should have.

Maybe having four members on the Canadian team who played for the Seattle Seawolves in the Major League Rugby will help them to a win. Jeff Hassler is starting at wing, and in reserves are two props, Djustice Sears-Duru and Jake Ilnicki, and the Seawolves scrum half and coach, Phil Mack.

Oli
Olive Kilifi at 2015 RWC

The only Seawolves on the United States Eagles is Olive Kilifi, who was also on the team in 2015. Another Pacific Northwesterner is Titi Lamositele, 24, born in Bellingham and an athlete at Sehome High School. He now plays for the London Saracens in the Premiership League there.

If the Eagles beat England this morning, it might knock Trump’s impeachment troubles off the front page (if I were the news editor). ESPN had a good article on the USA chances, noting that the professional league has brought more fit players into camp. The Eagles are in the “Pool of Death,” with England, France, Argentina and Tonga ranked above them. Tonga might be their best bet for a RWC victory in 2019.

Titi
Tit Lamositele at 2015 RWC

One surprise already in the 2019 RWC: Uruguay beat Fiji last night, 30-27. Wales and Australia also have wins in that pool. Can Uruguay beat either one? Georgia, also in the pool, fell 43-14 against Wales. Los Teros also have several team members who played in the Major League Rugby. Maybe that made the difference over Fiji. With several MLR players for the USA, will it make a difference against England?

My new team, Ireland, trounces Scotland. So what?

Irish“Skies growing darker while the prospects for Ireland are growing brighter,” said the announcer during the Ireland-Scotland rugby game early Sunday morning. That may be, as the Irish won 27-3 over Scotland in both teams’ first games in the 2019 Rugby World Cup, but I’m not so sure things are bright enough to see an Irish victory over New Zealand if that match ever came about in this tournament.

The Irish forwards looked strong against Scotland, scoring three of their four tries, before a wing added one more and then “Ireland took all the pace out of the game,” the announcer said, as Ireland played cautious ball to protect their lead. Those four tries  win a bonus point for Ireland, but remember this is Scotland, the team that fell to United States in 2018, the first time the Eagles beat a Tier One team. Ireland will advance out of Pool A, but Scotland, figuring they can beat Russia and Samoa, might have a hard time getting by Japan to move into the quarter finals.

Good bet that New Zealand will advance out of Pool B, and a potential Irish-New Zealand match could come during the weekend of Oct. 19 and 20. I’ll be on my couch cheering for Ireland and hoping for a new nation to win the RWC.

Also happy to report that my scrum slumber during the New Zealand-South Africa game had nothing to do with the strength of my coffee, heavy food or even my age. Simply a matter of too much rugby in the middle of the night and early morning. So I skipped English beating Tonga, 35-3, and I’m laying off viewing rugby until the Eagles take on England Thursday, Sept. 26, at a 3:45 a.m. PDT. No Wales vs. Georgia, Russia vs. Samoa, Fiji vs. Uruguay or Italy vs. Canada (might make an exception there at 12:45 Thursday morning).

USA over England? That would be an upset that would lend big time mystery over who escapes Pool C.

A question: The 2019 RWC is being held in Japan. The stadium was filled with Irish and Scot fans, who were loudly singing along to. . .  John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Road.” Do they know where West Virginia is and what’s there?

 

My rugby over nighter was a huge disappointment

The rugby all nighter turned out to be a disappointment. It started at 9:30 PDT Friday night with the kick off of the Australia-Fiji match in the 2019 Rugby World Cup. Then on to the France-Argentina game and finally the belle of the evening: New Zealand vs. South Africa. Actually, the belle of the morning as it started at 2:30.

What I was looking for was disruption in one of the four pools in which the 20 teams had been organized. An upset. Argentina over France (that’s happened before). Fiji over Australia (could happen). South Africa and New Zealand? Could go either way, but as much as I like rooting for the Kiwis – great country, great haka and greatest rugby – it would be nice to give others a chance. New Zealand has won three of the eight Rugby World Cups, including the last two. South Africa has won twice.

It would be nice if someone besides Tier One nations won this thing – or at least threw in some mystery on where this would all end up on Nov. 2, the day of the championship game.

Fiji could create some mystery in Pool D if they knocked off Australia. Not to be. Fiji made a good run in the first half, but the Wallabies settled down in the second half, got stingy with possession of the ball, and Fiji got tired, frustrated and resorted to reaching in to grab the ball out of rucks and mauls, resulting in penalties and then, a yellow card. Australia won 39-21 and picked up a bonus point for scoring four tries. And Wales and the Wallabies will probably go on to the quarter finals out of Pool D.

Argentina gave the most exciting game of the evening/morning. The Pumas were down 17-3 at half time but scored 18 points to get to a 21-20 lead over France, who had a three point penalty kick to get to 20. France needed a drop goal in the last few minutes to regain the lead at 23-21. A last minute penalty kick to Argentina wandered left of the posts, and they will have to settle for one bonus point for finishing within seven of the winner.

Only the United States and Tonga are left to keep the predictable England and France from moving forward out of Pool C. The USA Eagles get their chance against England on Thursday, Sept. 26, at 3:45 a.m. PDT. Another early day to rise.

Which leads me to my biggest disappointment of the rugby all nighter. The New Zealand-South Africa game displayed superb rugby skills, great runs, good defense and gritty scrummaging – what you expect from these top teams. The Kiwis prevailed 23-13 over the Springboks, and I can’t tell you much about how they did that because I woke up with my iPad on my chest with Kieran Read, the Kiwi captain, giving an interview on how they held off South Africa.

Narcolepsy may be common in baseball stadiums, and it is increasingly reported in the stands of America’s brand of slow football, but no one – no one – falls asleep during a rugby game, even after six hours of middle-of-the-night viewing. Could be the strength of my coffee. It could be from squinting at a small screen. It could be, I can barely stand to say this . . . It could be age. No, no. Lack of exercise. Too much heavy food. Up the night before for the Japan-Russia game? Maybe.

Only one way to find out what is up with my sleep patterns, or lack of them. The Ireland-Scotland game starts Sunday morning at 12:45 PDT. Ireland may have the best chance of breaking the chain of usual suspects. I’ll be on the couch.

 

Japan, this is no time to follow England

CoffeeJapan’  rugby team looked like it was headed in the same direction as the last country to host the Rugby World Cup: Not finding its way out of pool play and into the quarter finals. The “Cherry Blossoms” (trying to make that name fit into the game of rugby) let Russia’s high kicks fall to the ground, and one of them into the hands of a Russian back who scored the first points of the 2019 RWC.

Cherry Blossoms got over their nervous start in a stadium mostly filled with their countrymen and bloomed later in the game to win 30-10 in the first of 48 games in the tournament. But they will have lots to work on if they don’t want to end up like England, the 2015 host, who failed to advance into the playoff round of the tourney. That was especially embarrassing to England, where rugby got its start. However, England has been in the playoffs before and won the RWC in 2003.

Japan has never advanced out of pool play even though they won three matches, including an upset of South Africa and beating the United States, in 2015. They did not collect enough bonus points then to advance.

Last night — oops, make that this morning at 3:30 — Japan picked up one bonus point for scoring four tries in the match. Bonus points are also awarded to losers who stay within seven points of the winning team. No bonus points for Russia.

To advance, Japan has to pile up bonus points and find a way to beat those in their pool: Ireland, ranked No. 1 in the RWC; Scotland (a chance of an upset) and Samoa (betting on Japan).

Australia vs. Fiji is tonight at a decent time here in Seattle — 9:30, and then I will fill my coffee cup and get into my favorite sweater, blankies and my couch for early morning viewing for the New Zealand-South Africa game at 2:30 Saturday morning. Could be the best game of the tournament.

Now, time for a nap.