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Putin's Team

My web-only article on Vladimir Putin's influence on Russia's soccer team is online now, just as today's first semifinal between Germany and Turkey gets underway. I'm trying to break out of my unfortunate habit of spoiling games for those who have TiVoed them to watch later (sorry again, Frank!), so I won't say anything about what's happened so far, but it's been interesting to read about the dilemma of Turkish-born Germans who are torn as to which country to support. I reiterate my longstanding position that Western countries, instead of cracking down on immigration, should just require new immigrants to pledge to support their adopted nation's national team.

And, in an effort to consolidate all my sports commentary into one compact blog post, I'd like to at least give a shout-out to the Fresno State baseball team, which plays Georgia tonight for the national championship. It's not an exaggeration to say that their run this year has been one of the biggest upsets in college sports history--they were the lowest seed in their regional (the equivalent of a 13 seed or worse in the NCAA basketball tournament) and wouldn't have even qualified as an at-large team had they not won their conference tournament at the end of the regular season. And their best pitcher has been sidelined since May due to injury. A win tonight would be remarkable, but it's a truly impressive feat either way. Movie deal coming soon, you can be sure.

--Josh Patashnik