All posts by Alexander

How Denmark won the 1992 european soccer championship

TV2 Zulu (ubertrendy danish TV channel) has just finished showing all of Denmarks games from that glorious summer ten years ago, and it brings back to mind one of the most unlikely tales in sports history.

Denmark went into the tournament as rank outsiders. We didn’t even qualify, we were just called in to make up the numbers after Yugoslavia was banned because of the civil war in the balkans. While the other teams had had months to prepare, the announcement that Denmark would participate instead of Yugoslavia came ten days(!) before the start of the tournament.

Denmarks best international result until then had been a place among the best 16 in the 1986 World Cup in Mexico (unless you go back to -56 where we won an olympic silver medal).

And yet we won in -92! Always with the smallest possible margins, always with luck on our side, never doing more than the minimum requirements, and yet eliminating teams like England and Holland, to finally beat Germany 2-0 in the final. Ask any dane above the age of 18, and he or she will probably be able to tell you what they were doing on that day.

And how did we do it? The most important reason was a good team, with few strong individualists. The danish team seemed to fight for each other, every player backing up his team-mates. Luck played into it, and we had plenty of it that summer. We had so much luck, that it couldn’t just be a coincidence. Also, we were the outsiders. We had nothing to lose and everything to win. We went in to every game with no expectations. It would have been irrational to expect anything of the team under the circumstances. And yet we won. Might there be a lesson here?

And if you’ll excuse me, I will now lean back in my chair for a moment, think back on those days, and enjoy that irrational, beautiful, warm, glowing feeling I always get when I’m reminded of it – even now ten years later.

Book review: Harpo speaks

“I’ve played piano in a whorehouse. I’ve smuggled secret papers out of Russia… I’ve gambled with Nick the Greek, sat on the floor with Greta Garbo, sparred with Benny Leonard, horsed around with the Prince of Wales, played ping-pong with George Gershwin. George Bernard Shaw has asked me for advice. I’ve basked on the riviera with Somerset Maugham… I’ve been thrown out of the casino at Monte Carlo.”

(From the back flap of “Harpo Speaks” by Harpo Marx).
Continue reading Book review: Harpo speaks

Exercise: Believe the best about people

We were down at the local supermarket today, and the guy behind the cash register was slouched in his chair like a rag doll, made no eye contact with customers, and had a vibe about him that said “I’d rather be anywhere else”. Normally, I’d be thinking along the lines of “indifferent asshole, why doesn’t he cheer up”, but suddenly it hit me: Maybe there’s a good reason he’s like that.
Continue reading Exercise: Believe the best about people

Book review: Orbiting the giant hairball

Gordon Mackenzie spent 20 years working for Hallmark, and his experiences there have enabled him to write what he calls “a corporate fools guide to surviving with grace“. There’s no doubt that Gordon is a free spirit, and here he shares the mindset and that allowed him to survive and prosper in a large, conservative organization. That’s how he came up with the mental image of the corporate hairball – a disgusting but instructive metaphor…
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Politicians and morals

Thor Pedersen, the danish minister of finance, is accused of owning a farm without living on it, even though danish law requires him to. He is being attacked relentlessly by both the opposition and the media. He’s admitted to breaking the law, and promised not to do it anymore.

Thor Pedersens guilt or innocence aside, there’s one question you have to ask yourself.
Continue reading Politicians and morals

Online comic strip: Staggering heights

I’m an avid fan of online comics, from Dilbert to Doonesbury. But one of my favourites is a relatively unknown strip called “Staggering Heights“. It chronicles the lives and trials of a sleazy barfly named Jake, and a highly irregular cast of costars (my favourite is Murray – your average 300-pound truck driver turned woman).

The humour in the strip has both depth and variety, and the artwork is among the very best I’ve seen in any strip – online or offline.