Today I get the honour (trying to make this Canadian feel at home) of asking Daniel Squizzato 20 Questions. I became aware of the good Mr Squizzato a few years ago when I was consistently listening to the podcast, It’s Called Football. At the time the podcast was a Toronto FC centric podcast that also covered other aspects of MLS soccer and a little bit of other Canadian soccer topics. "Squiz" as he was referred to on the podcast moved on to other things and away from the podcast soon after I stopped listening. (My cessation had less to do with his departure than with the focus of the podcast migrating more to only Toronto FC within the MLS and then lower division Canadian soccer.) This re-focusing happened about the same time that Vancouver and Montreal entered the MLS and Toronto FC stopped being the only top league soccer team in Canada. That podcast just was not as relevant to me anymore. At that point, the only contact I had with Squiz was via the twitters. Since then we have had a few twitter conversations and chatted politely about the rivalry between Canadian and US Soccer. Those conversations have lead me to ask him 20 Questions. Beyond what he has posted on twitter and what he said on a podcast 3 years ago, all I know of Mr Squizzato is that he is a thoughtful and considerate person. He does not troll with his questions about footy, and is willing to explain things I don't understand and listen to things he doesn't understand. So, without further ado... here are the 20 Questions.
I have a professional background as a cartographer, and I have always been interested in people's geographic stories. For example, I was born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. My family moved to Montgomery, Alabama when I was 3. From there we moved to Birmingham, Alabama and then settled into a suburb called Center Point, Alabama. I grew up there and then went off to college in Kent, Ohio. I followed my then fiance, now wife to Columbus, Ohio for grad School and have lived in the Central Ohio area ever since. Question 1: What is your geographic story?
Well, I'm going to add some more Canadian flavour by apologizing right off the bat here for a rather uninteresting geographic story. I was born in North York, Ontario, which used to be a northern suburb of Toronto but has since been merged into the city proper. I've lived most of my life in and around the city (moving several times), save for a year in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Your readers may recognize the province as the setting for the cult TV hit Trailer Park Boys... or from an episode of Archer featuring "Nova Scotia separatists", voiced by the stars of TPB. Things will be picking up shortly, though; this summer, I'll be moving to Canada's west coast, where my wife is from. She has a much more interesting geographic story, having lived on several continents, and is slowly dragging me towards adventurism. So if you ask me this question again in 10 years, I may have a much better answer for you.
I love me some Nova Scotia. My wife works with a handful of people in that province and has taught at a conference held there a couple of years in a row, I have become friends with a guy who lives there, and visited there a few times myself. As far as west coast Canada, I am friends with some peeps who live just outside of Vancouver... one of these days I will visit them as well, because who doesn't want to visit the Vancouver area?
Question 2: Are you excited about your cross-continental move, or is this something you dread?
There's definitely a lot to be excited about and I'm looking forward to some of the things I'll get to do out there; at the same time, it's really tough to know I'm moving away from friends and from people and situations I've been around for my entire life. But one coping method both my wife and I are using is to constantly remind ourselves of the non-permanence of everything -- which sounds kind of spooky and existential, but for our purposes, it's just a way to remember that nothing is ever set in stone in this world (unless your job is literally to carve things into stone). You can always change your situation (or try to, anyway), and your situation can always be changed for you (either for good or for bad); so, best to just go with the flow and try to make the best of whatever time we get.
That sounds pretty interesting. I have found that living far away from good friends and people you grew up with is not necessarily that difficult to navigate with how connected people can be digitally. In many ways people are only separated by thought and digital transmission.
Now to the question I have become famous for and blatantly stolen from Paul F Tompkins. Question 3: Cake or Pie? Which specific kind and why?
Well now, if you're thinking beyond pastry, this really hits at some fundamental questions of individualism vs. collectivism. Think about it. What do you associate cake with? Birthdays, parties, social gatherings... big events where everyone gets the same slice, everyone's there for the same purpose (whatever's written on the cake). Then you've got pie. Apple pie is a quintessentially American food (apparently), and what's more American than the at-times-bordering-on-obscene love of individual rights? Nothing, that's what. So yeah, there's that. But if you're talking about pastry, then pie, because of its versatility -- you can go sweet or savoury. A good key lime and a good meat pie can both hit the spot in different but equally satisfying ways.
A pragmatic response to be sure. I have found that people that choose pie would really enjoy a piece of pie, but people who choose cake would kick a kitten in the rain to get a slice of cake... they say it is the cake, but they really want the frosting, and who doesn't want to eat frosting. My mom had a side business of baking and decorating cakes when I was constantly surrounded by frosting... sweet sweet frosting.
It does not sound like cake or pie really does it for you. So Question 4: Is there a foodstuff out in the world that you cannot help yourself around? Some food out there that you just have to eat when it is present?
I'll preface by saying that I believe we're all masters of our own destinies, and none of us should feel beholden to legacies handed down to us by familial lineage or other entities beyond our control. That being said, I have no adequate explanation other than inescapable ancestral hard-wiring for my inability to resist a second, third, etc. helping of whatever pasta is nearby. Red sauce, white sauce, hot, cold, doesn't matter. "I'll just have one more bite," I tell myself, 67 bites before my actual last bite. While I've been able to get this somewhat under control in adulthood, suffice to say that words like "lithe" and "svelte" were never used to describe me in my formative years.
Doughnuts were my Kryptonite... until I figured out that gluten was an issue for me... now I am listless, lost, and forlorn in regards to food. Gluten free food is terrible, just plain terrible. I used to have sandwiches and I used to eat baked goods, but all of that is gone, but of all the things I cannot eat now that I used to be able to --note: by "be able to" I recognize that I actually mean "put up with the consequences of consuming" and those consequences have gotten worse over time and lack of continued exposure. Now I cannot partake of the forbidden foods without extreme prolonged gastrointestinal issues. And now back to my comments-- pizza is what I miss the most. I could absolutely destroy a pizza right now. I miss pasta too, but a nice pizza with a good crust.... now I am just torturing myself.
Let's get a bit soccer centric. We are in the thick of the World Cup. I feel that this Cup has been one of the best I have seen. Question 5: Do you agree that this Cup is relatively more entertaining than many of the more recent ones? Why or why not? (Editor’s note, this question was asked during the first couple of matches within the second round in the group stage...i.e. Spain was still relevant)
Well, much as we may want to deny it, we're all subject to recency bias. So yeah, sure, I definitely feel right now that Brazil 2014 is the most exciting World Cup I can remember seeing. But with the exception of a few standout games, can I honestly remember the ins-and-outs of the early group stage in past tournaments? Nah, not really, and I doubt many other people can either. The early part of this World Cup has been breathless and exhilarating, no questions asked. But can they keep this pace up? We'll see. Because ultimately, the big knockout games are the ones people remember most, and if that part of the tournament gets littered with a few stinkers (though we have no reason to believe it will), then all of the excitement of the last week and a half will be forgotten in the long run, unfortunately.
Recency bias is definitely an issue, but this first round seems more hard fought by the minnows and the upsets seem more dramatic. When France collapsed in 2010, they didn't lose out as much as they didn't win. Spain's implosion has had more drama to it. I guess, I also feel a bit more knowledgeable about what is going on just because I have been paying some more attention during the lead up. All of that investment has made this more interesting to me.
Question 6: This is a multi-parter. a) Who do think will win it? b) Who do you want to win it that has a realistic shot at it? c) Who is the dark horse,no chance in hell team, that you would absolutely love to see win it?
My pre-tournament pick was Germany, and I'm sticking with them. As far as who I want to win, I'm going to keep the moralizing to a minimum and just say the only national team about whom I have any ingrained, visceral feelings is Canada. But if we're speaking on an intellectual level, it'd be interesting to see the U.S. make a really deep run, simply because of the extent to which our footballing fates are intertwined. It'd also be nice to see an African team go far (I'm still bitter over Suarez v. Ghana), but as I'm typing this, Cote d'Ivoire just went down 2-0 to Colombia, so I don't think I'll be getting my wish this time out.
I am torn between picking Germany and Brazil for the win. Both teams are really strong and on any given day in most surroundings I would put my money on Germany. The issue is that Brazil has a crazy home field advantage, and could ride that all the way. My "realistic" chance is the Netherlands. I would love to see the Dutch finally do well in a tourney and take the prize. Of course my wild ass wish is the US, but I am not silly enough to think that would happen. A deep run would be great, it (clearly) all depends on how the game with Portugal goes. The big thing I would love to happen though is that a different team win it. The "typical" winners are very predictable and easy answers. I would have loved to see an African team take it, but this Cup they just aren't strong enough.
Question 7: You are a Toronto FC fan, and have been since the team started up in 2006, do you see yourself switching allegiances to The White Caps or will you still follow TFC from the west coast?
Ha, I get asked the question all the time when people find out I'm moving, and I'll give you the same answer I give them -- I have no intention of switching allegiances. (And unlike a certain Bosnian goalkeeper who used a similar line, I actually intend to honour that pledge... even I know I'm about to be bombarded by pro-Whitecaps propaganda from my two brothers-in-law.)
There are worse teams than the Caps to root for. I imagine they will become your secondary team. Heck I have a friend who lives on Bowen Island out near Vancouver so now the caps are my secondary team. I do understand staying with a team loyalty.
Since I am from the US my perceptions of Canada is rather limited, but as I can tell Toronto v Vancouver is analogous to New York City v Los Angeles Question 8: How do people from Toronto perceive people from Vancouver and vice versa?
Well, if we did have to characterize a feud (such as it is) up here, I'd say it's more likely to be Toronto vs. the rest of Canada. The classic belief is that those outside the city resent it for its supposed "centre of the universe" complex, or its size, or its ostensible undue influence on national politics, or its desperate desire to be like NYC, or whatever. In reality, in my travels around the country, I haven't encountered any such animosity first-hand. And Torontonians, supposedly, don't think much about the rest of the country at all, since they're too obsessed with sniffing the backsides of our southern neighbours. I could spend hours talking about Toronto's weird inferiority complex but suffice to say, the feud (such as it is) is more of a popular generalization than anything most people actually participate in on any kind of regular basis.
Interesting, I was not trying to see if there were a feud, so to speak, I was thinking more about general characteristics. In LA and NYC, people consider where I live as a "fly-over state," and there is a general ignoring of Canada by people in the "States," so in many ways Ohio and Canada are strangely similar... aside from the universal healthcare thing.
Question 9: Is there any place in the US that you would enjoy visiting that you haven't been yet? Heck, how about in the rest of the world? (Editor’s note: I was unaware of Mr Squizzato’s impending trip to various parts of Scandinavia at this point or this question would have been significantly more Scandinavian centric)
Wow, well, let's confine it to the first part of your question, lest I lapse into a rhythmic recitation of all the countries of the world, a la Yakko Warner in that old Animaniacs episode. One U.S. city that comes to mind is Portland, though that's probably just because I've finished watching several seasons of Portlandia (and have spent more time than necessary on the website of Voodoo Donut). Another is Austin, simply because it seems like a neat oasis in Texas that could give me that Lone Star State experience without totally offending my delicate Canadian sensibilities. Though really, I could probably give you a hundred different answers, since there are so many different ways to experience life across the country (which is why it always irks me when people refer to "Americans" as one big, monolithic bloc of people).
There is a doughnut shop in Austin (www.gourdoughs.com/) that is pretty impressive as well. Just to throw a wrench into your prioritization of US city visits. I would travel to Portland first for one of the Cascadia Cup games AND Voodoo doughnuts. Even with my gluten intolerance I would be willing to put up with the gastric distress for some Voodoo...
Here comes one of my favorites... Question 10: Fill in the blanks, I find that I am mostly _____. Others find that I am mostly ________. Yes, I understand this is a fill in the blank and not necessarily a question.
Easy - I find I am mostly funny, others find I am mostly unfunny (this response included).
Meta… I think you sell yourself too short there. You are clearly humourous (the extra "u" is because Canadians are my favourite people). Don't let anyone try to take that away from you.
Question 11: Do you think that most people have that kind of disconnect with their personal perception versus how they perceive others um... perceiving them?
Definitely. It's like hearing yourself on tape -- you can't help but think "is that how I sound? no, that's not how I sound!" (I know it's because your voice reverberates inside your head and that's where it comes from, but whatever.) We all like to think we're (insert positive traits here), but in some cases it's self-delusion. Sometimes we do bad things and think "oh, well, yeah, I may have done that, but that's not me, I never do that!" Well, guess what -- to everyone who just saw you do it, you now are the sort of person who does that, no matter how many times the little echo chamber in your head tells you that you aren't.
Your point about hearing your voice in a recording is very spot on. The resonances in the sinus cavities change the pitch and timber of one's voice inside the head versus hearing it externally. That is why people who do not listen to themselves via some kind of recording have a very difficult time really generating accurate impressions. And by people I mean, my Matthew McConaughey is dead on in my head, but off when I unleash it on others ... alrigh, alrigh, alright.
Let's get some soccer up in this again. I played soccer as a child and even went overseas to Manchester for the Bobby Charlton School of Football when I was a kid. I have been interested in soccer since I started playing when I was 5. Question 12: Where does your love of the sport emanate from?
Like you, I started playing at an early age; unlike you, I wasn't very good. But soccer was normalized in my household (my dad, as is the case with most immigrants, still followed his team "back home") from very early on. My brother played competitively and my dad coached him for a number of years, and I traveled along to games and tournaments. I started reffing at 15 and have done some coaching as well. I watched the World Cup and occasionally followed the professional game from my early childhood onward, but never truly immersed myself (from a viewing perspective) until I had a top-level club to call my own, which was Toronto FC. I'm just a homer, I suppose, which is why I don't have an allegiance to any international club or foreign national team.
Being a homer on that way is not a bad thing... Homer Simpson or the poet Homer.... Different story.
We are at spooky Question 13, so some back story, when I played soccer as a kid I had a very specific sequence of preparation for a game. Inner sock, shin guard, outer sock... Etc... I started this as an idea of bringing "luck," but it turns out it was much more like getting my head to the right space through ritual. Question 13: Do you have any straight up superstitions or rituals that you do in your life?
Well, I spent a lot of time as a goalkeeper and would do the normal tapping of the goalposts with my hand for good luck, though I did this largely to appear more professional and poised than I actually was (which is to say, not at all). As for everyday life, my wife is a zealous believer in knocking on wood when need be, and I of course humour her by following along. And like anyone else, I'll occasionally fall into the grips of the post hoc fallacy, and get superstitious about something I've done (until I forget about the incident entirely, which usually doesn't take long). But I'm not of the mindset that whatever force is controlling the universe particularly cares about any of our cultural superstitions -- the only thing I'm afraid of when walking under a ladder is that the ladder will fall on my head.
Being wary of walking under a ladder is just good sense. I have found that walking under ladders increases the probability of being hit in the head from something falling off a ladder.
Question 14: What should non-Torontans know about Toronto that we don't?
Well, first, that it's Torontonians, not Torontans. Though you'll rarely hear anyone refer to themselves in that way, since Toronto is a weird, transient city, where even those who are born and raised in the place are somewhat reluctant to identify themselves as such. I guess given all of the recent international hoopla, the main thing I would want non-Torontonians to know about the city is that the majority of people realize that Rob Ford is a pathetic, incompetent buffoon. Sure, his weird brand of idiotic populism has struck a nerve with some, and I understand why that's the case, but really, he is not a representative of our city. He's a stupid goof. Please do not judge us by the stupid goof we happened to elect while in a drunken stupor.
I could have sworn it was that or Torontians or Torontinos or the Torontaun-Tauns (I thought they smelled bad on the outside). Honestly, I was pretty much guessing. Ah well, you learn something new everyday. We in the Columbus, Ohio area aren't really referenced as Columbusians... I think officially we are Columbusites, like the Hittites of yore, but usually we are referred to as "People from the Columbus, Ohio Area." I was going to ask you a question about Rob Ford, but thought better of it.... a little story, I grew up in Birmingham, Alabama. When my team got on the flight from Atlanta to Gatwick in London, I sat next to this wonderful Londoner in his 30's. He asked where our team was going and was surprised to hear it was for the Bobby Charlton School of Football. He then asked where we were from, and I said, "Birmingham, Alabama." His immediate response was, and I quote because it left an indelible mark on me, "Ah, George Wallace, race riots, fire hoses." Hopefully an area need not be defined by one moment in time, and to be clear, Rob Ford is one moment in time.... but what a buffoon.
Let's get back to some soccer. Question 15: Who do you think is the best overall player in MLS right now and why?
I'm allowed one troll answer out of 20, right?
If so, then -- Landon Donovan.
Landon Donovan is a perfectly respectable answer. I lean towards Michael Bradley, if he can bring it all together. The issue is that he has not been the same player who was playing overseas, especially during this cup. I know you deftly skipped the "Why" portion of the question
So.... Question 16: Why do you feel that Landon Donovan is the best player in the MLS?
Dammit, I told you it was a troll answer! It was supposed to just rile up American fans still bitter about that heartbreaking World Cup exit (though I have no idea when you'll publish this, so perhaps the anger will have subsided by then). But yeah, even though he's obviously past his prime, he's still a dangerous player in MLS and, of course -- based on the numbers, the history and his status as one of the few USMNT players actually recognizable to casual fans -- he gets bonus points based on what he's meant to the league.
The issue you ran into is that I was not super surprised by Donovan being omitted from the squad and I harbor no illusions that he could have helped versus Belgium or Portugal or Germany. He is still an incredible player, but, it turns out, much of his capabilities on the international stage was his speed... and that is starting to fade.
Question 17: Is there a question you expected me to ask and did not ask, or is there a question I should have asked?
Well, we're jumping the gun a bit; you've got three more chances to surprise me -- or fulfill my expectations. I was thinking maybe something about the Canadian national program? But then, people probably read these features to be entertained, not depressed, so maybe it's better to steer clear of that.
So Question 17a: In your opinion, what is the key ingredient that the CSA is missing to get the Canadians Men's National Team to qualify for the 2018 World Cup Finals?
What they're missing -- and what, unfortunately, no governing body really has -- is the ability to ensure our key players are getting regular playing time at their clubs and staying healthy. Our depth situation is such that if a few players fall out of favour at their clubs or get hurt, it can be devastating. A good example is a guy like Josh Simpson. He broke his leg just before the 2014 qualifying campaign started in earnest, and he hasn't played since then. It's an awful situation for him personally, of course, but it's also awful for Canada, as a player like him could have made a big difference in what was ultimately a disappointing WCQ campaign.
I have to say that I always want Canadian soccer to perform strongly. The only time I don't shout Allez les Rouge is when you are playing the US. I hope that the Canadian team does well, and would love for US, Mexico, Canada, and Costa Rica consistently qualify.
Ah the question I often dread... Question 18: Do you have any questions for me?
I actually feel like you've given more direct answers about yourself during this process than I have, so I can't really think of much. But I do wonder - why is your Twitter handle "mmmmpig"? Do you just really enjoy pork chops?
Mmmmmpig comes from creating an online presence waaaay back in 2001/2002. The young kid out there these days don't know about creating accounts that aren't associated with the Facebook. Back then people made silly pithy names for their posting purposes... I had to make an account for the now defunct Drawing Board and I had just eaten an awesome pork bratwurst... Q.E.D
Question 19: What are you taking from these 20 Questions that you did not come in with?
An appreciation for how long it can take to answer 20 questions with 20 different shades of smartassery.
Some of these 20 questions can honestly go on for months. The longest I have been dealing with is about 8 months... about to go into 9. It is very interesting to see how people's perspectives and philosophies change over that time.
Question 20: So, what's next for you? Be as short-term or as long-term as you want. Be as concrete or as vague as you feel comfortable. Be a grounded or philosophical as you need.
I've already overdosed on ham-fisted philosophizing and navel-gazing so I'll go immediate with this one -- given that I'm sitting in a basement apartment in Reykjavik as I type this and it's nearly dinnertime, I think what's next is a meal likely involving rye bread and at least three types of fish.
Well, good sir, enjoy your Scandinavian excursion!
I want to take some time to thank mister Squizzato for his time and for banging out those last few answers right before leaving on his Scandinavian Holiday Extravaganza 2014. You can follow Dan on the Twitters here, and read some articles of his for Major League Soccer here.
The USA v Belgium was a tense game, but Belgium was clearly the better team for a solid 100 of the 120 minutes they played
Tim Howard is a beast
Today is Germany v Brazil
If Germany does not beat Brazil today, there is no way Brazil is losing to anyone in the finals at home regardless of who they play
I have not been sleeping well
Daniel Squizzato is a great guy and is hopefully enjoying Scandinavia and all it has to offer in its summer glory
We lost power last night for about 3 1/2 hours
The kids did not deal with it well
I think it will be porkchops for dinner
mmmmmpig on the tweets
Have a great week everyone