From: Harrington, Michael

To: Fagan, Kate; Fox, Ashley

Subject: Eye on the ball

Wow, work a mention of Ronaldinho into a High&Inside column and correct the spelling of Samuel Eto'o in a story and you get pulled off the copy desk and made into a Page 2 half-head talkin' 'bout the Worl' Cu'p. Guess Cohen couldn't afford Kyle Rote Jr.

I'm just an average American soccer fan - there are more of us than you'd think, it just takes learning the secret handshake and complicated lingo such as "yellow card," "nil-nil," and "Shep Messing." This means, of course, that I usually have little idea what strategy or tactics are being employed, I just know that it's all wrong - unless it results in a win, in which case it's what I thought they should have been doing all along.

Let's talk about the ball - everybody else is.

Seems like Adidas had a team of scientists working on the Jabulani (Zulu for "goofy ball") in a secret underground vault under an extinct volcano for the last four years and have come up with a sphere that wiggles like a glowworm, dances like a spinning top, and can outmaneuver an F-16. It's based on the construction of automobile dashboards, says the chief engineer.

Brazil's keeper, Julio Cesar, jabbed the Jab, saying it was "terrible" and looks like it comes from a grocery store. "They are always trying to make things difficult for the goalkeepers," he added, then cried himself to sleep.

Kate, have you had a chance to kick it around? And is the angst over the ball any more or less than either of you would see in the other sports you cover?

From: Fagan, Kate

To: Harrington, Michael; Fox, Ashley

Subject: Eye on the ball

Nothing compares to soccer players and their penchant for the dramatic.

The ball is fine. I say that with the ultimate confidence of never having kicked it, or even touched it. I saw it behind a glass case today and it looked harmless.

From: Harrington, Michael

To: Fagan, Kate; Fox, Ashley

Subject: Eye on the ball

Kind of like the lions at the zoo, huh? Well, it certainly looks cool in the super slo-mo shots - you can really see the spin. I'll buy one, after I get the glass case, dig a moat, and warn the neighbors.

So you're saying soccer stars are more dramatic than NBA or NFL players? Can't imagine the tattoos are better.

From: Fox, Ashley

To: Fagan, Kate; Harrington, Michael

Subject: Eye on the ball

I'm sure soccer players are overly dramatic, but let's not discount the diva factor here in the United States.

Remember when the NBA screwed around with its basketball? You would have thought they'd raised the goal a foot, there was such outrage.

Professional athletes, by nature, are overly dramatic, egocentric, high-maintenance, and fussy. And they have one cardinal rule that FIFA has violated: Don't mess with their, err, equipment.

From: Fagan, Kate

To: Fox, Ashley; Harrington, Michael

Subject: Eye on the ball

I have a new voice recorder for the World Cup, and I've noticed how poor my interviews have been since I started using it.

It's black, and my last one was silver.

It's tragic, horrible, awful. Like a cheap plastic one you'd get from a grocery store.

From: Harrington, Michael

To: Fagan, Kate; Fox, Ashley

Subject: Eye on the ball

My advice next time you have a typo in a story: Just roll around like somebody shot you in your writing hand until the copy editor gives you a chance to try again from the penalty spot.

From: Fagan, Kate

To: Fox, Ashley; Harrington, Michael

Subject: Eye on the ball

That's what I see all the Italian writers do.