I would like to dedicate the title of this post, which makes no sense, to Xtal. More on that later, in a different, but equally absurd post.
Now that the dedication is over, I would like to embark on a journey of ever-expanding footballing horizons. It is time to learn about more teams! More leagues! It is time for additional favorites and alternate heroes.
I believe I will begin this journey in the warm climes of Argentina, where the legendary Boca Juniors and River Plate await. Two teams with truly excellent and kind of baffling names, and a strange name is a quick way to my heart.
However! A strange name isn’t enough to completely win me over. It’s just one of several metrics I’m secretly working on to help me separate chaff from wheat. Comrade Argentine Ivancho wouldn’t let me forget that these two teams are the Argentine equivalent of Manchester United. Read: dull bullies that foreigners root for because they’re famous and win a lot. Well, Ivancho, I said, who is your team?
The answer: Independiente.
This sent me back to my secret metrics. It’s a bonus to root for a team in solidarity with a friend who has a real connection. I might join Ivancho; Independiente are currently bad and no doubt could use my well wishes, which are unusually potent. On the other hand, it’s also a bonus to whimsically choose the arch rival of your friend’s team. This might be a little more fun. I’d kind of like to rile Ivancho up. This being a slow process, I have not yet looked up Independiente’s rival: I assume they’re called Dependiente and locked in an Manichean struggle that transcends the notional boundaries of sport. (I also imagined, and originally decided not to share, that this imaginary team could be sponsored by the Argentine equivalent of Depends adult diapers- a meta sort of cross-marketing experiment).
The above nonsense made me double back to what I knew a little about. Namely, Argentina’s two most famous teams, and the Boca Juniors’ icon Juan Roman Riquelme. Jonathan Wilson (the Inverting the Pyramid dude) called him “the last of the old style playmakers,” a phrase whose eulogic tone I found attractive. The autumnal quality also suits a great player who once seemed bound for huge stardom and has since faded from the big stage, and found his place as an example of something that has passed. He has a morose aspect as well; outside of Argentina he’s kind of a connoisseur’s player, there’s a definite aesthetic at work.
So, I’ll start with him, and the famous clubs, and from there go into the inviting weeds of Independiente.
The Arsenal/Yo La Tengo pretzel I got myself into yesterday was really something. I’ve often wonder why I care about Arsenal, and if my passion for the team is tied to anything but circumstance and a stubborn refusal to stop doing something I voluntarily began. Are there additional affinities at work? Do Arsene Wenger’s aesthetic ideals actually matter to me?
The short answer is yes. I find his arguments elegant and convincing (more so than his tactics, but what do I know about tactics? Not much). When Arsenal play well, I prefer watching them to just about anyone, and the successful physical illustration of an idea is really cool.
The thing is, there’s more at work than his ideas, which lately haven’t born much beautiful fruit. If I just liked philosophy, I should be a Barca fan, but I’m not. Additional affinities are at play.
To make an already tenuous strand stranger, and more ephemeral, allow me to introduce yet another liveblog experience: the espnfc “Boot Room” by which (again at work) once I was befuddled. That sentence was terrible on purpose. Maybe I should just stop looking at these things… Anyhow, the comment that sticks in my mind, and this was a couple months ago, was a question directed toward the host of the blog. Someone wanted to know which Champions League games the hipsters would be watching.
Do these people exist? I wondered. Soccer hipsters? It’s a sport, right? It’s not hip, there aren’t enough cigarettes involved to be hip… Balotelli can’t smoke that much. The defining factor of the hipster pose is the possession of specialized knowledge collected via unusual and demanding taste. A professional team doesn’t fit the bill.
Sure, sports are all about specialized information. And numbers dudes can be hipsters. But the teams in the Champions League are too exposed, too mass-market, too corporate, too wildly popular on a global stage to be hip: when we talk about special info on them, we’re not talking a first EP with a copymachine sleeve. A hipster isn’t a fanboy, and a connoisseur isn’t a hipster.
But the conversation (in the liveblog) went on, and they were joking, kind of, but it made me wonder: when we elect to follow these teams that aren’t local to us, are we engaging in the same sort of social identifying as we are when we elect to listen to a band that’s initially a little difficult? Somebody that doesn’t make immediate sense to like? Where the disconnect is part of the point, part of the allure?