My brother sent me this a week ago, my favorite kind of treat. A modern classic Henry goal; counterattack from the left, right foot, far post, stony eyed celebration.
His comment: “Still got it- Pace is overrated, it’s all about timing and technique.”
My comment: This is the sort of situation fullbacks hate. Your midfielder doesn’t pick up his man fast or aggressively enough, the attacker drifts wide, beside you, and then behind you. While he’s beside you, there’s a moment when you know you should be making a decision: where do I go? How do I commit? But that moment ends before your decision is made. There’s a longer subsequent moment you spend wishing you’d made the earlier decision, because now you have no facility, now you’re merely chasing the play. And then the ball is in the back of the net.
The elegance in the move is in Henry’s simultaneous understanding of the space he’s inhabiting, and the speed and direction of all its component parts. It’s not easy to run like that.
I was minding my own business at work, miserably checking the Guardian’s liveblog as United clinched their 20th title. It was an act of self-flagellation as RVP scored again and again. What a jerk. So I didn’t pay too close attention, just enough to savor some pain. But then…. this showed up:
Now, as Yo La Tengo are one of the greatest American rock bands of the past 25 years, they’re naturally one of my favorites. But not everyone worldwide is on board with my opinion of the band. And this is the Guardian, a British paper, on a specialty football liveblog. There is no context whatsoever. The previous several posts do not lead to this one.
Who the fuck is Lars Neale? Snow Patrol- how dare he? What a lame jibe! But it seems that somewhere someone has combined two of the most delicious things, Yo La Tengo and Arsenal Football Club, into a mindblowing confection.
The comment made me lose all concentration, and I spent the next five minutes idiotically scrolling up and down the livefeed, trying to find the root of it. I google “Lars Neale” and “Allan Castle” and come up with nothing. Eventually my eyes refocus and I see that at the very bottom, in the very beginning, the blogger had posted the video for Yo La’s most recognized tune, “Sugarcube.” A nice way to start it all off, I think. Too nice, really, for the teams involved, but whatever, a little generosity is fine. I also realize that the blog isn’t formatted like they usually are: all comments are being emailed to the blogger, and he’s publishing a few in his own posts. I begin reading upwards, and come upon this:
The connection between Arsenal and Yo La Tengo is not quite as fantastic as I originally hoped, in fact it’s a bit pathetic. The guy insults both. And Allan Castle isn’t cool; he’s wikipedia-ing a band that he says he knows about, and using the terrible phrase “fashionable amongst the cognoscenti.” (By the way, the definitive caricature of Yo La Tengo is here). Allan Castle… a disappointment. I’m all for kinship, but let’s really love the things we love.
Three or four years ago soccer stories- beside World Cup or Olympics articles – starting occasionally popping up in the AP news feed on the landing page of the NYT. I remember being shocked the first time I saw one, and feeling that the sport had somehow finally arrived, albeit in a quiet, unassuming way. As an afterthought almost. Like an editor had realized that there were millions of fans Stateside, but hadn’t quite convinced his boss that these fans cared much. Hence, the AP feed.
These blips have continued, infrequently for a while, but recently there’s been a definite uptick in visibility. Hell, there was an article on Spurs a couple months ago, and it made the online equivalent of the front page.
The page above, with hero Rapinoe front and center, speaks volumes about our convoluted relationship with the sport. On a day of big Champs League quarterfinals we get an article about the sport, but not the spectacle most fans are currently focused on. I like that. The new US professional women’s league begins this weekend: that’s bigger news than Barca winning at the Camp Nou again. The article is an allusion to the new league, but the hook is how one of the biggest stars isn’t going to be here for its inception. (She’ll join the league this summer). Instead, she’s playing in France, attracted by the opportunity to “disappear into another culture.”
So, while we initially focus on the American, our stars and our new leagues and their growing popularity, there’s always an undercurrent of uncertainty, an inescapable foreign aura, to our conversations about the sport. Their is always a context of otherness. I’ve always loved that.