15 August 2014

Potential & Ambition: Misnomers in Football

By Dr3

We like to believe that football somehow exists outside of our society. Outside of our respective cultures. It's a world that's as repulsive; be it for exorbitant wages or cake-driven megalomaniacal rants, as it is glamorous and desirable. Every now and then though, we are reminded that what it is in fact, is an extension of us, as we are now.

There is racism. There is sexism. There is tax evasion. There is spousal/marital issues. There is political favoritism. There is institutionalized inequality now, thanks Platini. There is also, a preoccupation with labeling and projecting onto others.

That quip about living so old, so as to no longer wrestle with peer-pressure has always fascinated me. Recently talk of Robinho and his legacy as a former prodigy came up, and it too was fascinating. The concept of unfulfilled potential. The concept of a lack of drive and ambition, and what it all meant for his life retrospectively. The Robinho who played for his national team? The Robinho who played for Real Madrid? The Robinho who played for AC Milan? The Robinho who was the marquee signing of a newly-rich project? Surmised with purple prose as a failure. A flop.

Reading definitions of ambition have become laughable. The fact that a person can be accused of a lack of ambition, by another person, puts to rest all notions of the concept being entirely self-driven. Combined with the idea of potential or even talent, and the pattern was clear; This has nothing to do with the Robinhos. The players. These people. Their careers. Their desires. Their lives. This is about us. You, me, and a projector. A movie we want to make, and critique ourselves.

Imagine for a second doing well enough in your field of work, that your name is known by people you don't know, in cities you don't know, or even in countries that you don't know. Yes, football is a globalized well-marketed monster, but it's played by millions. What's the probability of a person from São Vicente (population 300,000+), in São Paulo (population 42,000,000+), in Brazil (population 200,000,000+), becoming league champion in Spain (population 40,000,000+)? It's incredible. And yet the sentiment is one of regret. From us; he had the potential to be so much more.

We create a narrative. Create hype. Retweet our own tweets. Like our own status'. Then, we project. Falcao has no ambition for going to Monaco. Gyan has no ambition for going that east. Pato never delivered on his potential. Balotelli won't deliver on his either. But what about Quaresma? Veron? Shevchenko? Riquelme? They did what we wanted. And we massacred them in our reviews. Are they now failures? Did they not realize their potential? Didn't they show ambition? What would hindsight say to them when they're no longer in our conversation, free of proverbial peer-pressure?

Be careful what you wish for...others.

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08 August 2014

Brazil: HyperBole MMXIV

By Dr3

God bless America, and no place else. 

This (men's) World Cup was amazing. Whether through the increasing tendency towards nostalgia with age, or a refined appreciation and perception of sentiment and beauty, or maybe just some hedonistic early mid-life crisis; it was almost orgasmic. Maybe not, but it truly was an eyeful, and will be cosigned to the confirmation bias of my memory as such. An Epic. A story to be retold with my Trini accent and weakened voice, decades from now.

After 45 World Cup minutes of Aurier struggling to find Bony with a cross into the box1, Ian Wright had seen enough. Aurier is not good. Not good enough for Arsenal. After 180 World Cup minutes and 4 World Cup points, Lalas was back on that MLS 'champions of the World' soapbox. After 180 World Cup minutes, 0 World Cup points, and 0 World Cup goals, a cold plate of reality was served; no placemat needed. Diego Costa was in fact, shit. The World Cup was still all of these things, but also none of it.

For every preconceived narrative there was a Costa Rica, or a 7-1, or a 5-1, or yet another, cruel, top, top, Steven Gerrard moment. It was everything, almost scripted, with award ceremony plotholes and all. Robben went back in time. Vanishing spray, Time-outs, TV replays, Ronaldo got haircuts, and James Rodriguez nailed his audition. It was everything.

"Edson is Pelé 10 minutes per match; Alfredo is Di Stefano all 90 of them", Didi. 

All in all, it's as if the overall watchability was increased by the contextually dumbed-down quality of play. Teams weren't particularly good in attack or defense (yes, even Mascherano and Costa Rica). Messi wasn't as good as he can be. Messi was Messi, as decisively as ever, but perhaps for only 45 cumulative minutes over the World Cup. Gameday tempo was particularly and predictably slow. But put these things together, and it created something; a surreal-ism. A sensation that was reflective before it was even over.

Anyway, Brian Phillips wrote exceptionally well on all of it. Genuinely, it is the best written sports piece I have read (click the quote below for article).

We obsess over narratives in sport. We groom them. We rehearse them. We decide in advance how they’ll develop based on the outcomes we expect. If Messi wins the World Cup, he becomes greater than Maradona, the greatest ever to play the game. If he loses, the dragon eats the prince with the silver shield. It’s a strange thing, though, that so much of our concern with narrative involves anticipating events before they happen. A story, when it’s about real life, is usually a way of ordering memory. The reality of everything that happens is too immense to hold on to, so we take the highlights and arrange them into an order that at least feels plausible.

Below, each thumbnail is a clickthrough link for image sets from Brazil from my favorite candid journalism photography website.

1Akin to all of Walcott/Chamberlain/Gnarby/Ramsey/Wilshere/Carzola/Rosicky/Sagna/Gibbs/Monreal/Jenkinson for two seasons with the aerially imperious but under utilized Giroud

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