If this were a FIFA13 match, its preamble would include an annoying pop-up window that included something to the effect of “GIO DOS SANTOS RETURNS TO FACE FORMER CLUB IN MONSTER MATCH UP!!!!” We, the people watching, would roll our eyes and suggest that maybe FIFA13 get a life. It won’t be a monster match up. It will be as much Gio returning to face his former club as it was Simao Sabrosa returning to face his old club when Barcelona and Atleti took each other on. Botia versus Barcelona! It would be more interesting to see “Fontas versus his actual club, Mallorca!”
What I’d rather see is a pop-up window that says “ABIDAL FACES THINGS YOU CAN ONLY DREAM OF, CRUSHES THEM” and then it blows up into a million rainbows filled with puppies and ice cream cones. Now, I don’t claim that Abidal is facing anything greater than what you, the reader, are personally dealing with, have dealt with, or will deal with. Certainly not, but he is currently doing something that is so remarkable that it makes me a bit woozy to think about. See, he’s returning to professional sports after getting a liver transplant. To put this in perspective: Tito Vilanova has parotid gland cancer, had surgery in December 2012, and spent a couple of months receiving treatment in New York City. Another perspective: I got a cold 4 weeks ago upon returning from a brief trip to South Carolina; I am still hacking things up. In the meantime, Eric Abidal is about to play professional football again after having a major organ removed form his body. I can’t really express how amazing that is.
Cancer kills people. It kills the strongest people. It is not shameful to lose to cancer. Roger Ebert was smarter, funnier, and a better writer than I will ever be and he lost to cancer. So many others have. And Eric Abidal is backhanding it in the face and smirking while doing it. Which is just…well, since the Internet is a series of tubes filled with cats, let’s let them say what it is:
Yes, little guy, that.
Not because Abidal beat cancer, who you never really beat, like an alcoholic taking a drink and scoffing at the notion of falling of any sort of wagon, but because the hope in him is the hope in all of us. Finally, we are not watching robots endlessly parroting the right line, what we want to hear, what they think we want to hear, or even what we think we want to hear. We are watching an actual human story, in which a man gets cancer and realizes that his family is the most important thing in the world, that football is a thing that people do that is okay but not really the be-all-end-all of everything. It’s like waking up one morning after a 20-hour Starcraft binge and realizing maybe you should call your girlfriend and see how she’s doing (and if she’ll take you back). Not that anyone here has ever done that or anything.
It’s like looking at your Grandma as she wastes away from cervical cancer s and realizing that this isn’t about you and whether you will have a funny funeral story to tell your friends later, but that you, yourself, are there in that bed too and you have things to worry about. Abidal’s children get to see their father go from invincible superman to the guy you realized your father was the time he cried when the aforementioned grandmother died (you would have cried too if during his eulogy he hadn’t, in his infinite sadness and maybe a little dash of stage fright, mispronounced the word “audacious” and then you became that guy who snorted at his grandmother’s funeral) and then they get to see their father become that invincible superman again. It’s not often the Fortress of Solitude actually works. Yeah, I got a funny funeral story, I guess, as funny as they can be–my cousin, all 6’4″ 200lbs of muscle of him wearing a “badass” jean jacket and sporting a “badass” pony tail, drove away from the house and ran out of gas after a mile and had to ride a pink girl’s bike back to get my dad to drive him to the nearest gas station–but I’d rather have my grandma and I’d rather have her dunking on fools or something (all 5’2″ of her, Muggsy Bogues style). I don’t, though. But Abidal’s children do. And I, for one, can rejoice at that. And I, for one, will rejoice at that. Not because he is playing professionally again, but because he is living a dream for his daughters, for his wife, for his parents, and for all of us.
I don’t know him, but I’m pretty sure that Tito Vilanova would want this preview to be about Eric Abidal and not himself. And yet Abidal’s triumph is his triumph too. Imagine: Abidal subs on and when the final whistle blows, he goes directly to Tito, to hug him, to laugh with him, to–I don’t know, whatever–high-five. To wiggle in the world’s most awkward rendition of the Harlem Shake. It doesn’t matter. They’ll be there and they’ll do it and I will cheer my head off from 2,000 miles away.
And who wouldn’t for this: