So. Ballon d’Or finalists are out, with Messi and Neymar on that list, with Still the Wrong Ronaldo. On the coach’s short list, Luis “He stupid, yo!” Enrique is there, along with Pep “The Angels Sing” Guardiola and Jorge “Arturo Did WHAT!?” Sampaoli.
In a better world, none of it would matter, a world of logic in which there were no individual awards in any team sport, but most notably one as ideally selfless as football.
For one thing, piles of dudgeon would be a lot lower, as we wouldn’t have the revelation that Sergio “Ow! That Hurt!” Busquets was left off of some list or another, or how “Lo, These Many Years Hence, STILL the Wrong” Ronaldo made the finalists list instead of Luis “Some of My Best Friends Are …” Suarez. Meanwhile YouTube Sensation and Wounded Knee, though they should finish 1-2, won’t, and more dudgeon will he piled atop Mount Hooraw.
But what if none of this mattered? Messi scores goals, bags of them, zilliions and zillions of them. His team wins, he gets drunk atop a double-decker bus, crawling through the adoring throngs in Barcelona, and the club’s trophy keeper says, “Great. Where the hell am I going to put THIS one?!”
As someone said to me on Twitter, “Individual awards in a team sport is like a fart in a spacesuit: unavoidable, regrettable and they always stink.”
Debates are wonderful, and people think that individual accolades resolves them. “Nope. Still Not the Right” Ronaldo won the BdO last year, and his supporters said “See? He is the best player in the game. This award says so.” This year, the “That’s NOT a Garden Gnome?” legions will be laying claim to the same proof, when their hero wins an award that rewards the truly best player in the game with all the reliability of that drunk ex-boyfriend on the third date after sex.
The criteria and process are so flawed that you might as well toss a bunch of players names into the woods, and whichever ball is shit out first by a bear is that year’s winner. Most goals? No, because my guy didn’t score as many as the other guy. But then how to keep track? And what about the guy who had the brilliant season in an effort to hoist a team that would have been relegation fodder, to mid-table? Is he in with a shout as best player in the game, or does nobody care about him, because he didn’t win anything.
“No, see, there is the MVP for that guy, because the best is for winners.”
In team sports, the awards are championships. The rest become like in American sports, where children get participation medals. You walk up on a stage, people smile and clap, even the ones who don’t think you have any business being up there, and the debates begin.
So get rid of them. Everything. From BdO to Pichichi, because everything can be rigged. And in a game where excellence should flow from team devotion, play should be pure. Your guy is two goals away from winning Pichichi? Look at how everybody feeds him the ball in an effort to get another individual accolade. “No, IN the net, Samu! IN the net!”
There are publicity campaigns, shifting of calendars and emphasis placed on things based solely on the outcome that someone would like. “Sure, Oil Can scored 5 goals against Espanyol, but who cares? Now the 5 that No Roller Coaster scored against Bayer, well, those are different.”
It’s nonsense that can taint outcomes and make players behave in ways contrary to their norm, like a player in a contract year, or a late-season hunt for that bonus. “One more goal, and I get another 500k. Feed me, yo!” Does it matter what the team does? “Well, see, my scoring would help the team win, and … ”
At the local pub after a sports match of whatever kind, there are bragging rights as weekend warriors talk about goals scored, a successful try or whatever. Maybe losers buy the beer. I’d be for that, far more than handing out baubles that celebrate individual achievement in a team sport. What the hell does “Coach of the Year” mean, and why isn’t Paco Jemez on that short list? Next to some stuff with loaves and fishes, keeping his Rayo Vallecano side solidly in La Liga year after year has to count for something, right?
Meanwhile, some Enrique guy, in between running marathons or riding a bicycle across the world, takes his collection of the best players in the game, and does exactly what you’re supposed to do with a collection of the best players in the game. For that, he gets an award? It’s like getting a plaque for farting after eating a big bowl of chili. What else was going to happen? (Yes, I am kidding. Now sit down.)
But ask yourself if something, anything, could make Enrique feel better than hearing that Champions League ditty while standing amid a confetti blizzard, or Messi watching the real Barça babies caper about as he and his mates gather ’round a giant drinking mug.
The team is everything. All the rest is nonsense.