When everyone is in the proletariat

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.

Silly, right?

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.

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In my fantasy life, I’m a Barca-crazed contributor over at Barcelona Football Blog. In my real life, I’m a full-time journalist at the Chicago Tribune, based in Chicago, Illinois.

11 Comments

  1. ciaran
    November 30, 2015

    Individual awards will always play a part in team sports and that in itself isn’t a bad thing. The problem is when someone like Cristiano is more concerned with them than actual trophies then their value gets watered down.
    Ronaldo getting the Balon d’Or when Madrid won their decima is fair enough but the fact that he was the most effective goal scorer doesn’t make him anywhere near the best player.
    There’s a golden boot award for Ronaldo and he undoubtedly deserves it as the best goal scorer last season.

    For me there’s no doubt that Messi will and should win the award for the calender year. I also have no doubt that, currently, Neymar is the best player in the world. I hope that Neymar continues in this vein and makes next year’s award much less predictable.

  2. luisthebeast
    November 30, 2015

    Mr Tebas some ideas for next season LFP awards:Best penalty taker.Best hair style for a left winger from Welsh.Best Costarican GK.Fair play award(Arbeloa Pepe Ramos).Best blackmailer assistant.Best player with a film about himself.Best looking Colombian midfielder.After the ceremony u and the prime minister of Spain with all the winners u can sing hala madrid.

    • FinallyCrushingBuses
      November 30, 2015

      Don’t forget Best Simulator. There will be much debate!

  3. Davour
    December 1, 2015

    Completely agree. Still… there is no escaping the need for heroes and media debates! It will always be skewed somehow, at some point. In La Liga-team of the year, why Ramos instead of Piqué? Why James instead of any of the Barca midfielders?

    Fun and games…

  4. georgjorge
    December 1, 2015

    Simeone would also be a good candidate for Coach of the Year, but I guess he’s not that marketable either in terms of fair play. However, if they’re going to have that stupid award, maybe they should at least make a category for “Best Coach of a team with a budget under XXX euros”. And of course something like “Best Player not having scored more than 30 goals a year” (aka the Busquets award). I’d also like “Best player earning less than 1 million euros a year” (for the Premier League, less than 5 million would be appropriate). Or…well, screw that award.

  5. raj
    December 1, 2015

    I think it is important to note that in order to rightly criticize the Ballon D’or and other awards, it is not necessary to criticize the whole concept of individual awards.

    You need a team to win a match but a team is only as good as the players which form it (maybe plus or minus the synergies). And great players need great targets to shoot at. In that sense, the more awards and more rewarding the awards, the better. Winning it all with a team is something every player would want but many times, it isn’t recognition enough.

    For example, Messi can be good enough for Barca with 75% of his quality but would he try to be alien-good if it didn’t matter for his personally? Maybe Messi would for sake of HIS team. But, but – would a Neymar or a Ronaldo or a Ibra be their absolute best without the possibilities of formal individual recognition? Selfishness is not necessarily wrong, unless it is accompanied by hypocrisy and dishonesty towards others (and self?).

    The tag ‘Best team in the world’ is good, but Messi & his likes do and understandably have to aim for the ‘Best player in the world’ tag. Otherwise, the motivation may not be enough, unless the club is the love of your live (honestly, I can’t think of any contemporary players loving the notion of a ‘club’. You can love your team with all your heart, but a club is just a business in these days with football being the core operations – though long time fans may find me idiotic)

    • Davour
      December 1, 2015

      True. But this may also be BECAUSE these awards exist. Are they created out of a need of individual recognition, or have they created that need by existing (for other, say, commercial) reasons?

      I for one enjoy these competitions, in theory, only they have become boring due to the Messi & Ronaldo dominance. If the criteria would be further specified (overall contribution to team success, not just scoring, for instance) I think there would exist a more constructive debate.

  6. mr.undercover
    December 1, 2015

    Honestly I don’t really care about ballon d’or or golden boot. As long as my team wins collective trophies then am fine with that, these individual awards and accolades are glorified from best individual who contribute much to the team,influences the game wether by creating,assisting, dribling, and winning titles to a meaningless goal scorer award which is out of proportion.

    I simply can’t get round what happend last night at the laliga award.how on earth would ramos comes ahead of pique in the best defender award? He is behind our two goals that we scored in last seasons el classic due to his wrong marking and positioning. And James winning the best midfielder is beyound me, where is iniesta, parejo, koke???

    The only fair award m*drid won was for ronaldo which is the best fans player which is ironic.

  7. luisthebeast
    December 1, 2015

    In 2015 6.350 players left Argentina.And not only overage players but kids 13-14 y old.In Argentina there are not only academies of big clubs but also academies created by agents or other people with money from S Arabia Qatar and other countries.Offcourse the future for most that kids that left Argentina without their parents to go to China Russia Ukraine and other countries it seems to not really bother FIFA and the Argentina Federation.The problem of FIFA is the best academy of the world.The truth is that there is a child trafficking in football and with the money involved in this nobody seems to care.

  8. Jim
    December 1, 2015

    Busy weekend, plus GB ( Murray) winning the Davis Cup, so not had time to comment but yet another top performance by the team. Don’t know about everyone else but I’m sitting watching the team with a smile on my face these last three games. Only slight downer was Messi’s refusal to crack a smile till he got his goal but in a way even that was humorous.

    To respond to the article, because the constant snapshots of different viewpoints of this team is appreciated, you can’t really take the awards seriously but in a year like this where Messi has been so far ahead I’m not sure it’s worth getting steamed up about. What I did find interesting was our lack of midfield recognition in the awards which is probably down to the downgrading of importance last year of the mids and their limited remits which I still think was a mistake. You look at their contribution in the last three games and it’s completely different as well as more pleasing, to at least this, eye.

    Just sitting watching. Everton / Middlesborough and I’ll say it again. Deulofeu is gaining in confidence, a bit like SR because Martinez seems to rate him and is a different player. Great goal and an assist already. He is a danger every time he gets the ball and his passing is second to none. Defensive play is also improved. If he keeps this going he’ll be in the running for EPL young player of the year. At the start of the season it seemed to me the team didn’t rate him. And funnelled most of their play down the left through Berkeley . I saw Martinez regularly telling them to get him the ball to no avail. However, recently I’ve even seen Lukaku motioning to his team mates to get it to him. He knows where his goals are coming from.

    Got me thinking. Messi and Suarez both 28, Neymar 23 – who comes next after them ? We’ll have Neymar but I can’t see Messi dropping into midfield because of the work rate. If Im wrong and a right wing berth becomes available we could do worse than think about young Gerard. He has genuine ability at this level. Do I think Munir, Sandro, Traore would be better ? I’ve got great hopes for Halilovic and both he and Deulofeu will be relatively cheap options at a time when we’ll be skint after renewing Messi and Neymar. Hmmm, worth a shot ?

    • ciaran
      December 1, 2015

      Deulofeu has incredible talent. There are few, if any, footballers in England who are more dangerous than him with the ball at his feet. His connection with Lukaku is devastating and Lukaku was sold for around 30million.
      There’s a lot to be said for a genuine winger, one who wants to take people on or simply whip in a cross to the strikers. You’d imagine that he’d supply Suarez with quite a few chances seeing as Neymar and Messi require such close attention.
      I know as a defender, I’d rather be facing Munir or Sandro so as a barca fan I’d rather have Gérard on our right wing.
      Hopefully he continues his development and his work rate as he has always had a very special talent.

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