[The following text was washed up on an oil slick off the Florida Keys. It has no known authorship except for an ‘Earnest H.’ scribbled in a margin. It is unknown if ‘Earnest’ is a given name or a simple adjective. Regardless of whether or not his parents could spell, the text bears a striking resemblance to current events and is published here unedited for reader interest. – Ed.]
The Old Man looked at his bench. He was old and he was wise but he was not so old and sometimes his nose looked bigger than at other times. His men were young and tall and handsome and had names like el Niño and el Guaje and el Santo and others were not so tall and had names like el Chino and others were not tall or handsome and had names like el Puyi. They all called him el Míster.
He had come with them to Africa to hunt for big games and they had hunted and hunted until they reached the biggest game of them all. It had not been easy. They had had a hell of a time. They had played open and easy and fast but the others had played hard and tall and tight. They had played the beautiful game but sometimes they had lost. The Swiss had when they had not and then they had and the Chileans had not and then they had and the Paraguayans had not and then the Germans had not and they had had.
It was winter in Africa but it was Spain in July. Some of his men wore a red kerchief to train. They wore a red kerchief because it was San Fermín in Pamplona. It was fiesta and they wished to run with the bulls. In the morning the men sang with their newspapers and then the firecracker went off and the bulls came out and they ran through the town. Usually no one got hurt except for a foreigner or two. Occasionally they were Spanish but usually they were British but mostly they were American. The Americans had enthusiasm but they did not have afición. They did foolish things like show up drunk and run to the outside and get curious about the strays. If someone died in the morning there would still be death in the afternoon. And then in the evening everyone went to the plaza to watch the Copa. Some had afición for the corrida and some had afición for la Copa and most only had afición for fiesta and copas, but it was fiesta and la Copa and they were the afición and the Old Man was grateful.
He had not had rules like other coaches but there were rules. The men knew the rules but the women did not or they did know the rules and broke them anyway, the bitches. The Old Man thought of the lady reporter. Not the lady reporter who had married a prince and now was having a hell of a happy time with the Asturian aristocracy. She jumped and shouted like the afición and unlike a reporter or a princess, the Old Man thought. No, he thought of the lady reporter who was young and beautiful and stood at the sidelines by his captain and threw him off his game. She knew the rules but she stood there anyway and everyone thought she ought to feel such a bitch. The Old Man said nothing and the young captain said nothing but the beautiful bitchy lady reporter stayed away after that. The other lady was a real lady. She was not young and she was not beautiful and she was not a bitch but a real princess who sat in her seat and clapped when they had and folded her hands in her lap when they had not. She had come to the lockers to see the young men after the game and the Old Man wished she had not but they must have told her it was all right. She was quite charming and they all felt embarassed but quite bucked up and that was all right.
The Old Man did not know what would happen. He thought he knew but he wasn’t sure. He thought about resting el Niño again but el Niño was a striker and if you bench a striker he will be no good. He thought about starting el Guaje but el Guaje had played and played and el Niño had not. Everyone wanted el Chino to play with el Guaje but he did not. No one wanted him to double the midfield but he did. They talked about him in Africa and they talked about him in Spain and they talked about him in Araby, the bastards, but they had not won and he had won. His men had scored many goals and their men had scored nada. His men had scored from midfield and they had scored off the post and they had scored with their big lion heads. So Spain had a gol and Chile had nada and Paraguay had nada and Germany, Germany who had four goals when Australia had nada and when Ghana had nada and when Argentina had nada, Germany had nada.
After the Big Game the Old Man would go home. He would go home to Madrid and he would eat a big meal and it would take a lot of wine to wash it all down. If they won he would go to el Botín which is very old and the best restaurant in Madrid and he would order cochinillo and wash it down with a good rioja. And if they lost he would go to O’Pulpo and order the house specialty a la gallega and wash it down with a fine sidra because the pulpo had said he would win, the bastard.