Castor + Pollux. Hector + Achilles. Michael + Lucifer.
Amadís + Arcaláus. Valjean + Javert. Humbert + Quilty.
Ladies and gentlebloggers, I bring you …
Josep + José.
Or rather, the Occidental Imagination does. Because the soccer story this season is no Fox Sports report. It’s not another national anecdote à la catalá vs. castellano (vascuence might have something to say about that). BFBloggers, we are witness to an ancient tale, perhaps first uttered over a crackling fire in some distant cave deep in the Causcasus, elaborated over the centuries in verse, prose, drama and opera, and soon showing, surely, at a multiplex near you.
This is the tale of the Cosmic Twins. Let’s call them Jo & Jo Doppelgänger. JoJoDo.
The Doppelgänger is strange, but no Stranger. As your nemesis, he is always against you; as your evil genius, he is always one step ahead of you; as your persecutor, he is always closing in on you. And, as your twin, he is always with you. The Doppelgänger is not some creepy shadow or sad also-ran. He is your brother without that ‘other mother’ business. ‘Cause the Cosmic Mother means business.
“He knows me, I know him and that’s all.”*
(There’s ‘know’ and then there’s ‘know’. These two know, you know?)
“If he says ‘Pep’, I say ‘Hey, José.'”
(Or visie – versie!)
In sports, the clash of the Doppelgängers is served up, Greek-tragedy style, in the Derby. Thus Mandril mysteries like “Why can’t Kun win silver?” are revealed. But when the Twins meet twice, the result is romance. “Romance” does not mean “Fill your date’s cup at the kegger” (although some Doppelängers do, as in Shakespeare) or “Romance Languages 101” (Rome, btw, a Doppelgänger product). “Romance” means a series of meetings, a dance of dual destinies. Ours reads, thus far, thus:
Chap. 2: Liga BBVA, Ja. 32 @ Bernabéu
Chap. 3: Copa del Rey, Final @ Mestalla
Chap. 4: UEFA Champions, Semifinal @ Bernabéu
Chap. 5: UEFA Champions, Semifinal @ Camp Nou
In each chapter, the Twins face off from opposite ends of the teological pole. They may become entrenched to an almost morbid degree of rigidity. So even after whomping some goleadas on lesser clubs, Mou goes maniacally defensive when squaring off against the relentless — even, given his players’ injuries, defenseless — attacking strategy of Pep. And as Mou unleashes chthonian cleats, Pep’s boys go porcupine, rolling ’round the pitch like little blaugrana bocce balls.
It may seem that one Twin is better or smarter or more polite than the other, but this depends on whom you’re rooting for. If you are a Moudril, José is a master strategist and Pep, a lesser technician. If you are a Barça pepster, Mou is a mediocre list-maker and Josep, a tiki-taka maestro. As Twins, however, they are always at risk of blurring into a single entity. Ironically, as the struggle intensifies, their resemblance emerges.
At first it’s a big sham of mutual respect, the pre-match courtesies we witnessed in the early half of the season: “He’s a great coach”, “No, he‘s a great coach”, “They’re a great team”, “They‘re the best team in the League right now.” Blah, blah, blah. Do we have to get all the juicy tidbits from Valdano and Alves? But then:
“As [he] has spoken about me by name, and using tú, then I will do the same.”
“A big group of coaches, of which I am part, criticise the refs”
“I could talk about Bequerença, about Milito’s goal or Alves’ penalty, but don’t.”
(Referee critiques. Well, perhaps we could have seen this coming.)
“We could remember Stamford Bridge and another thousand things”
“In his first season he lived the scandal of Stamford Bridge”
(Wait, who said wha … ?)
And soon Barcelona’s complaining to UEFA that Mourinho’s saying mean things about them and BFF Unicef to like, everyone, and the next day Real Madrid goes whining over excessive diving by the blaugrana that was so totally unfair …
This leaves you in an uncomfortable position. You may follow Humbert Humbert, but then feel weird about it so you shift allegiance to Clare Quilty, but then what kind of sick pervert are you? Or maybe you relate to Luke’s Oedipal struggle, but when Skywalker Sr. takes off the creepy mask and it’s Dad, you wind up feeling sorry for the old man. Or you know that angels are good and devils are bad, but Satan is so funny on “South Park”. Yea, before you know it you’ll be patting Mou on his well-coiffed head and scolding Pep for his naughty behavior. Mark with an “X” all statements you agree with:
Barcelona should …
____ be above such theatrics.
____ play the beautiful game.
____ ignore Madrid’s temper tantrum.
____ not be so distracted or we will lose everything.
Ah, but the universe is so much more complicated than that. The more you resist, the more Mother Cosmos draws you into the mythical vortex. If you stand adamant by Pep, you start sounding like Mourinho. If you reject Mourinho out of hand, you underestimate the value of Pep. And, as they say, eso no te toca. It’s got nothing to do with you. If you go to your local park and throw yourself into the sandbox to kick over castles and dump over buckets, you’re not a La Liga coach in a postgame presser. You’re Don Quixote. (And maybe an entry on your ‘Neighborhood Watch’ list.)
Look, when the Cosmos decides to put on a show, it’s an extravaganza. So sprinkle some sea salt on that popcorn and kick your heels on your neighbor’s milk crate-coffee table. As Bette once said,
Fasten your seatbelts. It’s gonna be a bumpy night.
*All quotes taken (and edited) from: http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2011/apr/27/josep-guardiola-jose-mourinho. Except for the last one, which comes from “All About Eve”, a 1950 flick about … doh! Doppelgängettes!