A devoted tout heads for the horse racing track or betting parlor with a plan.…
Here we go. Luis Enrique has a problem, best explained in a “this is you”…
The problem with the new Barça shirt isn’t that it’s ugly, it’s that it’s repugnant…
Harold Miner. Now only the most die-hard fan of American basketball will remember that name.…
Pedro Rodriguez Ledesma is an odd one. Few players have been so liked by his…
It’s the “black hand.” When in doubt, calling upon a conspiracy can be effective.
Conspiracies are quite useful because they can’t be disproved. Even if nothing happened, believers can still say “Well, we just don’t know that something didn’t happen.” It’s what makes them so effective. Conspiracy theories have something for everyone, and everyone will ultimately believe what they choose to believe. Beliefs give us comfort. It’s their principal virtue.
Look at the recent social media storm when Marca said that RM was looking to sign Seung-Woo Lee, the bright, shining star of La Masia and the player allegedly at the root of the transfer ban when envy from another club made someone rat on Barça. That certainly might have happened, but had the club’s business been correct the snitch could have squealed to the heavens, to no avail. Anyhow.
People went nuts in social media, claiming that there was a sniff of veracity to the rumor, citing a couple of allegedly solid sources, etc. The board is that stupid, after all they sold Thiago, blablabla. People like me said, essentially, “Y’all cray. It’s illogical.” Then the player came out and said through his representatives that he isn’t going anywhere. And people breathed a sigh of relief that something that was never going to happen, didn’t happen.
I was watching a TV show called “Fool Us,” featuring the magic duo of Penn & Teller. The premise is that magicians come out to do their thing in an effort to find a trick slick enough to fool two of the best magicians ever.
It’s pretty hard to fool Penn & Teller. The question will be, now that the magic trick of getting rid of Andoni Zubizarreta has been performed, whether this board will be able to fool us.
I hope not.
To start, there’s this:
I don’t care about the transfer ban.
Sorry, but I don’t. I can’t get mad about it, I won’t stomp my feet and talk about how heads must roll, junta dimissio etc, etc, ad infinitum. It’s because this board has been on bad paper with me since it took office and has only gone downhill from there. After someone kicks you in the gut, it’s pretty hard to decide that stepping on your toe is the intolerable act. So let’s deal with the transfer ban reality:
The club earned it by not having its business in order. It doesn’t matter that other clubs do it, it doesn’t matter all the good that La Masia does in shaping young talents to be rounded human beings, it doesn’t matter that it’s a silly rule. The fact of the matter is as with any other sanction, from that speeding ticket you got when “I was just staying with traffic,” to an offense on a larger scale, guilt is without question. Does the punishment fit the crime? Debatable, but it is what it is.
It doesn’t matter how the club came to the attention of the authorities because if you’re going to grab a coveted talent then say “Neener, neener,” the residual rancor makes it triply essential that your ducks are in a row. They weren’t, and Barça got popped.
The challenge of holding a minority opinion is whether it stands up to the litmus test of logic.
A popular worldview, supported by many an intelligent football chronicling voice, is that Barça under Luis Enrique is a team that is losing its identity. The latest piece, and an excellent one from Sid Lowe, makes the case as eloquently as any I have seen before and will likely see even as for me, the team has been losing said identity since before Guardiola’s last year, and that loss isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
So in the struggle to reconcile ideas that apparently need fingers on a keyboard to wrap a mind around, here’s a view from an outlier on judgments of Enrique and what/how he is doing in the here and now. It’s a question of not only what you see when everyone sees the same thing, but what is affecting your field of view in how you react to what you see.
The 1985 Chicago Bears won a Super Bowl, the hyperbolically monikered championship of American football, a Roman-numeraled event that was an extraordinary thing.
The Bears had style, the Bears had swagger. The Bears had a long-suffering group of supporters, who braved weather that would make even hardy souls giggle at the notion of sitting around in it for three hours to witness a passel of mediocre giants stumble about.
The 1985 Bears didn’t just do it. They told you they were going to do it, and then did it. The group played one way, and dared you to stop it. The root of the team’s dominance was its defense, a then-groundbreaking “46” defense (that eventually came to be known as the Bear defense) that placed an emphasis on stopping the run and destroying the quarterback. They rang up gaudy scorelines, and didn’t just win … they often humiliated and destroyed, coming within one game of an undefeated season.
If great men decide history, the effect of lesser men in steering history is often overlooked.
Saturday’s Classic boasts two of the greatest footballers in history, facing off on opposite sides. As the notion of great men and their writing a script for an extraordinary event goes, you couldn’t ask for a better moment in time. Both titans are on exceptional form, both redefining the idea of what a “good” scoring year is, as people look back on the idea of a forward banging in 25 goals being laudatory with a nostalgic giggle.
The seductive path is to simply say that as Messi or Ronaldo goes, so will go their team, even as recent history argues against that notion. Messi’s biggest role in the scoreline of the 2-1 Classic at the Camp Nou was giving the ball away and launching RM on a rocketship break that led to their only goal. Ronaldo offered threats, but no goal.
Lesser men. Neymar scored one goal and assisted the other. In the Bernabeu Classic, Benzema scored two, while Neymar assisted one goal and drew the penalty for the equalizer, while Iniesta drew the penalty for the resultant match winner. History will record that Messi notched a hat trick in that Classic, but lesser men set the stage.
But first, some reality checks.
The Shrug. The last time that I saw a truly transcendent performance by an athlete was by Michael Jordan, in Game One of the 1992 NBA Finals. One of the benefits of being an old man is that you had the opportunity to see stuff like that, an athlete beyond compare, on the biggest stage in his sport, against the man many suggested is as good as he is, for a championship.
And Jordan, simply put, lost his mind: 39 points, 11 assists, 3 rebounds and 2 steals. Jordan dropped in 6 3-pointers and after yet one more, shrugged as if to say, “I don’t believe it, either.” Football has no analog for that kind of performance. Ronaldinho’s standing ovation game against RM wasn’t one, neither are any of the 4+goal hauls of Messi or Ronaldo.
What was most interesting about Jordan’s performance in that game was that it illustrated that reality of an athlete becoming his own standard, someone who can only be compared to himself. Such things are worth noting the next time anyone thinks of choosing a side in the eternal Lionel Messi vs Cristiano Ronaldo debate.