Archive | Thoughts

GOATS, success, failure and Lionel Messi, aka “Be here now.”

messi

The World Cup is over and now the debates begin about Messi, roiling tempests that reduce the actual winner of the tournament to a seeming afterthought.

And they are so predictable that it’s almost lazy, as if by rote the same lines are drawn by the same groups of people:

– Look at the stats. He’s the best.
– He failed on the big stage, so he isn’t the GOAT.
– Y’all need to leave him alone, he is still the GOAT.
– Etc, etc, ad infinitum.

The truth is that there is no truth. It’s all immaterial.
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Posted in Messi, Thoughts, World Cup280 Comments

Anything to win, aka “Benvingut, Luis Suarez!”

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suarez

Let’s be clear about this:

The Luis Suarez transfer is a vile, disgusting act by desperate men, a board trying to save its power-hungry asses and a new coach who doesn’t want to be like his predecessor. It’s at the terminus of an arc of lies and neglect of a sporting project.

At the end of the mountain of bollocks strewn by this board in the name of furthering its project is just the latest piece of crap in a veritable deluge of the stuff. Those sluggards didn’t even have the nerve to say to their new coaching hire “Yes we are supposed to just get you the players that you ask for, but we have to draw the line somewhere.”

The Luis Suarez signing was completed today, for a fee that nobody will ever know, ironic from a board that steeped its initial pitches in “transparency.” It’s also just one more bit of skullduggery from a group that is ostensibly running an organization for the good of the entity. But there is nothing good about this deal, not even the goals that Suarez will score because they will be tainted, smeared with the disgusting effluvia of soulless men.
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Posted in Team News, Thoughts, Transfers148 Comments

Misunderstanding Messi, aka “You don’t get it, but that’s okay. Hardly anyone does.”

clasmess

Messi doesn’t care. If you want to understand Messi, understand that.

It took a while for me to figure that out, but this most recent World Cup brought a lot into perspective for me regarding Lionel Messi. There have been some excellent articles on him: a piece that goes back to Rosario, a statistical breakdown that concludes Messi is impossible. And even before that, a lot of writing about a person, an entity, a thing that is impossible to put into words and next to impossible to be neutral about, because DID YOU SEE WHAT HE JUST DID??!!.

But I don’t think anyone can understand Messi because there’s nothing to understand. He just wants the ball.

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Posted in Messi, Supposition, Thoughts208 Comments

Ugliness in the beautiful game, aka “This is a man’s world”

zuniga

“I never meant to hurt anyone. I was defending my shirt.”

The beautiful game wasn’t at all today as Brazil faced off against Colombia in the quarterfinals of the 2014 World Cup. The sad part is that you could see it coming even before the match started as the coach of Brazil, “Big Phil” Scolari, went on at a presser about no more Mr. Nice Guy, and people are going to see a different side of Brazil.

Against Colombia Brazil came out kicking, a tactic facilitated by the appalling refereeing display by Carlos Velasco Carballo, a ref who, it will shock no one, plies his trade in La Liga. He did nothing, called nothing, and rewarded the increasing violence with a series of stern gazes, but no cards. Then Colombia started kicking back.

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Posted in Neymar, Thoughts89 Comments

Gracies, Equip, aka “Thank you so much for being superhuman”

atmbusi

These are tough times. Poor babies that we are, we have to suffer through a team that finished second in the Liga, in it until the final match, made the Copa final and Champions League quarterfinals. In a sport in which a two-year cycle is extraordinary, our team has been at or near the top since 2008. Six years.

The club has been, and is under assault from every direction from media to its own supporters and people who have been lined up, waiting for Barça to fall as “I told you so” rings throughout the halls of the Camp Nou, shrieks from the fronts of newspapers and websites, a conga line of people who are lining up to kick dirt on the face of the prom king.

So this post is going to start and end saying what I think every last culer needs to say, right here and right now: Gracies, equip. Thank you for the fun, the joy and tears, taking kicks and various fouls, scoring goals and making the effort to do the colors that we love proud. Thank you for everything.
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Posted in Analysis, La Liga, Thoughts345 Comments

The value of something worthless, aka “The Cesc Fabregas saga continues”

Cesc

Value:
noun
1. the regard that something is held to deserve; the importance, worth, or usefulness of something.
verb
1. estimate the monetary worth of (something).

Value is a fun notion to contemplate. I like to think of it as two cars that passed through my possession. One was a big ol’ red sedan that looked really cool, but had … erm … mechanical complexities. It stranded me once, and I drove from the mechanic’s about a half-mile to the local Subaru dealer to trade that thing the hell in. Didn’t get max value, but part of that value was in having that thing GONE.

The other car, a hotted-up Subaru, I sold for something around 2k over its value, a price I could demand and hold out for because really, I didn’t want to sell it. It was one of those, “If you want to give me this much for it, okay.” And someone did.

Which brings us to players, transfers and in particular, Cesc Fabregas.
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Posted in La Liga, Thoughts, Transfers, Transfers/Transfer Rumors179 Comments

The “best available athlete” dilemma, aka “Hammering nails with a banana”


Immense thanks to Allas for the Sanchez video.

Alexis Sanchez is ready.
Alexis Sanchez is a problem.
Neymar will be something if he ever learns how to play the Barça way.
Alex Song was a waste of money, and isn’t anything approximating Barça quality.

A quartet of interesting statements that raises a complex matter with its roots in a notion that some American sports sides (particularly NFL teams) subscribe to, which is to pick the best available athlete. The thinking is that you can train a player to play a position, but you can’t train ability and talent. So you draft a speedy cornerback, and figure you can train him to run pass routes and play wide receiver.

In the footballing world, are we seeing its contemporary in the “difficulties” that three players, Sanchez, Neymar and Song, are having in the blaugrana?
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Posted in International Friendlies, Neymar, Thoughts193 Comments

Gracies, Capita, aka “There will never be another”

There was a farewell ceremony for our irreplacable Capita, Carles Puyol. Words fail me, but the video above is the full ceremony.

There are many culers who only know a Barça for which Captain Caveman was the Capita. But even for those of us who know other Barças, it will still be unfathomably weird to NOT have the No. 5 not be THE No. 5. Call him a lion, a rock, whatever you like, but Carles Puyol has been an absolutely spectacular player who never gave a shard less than 100 percent, even when his body put a ration on the quality and quantity of that all out.

And typically of Puyol, he said that his best moment was when Abidal lifted the Champions League trophy at Wembley. Figures.

There is no “next Puyol.” When Xavi moves on, there will be no “next Xavi.” Those are players who define a club (not just a team), define an era. You don’t, you can’t replace those kinds of players.

And what can you really say to a man who is so emblematic of a great club and a great team on his last day as a player for that team, except “Gracies, Capita.”

Posted in Team News, Thoughts99 Comments

I want one of those, and two of those, and a chicken, aka “Transfer talk rocks”

silva

What if dating was like silly season?

Newly single Biff Majestic is in the market. Rumor is that he has a pre-contract with the barista at the town coffee shop but when pressed for details, Mr. Majestic said no comment. The barista has been scouted by Majestic’s mother, who has glowing reports of her calmness under pressure and ability to “Bang out a perfect latte in 3 minutes.”

Majestic linked to co-worker! The previously reported barista signing is still a possibility, but there have been new developments. Majestic was spotted at lunch with an assistant vice president at his firm. Sources say there were smiles, and the VP was spotted at the coffee shop that Majestic is said to favor. Majestic’s Mom says, “We can’t say anything at this time, but I can report that Biff and I love our lattes.”

There are few things in football more irrational than transfer talk, where people are idiots not because of what they do, but because they won’t do what supporters WANT them to.
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Posted in Team News, Thoughts, Transfers, Transfers/Transfer Rumors123 Comments

Buses and institutional arrogance, aka “Barça take planes, not buses”

bus

This has been the Champions League and week in which football has taken it on the chin.

– Chelsea beat Liverpool.
– RM stomped Bayern

It has also been a week in which the phrase “parking the bus” has acquired a heretofore unseen malleability as counterattacking football has become “parking the bus,” for reasons that are certainly valid in the heads of the folks who misuse it.

“Parking the bus” is when an inferior team stacks 10 behind the ball, with no real interest, barring some fluke, in scoring. You see it in league matches sometimes, when a team has an unlikely lead in a knockout tie. You might also see it when a cynical coach tactically misplays the first leg of a Champions League knockout tie (cough! Mourinho. cough!) A parked bus doesn’t want anything to happen as differentiated from counterattacking football, which wants something to happen but waits for an opportunity.
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Posted in Champions League, La Liga, Messi, Neymar, Thoughts41 Comments

Dani Alves and the perfect gesture, aka “Your stupidity is soooo tasty!”

Image courtesy of Mundo Deportivo

Image courtesy of Mundo Deportivo

How often do we get to say the exact right thing, make the exact right gesture?

Many years ago, when my wife and I were urban pioneers, we lived in a neighborhood festooned with um … indigenous businessladies. One night while she was out walking the dog, a car rolled up alongside the curb and a man inside the vehicle asked my wife “How much,” presuming that the dog was a brilliant ruse, perhaps. Her response: “Just me, or me AND the dog?”

The would-be Lothario figured things out pretty quickly, and sped off. Perfect response to a ridiculous situation.

When Dani Alves strolled over to take a dead-ball situation during the Villarreal match on Sunday, it’s a safe bet that he had absolutely no aspirations to perfection, aside from a player’s usual striving for excellence. But when the banana came flying at him and he casually picked it up and ate it, attention and focus fully on the pitch and beating Villarreal, it was the perfect response to a ridiculous situation.

Neymar, not missing a beat, Instagrammed a photo of he and his son eating bananas, starting a “we are all monkeys” campaign that spread like wildfire. A Spanish TV newscaster ate a banana on the air. Players such as Kun Aguero have photographed themselves eating a banana, in the selfie as social revolt vein.

neymar

Villarreal issued a strong statement condemning the offending “supporter,” and FC Barcelona came out with a statement of its own, expressing full solidarity with Alves and condemning racism.

Once my jaw finished bouncing off the floor as a result of that last incident, something else remarkable happened. The match official, David Fernandez Borbalan, put the banana incident in his official match report so that it is there, for the record. It was as if to say “Your move, RFEF.”

After the match, Dani Alves handled everything with class and style, saying that such things have been part of the Spanish game, and you just can’t dignify them by freaking out. He added a backhanded thank you to the fruit hurler, saying that his father always told him to eat bananas to avoid cramps, so thanks to the person for providing the energy boost that helped him keep running, keep crossing the ball.

Awesome.

And this is how a football club properly deals with racism:

Villarreal CF wants to communicate that the club deeply regrets and condemns the incident that happened yesterday during the match against FC Barcelona in which a fan threw an object onto the field of El Madrigal. Thanks to the security forces and the invaluable assistance of the Yellow crowd, the club has already identified the (perpetrator) and has decided to withdraw his season tickets, permanently banning his access to El Madrigal stadium.

Once again our club would like to express its firm commitment to promoting respect, equality, sportsmanship and fair play both on and off the field and our absolute rejection of any act that is contrary to these principles, such as violence, discrimination, racism and xenophobia.

Racism is an unfortunate part of the modern game, and I really don’t foresee a point in my lifetime where it won’t be. Xenophobia is one of those irresistibly human things that takes us deeper than racism into those vile nether regions of all discrimination. Some might not be a racist, but a sexist. Might not be either, loving all races, creeds and colors, but is bothered by gay people. The omnipresence of the “other” is what makes discrimination so malleable and inescapable.

We hear of incident after incident. In the U.S., the news is filled with the alleged comments and views of NBA owner Donald Sterling. There as everywhere, strong words have come out. What makes that incident noteworthy is that “safe” players such as LeBron James and Michael Jordan, who usually shy away from unequivocal statements because of the potential image/sponsor damage, both came out forcefully against the alleged remarks, saying that there is no place in the NBA for that kind of an individual.

Boateng walked off the pitch during one match. Los Angeles Clippers players dumped their warm-ups in a pile, and loosened up with their warmup shirts turned inside out, as a form of protest. Two of the biggest sports in the world have had incidents that have drawn global attention to racism.

To what end?

Football has racism. Football will have racism. It isn’t cynical to say that, as much as it is reality. Because racism or any other form of discrimination (football has ‘em all) is the belief that your group is better, based on something that is (usually) unalterable. The object of discrimination can’t fix the thing that offends the assailant. They can’t not be black, not be female, not be gay. It’s easy, and it’s obvious to make someone the Other. And as long as humans have the trait that makes them want to be better than someone else, there will be the attendant xenophobia and its byproduct, discrimination.

Clubs can make statements, football can have campaigns, players can be banned for x or y number of matches, stadiums can be empty. These gestures make some feel like “See? They are doing something,” even as we acknowledge that a big part of such gestures for many is palliative. It’s like an apology, which too frequently serves to make the person making the apology feel better. “There. Glad that’s over.”

Then the game returns to “normal.” Everyone wants things to be back to normal. When you fight with a friend or loved one you regret the fight, but what you most regret is the upset to normalcy. Strife is nasty. So is being confronted by the tangible evidence of man’s inhumanity toward man. It makes us uncomfortable. So let’s don t-shirts and armbands, make a statement and return to normal.

This doesn’t mean that the efforts, the campaigns, the gestures aren’t sincere. They often are. But all of them put together don’t change a single, solitary thing about racism. We know it sucks. We know that people don’t approve. We know it’s a black eye on the game that we all love. Duh. Sadly, the gestures and campaigns also serve to remind us of something we don’t really want to admit: that maybe, just maybe, racism isn’t solvable by any of those kinds of things. That like charity, the end of racism begins at home.

Longtime readers here will recall my Camp Nou incident, where during halftime of a match I was attending a young kid from the posh seats saw me and made a clearly racist, monkey-like gesture to his father. The dad smiled, “Oh, you little card,” not at all uncomfortably until they noticed that I was watching them. Then it got VERY uncomfortable. I shook my head, predominantly because that’s kinda all that you can do in a situation like that. Show clear disapproval and the belief that while someone might think they are superior for the simple biological marker of skin color, that ain’t always the case.

That kid learned what he knew from the parent who tacitly approved it by not kneeling down and sternly explaining to that kid why what he did was wrong, laying out how absurd it was to for the kid to return to his seat and cheer for a team that included Lillian Thuram, Toure Yaya, Eric Abidal and Samuel Eto’o with a clear conscience. That is the time to stop racism. What in the hell is a FIFA campaign going to do when the people who the kid looks up to says “It’s okay to discriminate.”

That kid probably continues to go to Barça matches. Maybe an incident happens in his life that makes him understand everyone can be lumped in asshats and non-asshats. And that ain’t color, gender or sexual orientation specific. But more often nothing happens because just as we segregate ourselves into groups of Barça supporters, we tend to gather among friends who share the same views. It’s uncomfortable not to. It’s a safe bet that the Villarreal banana thrower was at the match with like-minded souls. So where is the disapproval? To that group, racism is fine. It’s what you’re supposed to do.

We scoff and snark, call them silly or worse, but they don’t care, because beliefs supersede all. Racists have kids, and those kids have kids. Allegiance to a football club is deep and usually lifelong, so the racists potentially keep raising generations of racists. You fix that not with campaigns, but in homes and seats around the perpetrators. Today, word came down that the Villarreal member has been identified and expelled. The identification came with the help of those seated nearby. And that’s how you do it. If a racist speaks up, people around him say “Hey, that is enough of that crap. It isn’t right.” And the racists learn they aren’t wanted, even if they don’t change their views.

This doesn’t augur well for a football future in which black players won’t suffer monkey chants, hurled bananas and the like. English football fans feel better about themselves because their FA has cracked down on racism in a way that makes racists much less likely to act on their views, even as that reluctance to act doesn’t make them any less racist. It doesn’t remove racism from the game, it just removes the overt gesture from the game. Dependent upon how much discrimination you have had to deal with in your life, you might or might not prefer to know who dislikes you because of how you are. The devil you know, right?

But the absence of a gesture doesn’t mean you don’t have racism. It just means that you can’t see it. Whether that is any better is up to you. For most of us, it’s better. We can’t see it, so it isn’t there. Personally, I want racists out in the open. I want to have the hope that kids will see how ugly it is. I want to have the hope that the kid who has a shirt with Alves/22 on the back of it will ask his father why those people over there are being mean to his favorite player. I want to have the hope that the kid will resolve to not be like that, and then raise his children not to be like that.

That is when racism begins to be erased from our game, which is what has to happen for the game to be truly better, rather than beautiful and “normal” until yet another incident turns it ugly again.

Posted in La Liga, Neymar, Soap Box, Thoughts165 Comments

Farewell, Tito Vilanova, aka “The ‘boat’ loses an important plank”

vilanova

What makes you weep for a complete and total stranger?

Some people wonder that as we reel from the punch in the gut that was the news that our Mister, Tito Vilanova, succumbed to cancer at the age of 45.

It’s one cell. One cell that you can’t see with the sharpest eyes decided his fate. One cell that is causing culers, socis and anyone who loves FC Barcelona to weep, pay tribute and spend the day like me, doing ordinary things while feeling that lump in the throat, that notification that tears are right there.

So you try to do stuff … work, play, hanging with friends … you don’t want to give in somehow, as if to acknowledge the grief is to also acknowledge yet another bit of cruelty from fate.
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Posted in Team News, Thoughts64 Comments

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