Wednesday, July 2, 2014

A Glimpse of the Beautiful Game

I got home from work and a couple of stops (coffee place, Post Office) with the last game in the 58th minute, still 0-0. I cracked a beer, got my shoes off and put my tired feet up on one of the cat pedestals. The game surged back and forth, but mostly forth. I read later that our magnificent goal keeper had 16 saves, some sort of near record, whilst their Carolina-blue bedecked stopper had only four. That implies the obvious--Belgium had way more offense than did Ou-Ess-Ay. Eventually, as the overtime ground on, we finally ran out of gas. Belgium got one goal, then a second. I flipped the channel and watched "Roustabout," a rather nifty Elvis movie from 1964 which co-stars Barbara Stanwyck, which was probably pretty neat for the King if he was much aware of movie history. Elvis, "Charlie Rogers" in the flick, rode around on a great looking Honda 350, painted a red I don't recall on Hondas ever, but maybe they were only made for the CA market. He's a masher who thinks one kiss will cause any woman he wants to sample to immediately swoon. I would have liked to have seen Charlie take on Lana Turner, but it would have been a different story. The Colonel didn't allow Elvis to do tragedy.

So I read this morning that we did score one goal before the blessed end. So we were just one goal away from a tie, which could have led to a shoot out, which could have resulted in an American victory over Belgium, a country the size of South Carolina, with a population the size of Ohio. That would have led to America playing Argentina (most likely), a team with the best player in the world, Massi. Or maybe we'd have managed to get all the way to the finals, where we might eventually win over Costa Rica, a country with a population same as West Virginia, and a rain forest to die for. Whatever.

What I got out of watching futbol because the US was playing was learning how to watch futbol. It is a beautiful game, just like its nickname says. It features athletes of remarkable endurance and condition, who must run constantly for over 90 minutes with one break at half-time of about fifteen minutes. Substitutions are only one way--you're in and you're out, and you can't go back in. People play through injuries if they can. Subs are very limited. Penalties can lead to a team being one or two men down! On Sunday Costa Rica defeated Greece on post-play penalty kicks, 5-4, after playing nearly a whole half one man down. It was a remarkable viewing experience.

Futbol is not about scoring, except tangentially. Some critics seem to find this fact disconcerting, which they then defensively translate into derision, which only reflects back on them. It's like the ad for something running these days, where two guys are playing chess and one of 'em finally makes the last move and "takes" the other guy's king. It makes visual sense, except it's not a move in chess. The king is never taken. So they made an ad using chess as a McGuffin.

The beautiful game is a battle of endurance and movement. The winner often is the team which has the capacity to move faster after over 90 minutes of running full tilt, sometimes when it's above 90 degrees, as was the case Sunday in Brazil. And even then it's possible that victory can be withheld.

I'm hoping that ESPN will soldier on, running the FIFA tournament until all the games play out. I'm picking Argentina. I'm also going to watch some European league play, which pops up on this or that channel now and then. I'd like to give up American football altogether, or at least the NFL. I don't like being part of the motivation for steroids and brain injuries, but maybe that's too myopic a point of view. Maybe sport is just sui genris, and there's no point in trying to jam that world into the world of common sense and good judgment.

Perhaps the best plan is just to leave a little room for a good game of futbol now and then, when it is available. One thing I really like is, the US doesn't have to be the Dream Team, proving yet again to the rest of the world just how exceptional we are. This has been such a terrible burden for us. The truth is, like the rest of the world, we're just primates muddling through. It's hard to score a goal because we have to use our feet. Only the goal keeper can use his hands.

Mexico’s goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa dives for the ball. (XAVIER MARIT/AFP/Getty Images) Mexico also lost. It is a beautiful game this futbol, in a way a living Utopia:

In the real world:

Mr. Pierce brings up the bottom line. Schwerner, Chaney and Goodwin died for your right to vote. It's that simple. While we watch the beautiful game we can forget briefly that even the United State Supreme Court is now teetering on the brink of disaster. A Court with, allegedly five "liberal" justices, has just gutted the ability of unions to collect dues, without which unions will be unable to function as bargaining agents for their members and for those who benefit from the bargains made but who still choose not to be members. The same court already broke the Voting Rights Act which Schwerner, Chaney and Goodwin died to achieve. And there's the Hobby Lobby fiasco. With a Congress entirely in the hands of the GOP, there will be no more "liberal" justices appointed, period.

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