a reminder of why I watch futbol

Having missed my one post a month schedule for April (because I’ma kill the developers on my release project, is why), I’m jumping in to note that without a shadow of a doubt, watching El Clasico yesterday was a reminder of why I watch footy in all its glory.

It’s not just that I loathe Real Madrid and Barça handed them their ass on a platter, it’s not that Barça could legitimately have scored 10 goals if it weren’t for Iker Casillas being such a superlative goalkeeper. It’s that Barcelona played beautiful football. Real might not be at their best this season, but periodically they were made to look like a pub side. Some of the best passing moves didn’t make it to the highlight reels, because there was no goal as a result, but the use of space, the passing accuracy, the awareness and sheer elan were something to behold. The clip below doesn’t include my favorite moment – when Messi was maybe 5 feet to the left of the left post and about the same from the touch line, and the cheeky little bastard tried to lob Casillas at an angle of maybe 25° and nearly did it too.

Posting a clip reel is almost pointless – there were so many good moments in this game, it’s worth watching again, in its entirety. Eduardo Galeano wrote in “Football in Sun and Shadow” that as much as he was a fan of a team, or supported Uruguay, he was like a mendicant, seeking occasional moments of beauty in football. Please excuse the purple prose: the begging bowl was filled at the Bernabeu yesterday.

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Tommy Smyth was right

It doesn’t happen all that often, so after being rude about the man before, I feel I must publicly agree with his rant during the Manchester United – Inter game last night: Tommy Smyth is absolutely right that John O’Shea is the first Irishman to come through United in years, because Irwin and Keane were bought in from elsewhere.

Just because there’s reason to doubt Mr Smyth in general is no excuse to pile on when he’s right on the technalities even if it sounds a bit off.

Everton 1 – Liverpool 0

After a couple of draws and Benitez moaning about defensive play, who’s through to the next round of the FA Cup? Only the unfancied team with the frightening Scottish manager. I wonder how Benitez is going to explain this one away…

The score so far

Work demands have been interfering with my ability to follow footy at the moment, so here’s the one thing I have been working on assessing: the quality of sazeracs at various restaurants in the business district and French Quarter in New Orleans. (life hands you lemons, etc., etc.)

The rankings thus far:

Top Notch:

  1. Luke
  2. Bayona

Good:

  1. G.W. Fins

So-so:

  1. NOLA
  2. Muriel’s

Incidentally, that’s about the rank of quality of food, with the following caveats: 1) you could swap Luke and Bayona and that would be fair also, and 2) a definite exception in the case of Muriel’s – the table d’hote menu is sized so that you can really eat a three course meal, and the goat cheese crepes and shrimp starter is especially good. Skip the sazerac and get straight onto the food. NOLA, on the other hand, doesn’t seem worth the effort – if anything, I’m probably under-rating the cocktail because of the meal.

On the less fancy pants end, the turtle soup and shrimp half loaf at Mandina’s nearly finished me off the other night, but in a good cause. I rather doubt I shall eat a poboy outside of the state of Louisiana again.

Songs that made 2008 worth listening to

Since I can’t post the entire Adam Freeland Radio 1 Essentials mix that Holly introduced me to, here are a couple of goodies from 2008…

I know that SFA released Hey Venus in 2007 everywhere else, but if I had known that it would be a 2008 release in the US, I would have bought it when I was in the ancestral homeland in late 2007, but I didn’t, so here we are.

Since we’ve already introduced Gruff Rhys, it’s worth mentioning his other release as half of Neon Neon, the concept album Stainless Style about John DeLorean. Almost too accurate in its retro glory. Continue reading

Genuinely baffled about Gerrard

I’m not prone to the levels of hagiography that a lot of the English press crank out for Steven Gerrard – while there’s no question about his motivation and ball skill, I just don’t see him as being in that top level of midfielder who can either see the field to drive the team forward or take over a game. He’s very good at his best, but not superlative.

That said, he’s also about the last person I’d expect to see in the nick over actual bodily harm and affray. If the reports are true that it was over a DJ’s unwillingness to play Gerrard’s faves (Phil Collins and Coldplay), I could see an argument to be made for assault on unsuspecting listeners, but Gerrard has never struck me as the type to knock someone about in the fashion of Joey Barton.

Pardon me for being a patronizing middle class twat, but it always looked to me like Gerrard had managed to maintain something of the best part of a working class consciousness – of finding joy in the game he played on a concrete estate, of caring about the reaction of the fans, of paying attention to kids from similar backgrounds – without any accompanying ASBO nonsense. It just seems out of character. Baffling, even. It’ll be interesting to see what the actual story / stories might be.

The cultural conditioning just doesn’t seem to work

It’s been 26 years since I arrived in the US as an impressionable young man. I took to watching the NFL a bit, and then college football when I went to USC. I bought in – to the extent that my only true regret related to college not related to dames is that I missed the one USC – UCLA game for which I had tickets to the Rose Bowl, because I was so hung over that my friends abandoned their attempts to get me rolling. Hell, I went to the 1992 Freedom Bowl. My excuse for missing most of the 1990s seasons was that they weren’t on air in Rhode Island and the DC area, and I’m sticking to that.

In the meantime, I suspect that I watched a total of five soccer games live and in person between 1982  and 2006 –  a couple of pre-World Cup friendlies: England – Mexico at the Coliseum in 86, and US – Scotland at RFK in 98 – and then a few DC United games.

And yet, it’s the soccer that catches me. As soon as the SC – UCLA game ended on December, I was done with college football. The next night I nodded off watching a replay of Everton – Aston Villa, notable only because I woke up not to the replays of goals, but in the immediate run up as the announcers’ tone changed. I watched Barcelona – Real Madrid the other weekend and was shrieking at the screen in a way that I rarely do for football. And I was reminded today, watching a replay of Villareal – Barcelona, that soccer brings a beauty in play, sometimes, that catches me in a way that football just doesn’t. After 2/3 of my life in the land of the free, it’s the beautiful game that resonates.

I’ve watched a few minutes of a couple of bowl games, but that’s it. I haven’t had any interest in writing about any of them, in preview or review. I’m looking forward to the Rose Bowl and the MNC game, but have nothing to say that couldn’t be said better by someone else.

And I don’t see the point about writing about footy at the moment, because what can I add to the good games?

So as the new year approaches, family life obligations remain steady, and my workload continues to grow,  and I’m at an impasse. I’m not dropping this blog quite yet, despite the recent radio silence, but I need a rethink of scope and content. I’m not currently adding anything, and there’s a saturated market for pointless blogs.