Here’s my new Grantland column about Brazil, the World Cup, and the all-important question of whether you are about to get your head chopped off.
Here’s my new Grantland column on Paolo Di Canio, political extremism, and the problem of sympathy in sports. Sneak peek:
Paolo Di Canio is an insane fascist. I’m not trying to be inflammatory; these are simply words that describe Paolo Di Canio. He’s an insane fascist in the same way that he’s 45 and Italian and cadaverously thin. He’s an insane fascist in the same way that he’s lined and balding and the wearer of elongated sideburns that make him look like a Victorian railroad magnate. He’s an insane fascist in the same way that he’s an ex-soccer star and, as of this week, the recently fired ex-manager of the Premier League club Sunderland AFC.
Over on Grantland, here’s my new column on Özil and the Arsenalness of Arsenal. Quick excerpt:
Those earlier Arsenal teams did as they pleased, and not with the aristocratic gradualism of mid-2000s Milan or the oddly childish relentlessness of Barcelona. They just tore through you. They raced the ball up the pitch, fast but also somehow perfectly under control, and whipped it at the net. Then they gave it back to you. Then they took it from you and started again. They were an astonishing fusion of masterful and giddy. Wenger used to get on a high horse every once in a while about football as entertainment and value for the fan’s hard-earned shilling, but what stands out about those teams now is not simply that they were entertaining but that they were also in some way explanatory: They played soccer, a game whose disorder frequently verges on madness, at such a high level that you could watch them and understand the sport in a new way. They made sanity intensely compelling.
I have a new column on Grantland today about Landon Donovan, American soccer culture, and the place of sadness and uncoolness in sports.
This last point can’t be emphasized enough. If there’s a crowning irony in American soccer during the MLS era, it’s that we were finally given a superstar, something we always wanted — only the superstar managed to embody almost everything about U.S. soccer culture that we were trying to escape. Soccer was seen as a soft, unmanly sport, a sort of dainty French teatime exercise for socialists, and our superstar made major career moves out of homesickness. Soccer was seen as hopelessly white-bread and suburban, forever entangled with minivans and juice boxes and parents with folding chairs, and our superstar was a white kid from the Inland Empire who looked like Dave Matthews and dressed like someone who owned Dave Matthews CDs. Soccer was seen as an electromagnet for faux-intellectual Europhiles and poseurs; here is an interview from May in which Donovan talks about how much he likes reading Rilke.
Guys in the Backgrounds of Pele Commercials: Part One in an Ongoing Series
[original commercial is here]
RoP rewind: Classics of another world.
Soviet soccer-themed matchbox labels, 1966.