Friday, August 27, 2010

"Dock Ellis & the LSD No-No" by James Blagden

This is brilliant.  James Blagden illustrates Dock Ellis's incredible (true) story about pitching on acid. Courtesy of No Mas TV .

Monday, August 23, 2010

Sports Writing Blues

Lately, I find I do not have much to say. In June and July I watched all but two World Cup matches, read enormous amounts of football journalism, and contributed to the genre in my own way via this blog and daily podcasts for The People's Game.  I loved this - especially the podcasts which gave me a chance to talk with bloggers I've been reading, who define my "imagined community." But by the end, I found that I had less and less to say. My co-host's queries regarding who I thought would win the matches left me increasingly annoyed. I started off reluctant, offering up who I would have liked to see win, but by the end I just declared "I have no idea." It isn't to say that I have no expertise (I did say the final would be determined by how a team handled the other team's fouling, natch), but naming the winner and loser of a match scarcely matters to me - it's interest value is dwarfed by the question of what kind of game it would be. 

Beware of sports writers who pretend to mastery of the facts. I come across a different version of these people in academia - they can recite a bunch of dates, or quote Hegel, and for this reason they seem to think that they've figured it all out. The ones who listen, however, who have a good sense of humor and know how to hold contradiction in their head without trying to resolve it - those are the ones who are most likely to say something interesting, something insightful, something new.

More often than not, sports pundits are writing with the certainty of hindsight, finding in what they've just seen evidence of what they already know.  (The one genre in sports writing that seems to escape this problem is the live streaming match report, an emerging art.)

Reader, beware of the sense of mastery which comes at the cost of a sense of wonder.  Who can say why Gyan missed his penalty, or that "any player" would have done as [Suarez] did? Who can say why Iniesta can find his shot under so much pressure, how he can make that look like the easiest thing in the world? Why would we want to know these things, anyway? These qualities are unquantifiable, the events are inexplicable, and this is why they fascinate.

Much of the "hard" stories in sports, on the other hand, go unreported. What the hell is going on with the French FA? And Nigeria's Football Association? FIFA supervises football associations, but who supervises FIFA?  Why did AEG back out of the LA Sol? What can fans of women's football do to combat the media's indifference to our sport?

So, I am avoiding the bloody pointless predictions of the EPL's new season. And fake scandals about WAGS, and managerial ego.  Instead, I am going get back my writer's mojo by re-reading Soccer in Sun and Shadow for the umpteenth bizillionth time. And then I'll be back to explain why FIFA shouldn't have anything to do with women's football, the wonders of midnight pickup games in Los Angeles, and stuff like that.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

'Obama We Are Sorry' - possibly best World Cup memory from Ghana

Flashback: This video captures the euphoria in the streets of Ghana just after the Black Stars knocked the US out of the World Cup.

Great music in the background - the two most prominent are football-inspired: Richy Pitch's awesome "Football Jama", and Wanlov The Kubolor's "Goal Again". Thank you to photographer Rodney Quarcoo for filming and sharing this.  His website:

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Pied La Biche's reenactment of the 1982 World Cup semifinal between West Germany and France

Pied La Biche's Refait (2010) reconstructs the last fifteen of a 1982 World Cup semifinal between West Germany and France. The last fifteen minutes of that match were penalty kicks, the worst sort of tournament drama. (The Guardian gives a detailed survey of this historic match here.) For this work, the artists' collective repeats the movements and gestures of all the players, referees and staff - not on a field, but in ordinary urban spaces. The soundtrack cuts back and forth between a broadcast of the 1982 match, and guys talking about their memories of the game.

This is one of the most awesome works of football art I've ever seen - and it isn't Pied La Biche's only football-centered project.

The same collective organized and documented a tournament of three-sided football for the Lyon Biennial this past year.  In doing so, they realized a 1964 proposal for an anti-bourgeois and dialectal game, written by the Danish artist Asger Jorn. 

Thank you Amelia and Amanda for turning me on to these folks.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Accidents of Fate: Rättskiparen (The Referee)

Rättskiparen (The Referee) is short documentary about Martin Hansson, the referee who missed Thierry Henry's handball. A Swedish television program had already committed to this project before the infamous incident which kept Ireland from going to South Africa. The station's plan had been to track the country's top ranked referee in the months leading up to the 2010 World Cup - as fate would have it, the story of course got more complex with that one game. It's an incredible portrait - part of a wave of films looking at referees. This one has an unusually personal quality to it.

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