Saturday, August 15, 2009

A New Season

Denilson, keep on livin' the dream, baby. . .

Arsenal with a 6-1 demolition of Everton at Goodison Park. Wow.

Before today's kick-off, I'd decided to carry a new attitude into this season's football spectating. Influenced by many hours of off-season "research" (bottom-feeding web surfing after 1:00 a.m.), and this magnificent interview with "The Professor," I propose the following spectating manifesto:

1. Dare to dream and let the agony fall where it may. The fun in watching is in not knowing what's going to happen on any given day and giving in to that excitement. Turn the t.v. on early, get some snacks, put on the over-priced team gear, and yell at flickering images of people far, far away from you.

2. Denilson. I'm into you, now. My main issues with him last season were a) his lack of defensive aggression (craziness, intensity, desperation, bite), b) his non-imposing physical stature on a team that could use a bit of it here and there, and c) he didn't seem to offer too much going forward to make up for his lack of defensive splendor. In other words, he felt like a space-waster. Not necessarily negative, but not anything positive either. This excellent post from Untold Arsenal helped me get a clue, filling in some holes in my tactical understanding, and answering the "Why on earth, would Wenger play this guy?" question, that I knew had to have a clear answer. Of course, Denilson ends up scoring a beautiful goal to open the scoring today. Luckily, I had made a public declaration of my revised attitude to my family before kickoff. Sam will vouch for this. Julie didn't really care what I was on about at that moment (rightfully so, of course), so she may or may not.

3. Last year, I had a romantic belief in what Arsenal could do. I was fired-up by the youth movement, and thought, "Yeah, screw all those cranks. Prove them wrong. Win with kids." My optimism was remorselessly torn down by the reality of the season, but this summer, I found that optimism creeping back up again, with the added "ahh, but they're also a year-better!" Several have also pointed out that the season just wasn't even close to being "bad" as far as bad seasons go. This wasn't Newcastle or Tottenham. . . This ties into 4.

4. Arsenal has fucking good-ass, miraculous soccer players playing for the best manager in the world. A nice quote from a column in the Guardian via Arseblog,
". . . you want me to tear my hair out now, when I've got Fábregas and Arshavin in front of me; and Wilshere and Vela sitting in the wings?"
I've been having a blast playing parents vs kids soccer on Sundays with Sam and his buddies from the Ashland Soccer Club. The experience of actually playing the game again is always humbling (even against 9 year olds). When I came back from the game last week, I saw checked out the Emirates Cup Arsenal vs. Rangers highlights and had to pick my jaw off the floor. Those guys are unbelievable.

5. Arsene Wenger is the man. From the Daily News interview:

What is difficult for me is not that clubs have more money. We try to go a different way that, for me, is respectable. Briefly, these are the basics. I thought: ‘We are building a stadium, so I will get young players in early so I do not find myself exposed on the transfer market without the money to compete with the others. I build a team, and we compensate by creating a style of play, by creating a culture at the club because the boy comes in at 16 or 17 and when they go out they have a supplement of soul, of love for the club, because they have been educated together.

The people you meet at college from 16 to 20, often those are the relationships in life that keep going. That, I think, will give us strength that other clubs will not have.’ And, so far, we have flirted with success. Not last year because we were never in the race for the championship, but before and certainly in 2006 when we were in the Champions League final. The team looks to me to be growing and gelling and being close to it, but at the moment they do not get credit for what they produce and like every team who has not won they still doubt whether they can win.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Inada's Interviews with Professional Athletes, Coaches and Managers - Part I: Pitino

I've been taking a break from the daily summer grind of drawing and "creativity" to conduct a series of interviews with professional sports figures regarding the difficulties they experience off the field, away from the white-hot glare of the madding public. In this first conversation, Rick Pitino opens up about his recent explorations of sexual relationships outside of the church-sanctioned limitations of marriage and the imperfect ironic choices facing middle aged men in the public sphere. I found much to admire in his frank articulation of the poignant conflict between desire and responsibility. Here's Pitino, unedited and from the heart:

"I'd like to say I regret my sexual encounters, but in all honesty, how could I? They are so much the color and apex of my life's experience. And yet, I do feel regret at times for being so caught up in the maelstrom of a public life and the broad sweep of popular athletics. In contrast to the noisy pageantry of big-time college basketball, I've also experienced clear moments of understanding and peace spontaneously emerging from solitude and reflection. I long for more of those experiences, but of course, such moments are as transitory as any others, aren't they? So you may criticize my sexual explorations, but I would ask, if we're not living to better answer our deepest questions as fully as we can, what are we really doing with our short time on this earth? If I have any true regrets, they center around failing to live unconditionally in that un-graspable vivid vibration between past and future, all and nothing, heaven and hell. So, if you must judge me harshly in order to take some meager pleasure from your own untested fidelity to family, morals, and domestic bonds, don't forget to shed a tear and raise a glass to the distant memory of how the sun blazed brightly in your very soul when once you met the eyes and felt the secret touch of a beautiful stranger."

Sunday, August 2, 2009

slow magic returning

hot clouds in the summer sky