Or so says my latest True/Slant post.
This blog became something of a sporadic effort when I moved it from its original home to this humble (mostly hidden, I think) new address. At least a few of you kept the faith, though, for which I am hugely grateful. Now, patience please, as XIDevils undergoes yet another mutation: for at least the next three months, my soccer-blogger self will march under the flag of True/Slant, a new group-blog-type thingy best explained by this Wall Street Journal article. While the new blog won’t bear the hallowed Eleven Devils brand name, it will include the kind of incisive and occasionally accurate football punditry you’ve come to expect, along with other…stuff. We begin with some Champions League pondering and some Communism.
True/Slant’s model allows readers to engage in some social-networky-type stuff, so if anyone wants to make their “following” status known, please do.
Seems Inter’s players hit the town after an AC Milan defeat sealed the Scudetto—but before their match with Siena. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, seriously hung over, requested a second-half substition. Then… ”looked on in disbelief as [Jose] Mourinho responded by using all three of his substitutions on other players.”
Funny stuff, Jose.
I think Philadelphia’s forthcoming MLS club will be a smash hit. A great city—scruffy but civilized, battered but proud—has already spawned a terrific fanbase in the Sons of Ben. Now, they’ve unveiled a pretty cool club name, Philadelphia Union (though I sort of wished they’d gone for an 1860s baseball aesthetic and called themselves Union of Philadelphia), and an awesome badge. I personally think all American clubs should use Revolutionary iconography, but in Philly’s case, would anything else even be appropriate? This will be the best badge in the league…until the arrival of the mighty two-headed axe.
There is little to say about the bizarre and delightful result at Stanford Bridge—except that the Norwegian chaos god lives on.
I may have made the semi-random (in the usual American way) decision to support Liverpool, but I have a lot of Gooner friends, and even real affection for the club from North London. A lot of Yanks seem to like Arsenal, a tendency which I imagine involves all kinds of dark cultural DNA surrounding firearms and weaponry and National Rifle Association membership and subarticulate theories of rugged individualism. (”Fuck, dude, my Uncle Trev has a MASSIVE arsenal…I better support those guys.”) And, of course, when you’re a clueless Septic trying to “get into soccer,” the name Arsenal calls out to you amid the unfamiliar chaos of clubs. As you read through dauntingly long league tables crowded with the likes of Sheffield Someday, Witherwhence Athletic, Everton, West Sandwich Albion, Everywhere United, AFC No One Knows What the “A” Stands For and other ridiculously High-Church Anglican club names, “Arsenal” appeals with its simplicity. Then you read Fever Pitch and you’re pretty much done.
Which all goes to say that I found it utterly miserable to watch the black-mass priests of Manchester Bay lead the Arsenal Football Club about like a fatted calf purpose-bred to sate the Volcano God. The events at Emirates stand as an example of what gratuitous violence in the media can do to a society: perfectly nice little football teams, trained in the latest feats of Art by the finest French professors, get mauled on the way to the Underground station by well-honed organized crime units. This match may have been a deleted scene from that film Gomorrah, for all I know.
And that, I think, is the terrifying and impressive quality of Manchester United—the sense that they are not so much a collection of men as a unified and unbending Force, the true strength of which flows from unseen places. Sure, the guys at the stadium are human enough: Rooney, apt at any moment to kill a bystander for sport; Ronaldo, who must think it highly amusing to hear Franck Ribery bandied about as an adequate replacement; Ferguson, whose little celebratory jigs are very unbecoming, if you ask me. And sometimes those guys at the stadium even lose. But in the end, they’re just the muscle. They may falter and provide you a brief glimmer of hope. The Organization will always come for you—with a teenage Italian you never heard tell of, or a mysteriously sturdy Korean, or Paul Scholes.
The Organization will always come for you. The Organization always wins.
Joey Barton? Blackburn Rovers? Good Lord, why did no one think of that before?
Two fine, revealing posts at two of my favorite football blogs:
Vanda Wilcox (AKA Spangly Princess) reports that her fellow AS Roma supporters are so out-of-joint about that club’s dismal season that the leading ultras groups boycotted a home match and played a five-a-side tournament outside the stadium instead. This, after a tense meeting between these same ultras and Roma’s leading players and long, entangled speculation about the debt-ridden club’s possible sale to George Soros, some socialite Germans with strong National Socialist connections, or parties unknown. (Vanda, who has clearly absorbed Italian football culture’s total strangeness, says she’d prefer the Germans to Soros because they come from a country with a “football culture.” Soros, born in Budapest, might say: Che?)
I don’t know whether my reaction to this is more “That’s the spirit, boys!” or “Man, things are really fucking weird in Italy.” I think some combination of the two, yes?
Second, YOU MUST IMMEDIATELY READ Brian Phillips’ staggering post on the aesthetics, politics and mythopoetics of FC Barcelona. Written in the wake of Barca’s 0 : 0 home draw against the Brutalists of Chelsea, this piece resonates even more strongly after the Blaugrana’s mesmerizing 2 : 6 destruction of Madrid over the weekend. I would cheerfully admit that discovering Run of Play just about put Eleven Devils out of business, because I just can’t compete with the craft and firepower Brian deploys over there. This post is a good demonstration thereof…and makes more sense than RoP’s blanket coverage of Brian’s computer fantasy team, which I frankly just don’t understand.
Manchester United does, indeed, evoke a sort of implacable and swift-moving disease. When the Red Devils pour forward, the sound in the mind recalls the ripping-flesh roar of an Imperial fighter in Star Wars. Whereas Arsenal attacks in hope of composing a pleasant little minuet, Manchester United goes at a team with fury and rage and lethal intent. They are a bold and dreadful sight to behold, like a Roman legion stripped for battle against a ragtag band of barbarians.
As everyone is saying, United should have tallied something more like 3 : 0 today. Not to put too fine a point on it or wax excessively crude, but Arsenal sucked. This limp little performance reflects very badly on Arsene Wenger, I think. In recent years, the case for Wenger has come perilously close, to paraphrase our President, to faith in things unseen. His manifest actions all seem to serve some Inscrutable Plan, which, if I were an Arsenal supporter, I would want to see become much more Scrutable very soon. “Well, it’s all very good, if you’re the likes of Chelsea and Manchester United, to win trophies and so forth…but WE, on the other hand, are INVESTING FOR THE FUTURE, you see…” A nice idea: I’m sure that 2014 quadruple will be one for the ages. In the meantime, when your substitutes in a crucial Champions League match consist of Eduardo and Nikolas Bendtner, who are you fucking kidding?