Cannibals & Soccer Balls

August 16, 2008

Man is a product of history, many histories in fact
tugging at the corners.
I am succumbing to a history at this very moment,*
while watching a live Olympic soccer game, between Brazil and Cameroon.
We Brazilians don’t watch our national team because we hope them to win,
we watch them because we expect them to play well -that is to say:
queremos ver um futbol bonito -to play beautifully.
We become indignant with am ugly, malaccomplished victory,
and such expectation is a product of our history,
our Pele history, our generation of World Cups,
when the soccer game crystallized into moments of authentic grace,
small ballets with a ball, transcending mere display:
the triumphant perfection of the act of football as an aesthetic act.
Our history is a heavy burden for a football team,
when Brazil lost the World Cup to France and three goals,
we defined such an ugly loss as a conspiracy of sorts,
the machinations of capitalists… our players were drugged!!!
You may find us arrogant for such an attitude,
but what about the nation that names its basketball team the “dream team”,
as if their men were beyond history,
as if they were some conjured product, some Hollywood fantasy.
Then again, America wouldn’t take a day off for a world cup match.
Proud and drunk as we are, we aspire to our own history.
Our absurd nationalism is backed up by our absurd playing style:
Our aim isn’t to defend ourselves from football,
from the joy of it, the pass, the dribble…
Our aim is our history and our history is one of cannibalism
-that is, of appropriation.
At its best, our style is a kind of jazz:
the joy of the instrument, the ecstasy of the moment, the authenticity of the player
-that is, at its best.
Football is a human sport
and with our history we tend to become complacent with ourselves,
with our own technique, with our niches in Europe.
Our football team has never won an Olympic gold medal
-five world cups but no gold medals.
It’s true, not all of our famous players are on the Olympic squad,
most are under twenty-three,
but we’ve never cared that much for gold medals,
never cared beyond complacency.
Come to think about it,
FIFA has a good stake in our history

-s
* – if I were a film, this statement would always be true

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Olympathy for Pretentious People

August 12, 2008

For the first time in my life, I am actually enjoying Olympic coverage. That’s because, for the first time, coverage isn’t limited to what Thomas Paine called the “tyranny of the tube”. NBCOlympics.com has been providing live streaming coverage of a multitude of sports, all at a click’s length. While the live coverage is only reinforcing my nocturnal lifestyle, the difference is unquestionable. For one, I don’t have to be force-fed taped Olympic coverage through the television stations focusing on America-centric competition. Besides, I don’t care less about Michael Phelps or track and field… even gymnastics have lost their luster. I want to watch handball, badminton, fencing… futbol. But the best part of the online coverage is how wonderfully bare-bones it is: there are no talking heads, no flashy graphics, no blocks of commercials (except for some offensively bad spots by GE), there’s not even any commentary. All you hear is the sound of the game, the mingling of languages, the swelling audience. Visually, the shots are surprisingly well composed, and the usual replays and close-ups render the sports as a naturalistic aesthetic experience (compared to the artificial grotesqueness of a Super Bowl).

Personally, I’m captivated by the details… by the Spanish pep-talk given by the Brazilian Handball coach, by the eyeliner on a female Hungarian Handball player, by the way an injured Japanese Judo fighter was carried away like a cradled baby, by a Korean fencer’s lime green nail polish, by the bloody hair of a Kiwi Field Hockey player and the star forward telling his goalie “it’s me and you” after a win, by the syncopation of whistles… I could go on. For an added effect, I like to play music along with the live footage, providing rich atmosphere and subtext whenever the rhythm of music complements the rhythm of athletics. Case in point: the tense last minute of the women’s individual foil gold medal match set to the drumscapes of Led Zeppelin’s “Moby Dick”, or the Brazilian soccer team’s final counterattack and goal accompanied by the Cadenza from the Adagio of Rodrigo’s “Concerto de Aranjuez”. At this exact moment, A women’s soccer match between North Korea and Germany is being illuminated by Charles Mingus. I’m cheering for North Korea, since their players are more likely to be sent to a labor camp for losing.