Does anybody here care much about football, AKA "soccer"? Well, maybe not. But how about vivid, unexpected, funny, and even elegant writing? As someone who cares about both, I have become a really big fan of Brian Phillips's blog The Run of Play. I have no idea who Phillips is or where he lives or anything, but I can't wait to read whatever he writes about the Beautiful But Also Kinda Weird Game. Here’s his description, taken from a recent interview, of what he’s trying to do on his blog:
At some point last fall I started thinking about how strange it is that we want sports to be played with style and flair, but we're content to read sports coverage that's overwhelmingly predictable and dull. This is especially true, at both extremes, of soccer: we like teams to play with originality and joy and show us amazing things, and then we follow them through sports pages that are full of cliches, demagoguery, and lies. I started wondering what sportswriting would look like if it were carried out in the spirit that we want players to bring to the game: what would a soccer article in the style of Garrincha look like? And I thought of a blog that would cover the game in a way that was more sharp and playful than what I was used to reading, that would be free to be as absurd, dramatic, or critical as I wanted, that would toy with material, that would try new things.
The best thing Brian does is his Tuesday Portrait, a character sketch of some important or interesting or bizarre character from the world of football. These are usually players, but an especially memorable one featured ESPN’s commentator Andy Gray:
Andy Gray talks about football as though he created it thousands of years ago, but then somehow became disconnected from it and is now powerless to shape its destiny. He still cares deeply about his creation, you sense, and he regards it with a hugely affectionate, easily frustrated curiosity, but it's spiralled out of control and no longer reveals any sign of a benevolent governing presence. His love for it becomes poignant when, as often happens, he watches it betray his intentions in a way he's helpless to prevent. Just as often, however, it does something to fill him with pride, and for the millionth time he longs to pierce the veil and commune with it directly again.
I mean, come on. That’s just ridiculously good.