This is Just to Say: In Which the Author Eats Plums Both Juicy and Cold
|←Game Preview: In Which The Authors predict a miracle||This is Just to Say: In Which the Author Eats Plums Both Juicy and Cold (2008)
|The Neutral Supporter: In Which the Author Gives the Alley for the Reader's Oop→|
|January 31, 2008|
Despite claims to the contrary by Sporting Hour co-hosts and all-around jerks Eamon ffitch and Joel Strong, anxiety is not a problem for Carson Cistulli. Need proof? Well, first of all, consider that it's been months since I've suspected myself of having contracted any of the world's more exotic and fatal illnesses. Second, I've recently curbed my nervous habit of putting my finger into other people's pies, which is a real big step for me. And, finally, pretty soon, if things continue to go well, I won't have to wear the lobster bib to therapy anymore. Huzzah, indeed.
Still, despite being the picture of mental serenity—ataraxia, at the Club—I seem to do nothing but fret over my new project, The Neutral Supporter, both in its print and radio incarnations.
At root, The Neutral Supporter is designed for those who, like me and like Eamon and like many Americans, have no strict allegiance to any of the world's football clubs. Sure, we've all had the experience of waking up in Glasgow, Scotland naked but for an Aiden McGeady jersey—and have, because of this experience, followed Celtic with something more than a passing interest—but it's not enough to compel someone—not this author, at least—to wander around outside Ibrox distributing to Rangers supporters pamphlets that praise the relative merits of Catholicism.
Re-stated, The Neutral Supporter is designed for the Enthusiast who, in the absence of any rooting interest proper, has earned the right to be nothing other than, as the esteemed Galeano calls it, “a beggar for good football.” He's not a football tourist, per se, as that evokes images only of fanny packs and motion sickness medicines. No, he's more like Odysseus after the War, stopping in the places that interest him, and stopping for longer in the places that interest him very much, only with some vague notion that he's homeward bound. And also he has a thick beard. In Episode 14 of the Hour (entitled “Hickory Dickory Dax Crum” by our resident Übermensch, whatever that means), I was just able—before the DJ immediately following began to play something that sounded vaguely like a truck backing up—I was just able to enumerate the four qualities which I feel are central to a neutral supporter's viewing pleasure, they being, as follows:
1. Potential for Individual Brilliance—that is, a player or players who can set the night on fire with their creativity. Examples: Cristiano Ronaldo, Leo Messi.
2. Controlled/Attacking Play—which is to say a team that attempts to score goals and also seems to have some idea of how this will happen. Anti-Examples: Kick-and-Rush football, Catenaccio.
3. Pretense of Victory—meaning the team/player mustn't concern him-/themselves merely with spectacle, but must also play to win. Anti-Example: Denilson is typically charged with this.
4. Potential of Ownership—because some teams—your Real Madrids, your Manchester Uniteds, your Juventi (plural!)—are so well-known and wealthy that rooting for them can feel a little bit like rooting for Bill Gates to get richer.
To which list I will now add another criterion, which I will describe merely as: 5. A Certain Je Ne Sais Quis—because, honestly, I don't know what.
The source of my anxiety—like all sources of anxiety, I'll state confidently for no reason whatsoever—is somewhat nebulous. Mostly, it's the knowledge that my unutterable sloth will forever prevent The Neutral Supporter from realizing its potential. Still, if pressed, I might admit that I am slightly unsure as to what form the Neutral ought to take. Part of this is due, I think, to the fact that watching a match is very much an end in itself. One watches in anticipation of experiencing some or all of the pleasures listed above. I, a humble wordsmith and even humbler radio presenter, am unable to compete with these sorts of joys. Perhaps, of course, a very good match report can help one to savor the joys of the match just having been watched, but nothing is able to describe what, for example, Maurito of Angola did recently versus Senegal (which, if you haven't seen it, you should). As soon as I attempt to describe it, I kill it. For, at their heart, these moments possess that ineffable quality of religious experience. Furthermore, Eamon ffitch's Action Recaps and Joel Strong's Americas have created an intimidating precedent and have further contributed to my not insubstantial handwringing over this subject.
Which is why, after some very serious introspection—that and more than a few fingers of some great sambuca we keep on hand at the Club—which is why I've realized that The Neutral Supporter need be nothing other than a sort of weekly bulletin (a community service, really) alerting our listeners/readers to those matches in the approaching days which are most rife with potential for those qualities I've listed above. More than a look at “what's on TV,” The Neutral Supporter will be the product of the many, many, (embarrassingly) many hours I spend on Ye Olde Internet watching highlights of matches new and old, always with a view to uncovering one little diamond from substantial amounts of rough. You, reader, will be able to trust that my viewing suggestions are well-researched and will provide you with joy everlasting—or, at the very least, joy lasting-longer-than-theaverage-network-television-commercial. Amen.