May 18, 2010
One of the fringe benefits of following a football team is the way it enables the charting of life, anchoring unrelated but parallel experiences in time and place. But to every up there's a down; when things go badly, definitive connotations are unavoidably forced upon feelings that deserve to stand alone, happy times contaminated with disappointment.
So it is that my girlfriend's 30th birthday celebrations will be forever entwined with ceding the title, though if you will get yourself born in the second week of May and then succumb to a Unitedaholic, you've only yourself to blame. And spare a thought too for poor Greenwich Village, no longer just a trigger for simple associations of Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix and some good nights out, but now inextricably linked to the same unfortunate event.
At least the time difference meant that it was all over and done with by lunchtime, meaning less time to wait in grim expectation – though only in the US could live sport be shown on delay, so as to squeeze in a few more commercials - and more time to dull the pain with celebratory refreshments.
May 8, 2010
When Nabokov said “caress the detail, the divine detail”, he may have been advising other writers, but at the same time he was making a transferable point. Both pleasure and distress are characterised not via general and unspecific feelings, but by precise aspects that explain to us why we feel as we do.
Thus on the way to Sunderland, what was winding me up wasn’t the prospect of United no longer being champions, but the way Steven Gerrard’s errant backpass had suddenly woven itself into both Liverpool and Chelsea’s history, a quirk of circumstance giving colour and uniqueness to something I was desperate be nondescript.
So before the game, excitement at seeing United play was for once as much reliant on the cognitive as the instinctive. It wasn’t that anyone expected anything more from Liverpool - not because they’re untrustworthy, although they are, but because they’re rubbish. And not rubbish like a scrunched up piece of paper is rubbish, but in the way of a sewer full of festering flesh, food and effluence. United deserve shames and hand-wagglings galore for losing to such an inept bunch of malcoordinated nonentities.
May 1, 2010
Whether it's King Lear, Jules Winfield or Reginald Cousins, the storytelling canon is replete with parables of redemption, however improbable. And there are few more so than the tale of Luis Carlos Almeida da Cunha – or da complete Cunha, as he used to be known.
Given his full name, Nani may sound like a character dreamed up by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, but though a whole lot less sympathetic, he's experienced fluctuations in fortune just like Buendia and co. Now, though his face remains as eminently slappable as ever it was, things are going his way to the extent that a virtue can even be made out of the attitude that is so vexing, the beauty of his arrogance a total absence of nerves.
In much the same way there was never any doubt he'd score his penalty in Moscow, through on Gomes last Saturday - or Goams as my Cambridge-educated girlfriend called him - the outcome was equally sure. If the mind has no sense of its own fallibility, then it need never feel apprehension, at least until replaced by the kind of self-aware insouciance that wound up hindering Ronaldo's performances.