I was, quite possibly thinking of calling this post Confessions Of A Man Insane Enough To Live With Beasts, but that title was already taken. I suppose most titles are already taken, or have been, at some point in time. Grand Prince of Monaco. Taken. He handed the trophy to Mark Webber this morning. The Shallow Men? Taken. Clowntime Is Over? Taken, both by me AND Elvis Costello. So, in the end, I called this whatever I called it. Most likely stolen from somewhere or something in the poetic universe. And most likely I won’t live up to it’s semiotic potential that always rides with me as I careen from here to there to somewhere.
I should be writing a poem about writing this. That would make fascinating sports journalism. Also, I should be writing this in some obscure and secret place, a little known state or county park by a river, at an intersection where the secret make-believe world overlaps with the anthropology and archaeology of the past. There, sitting on a boulder, while the quiet suns ripples like knifeblades on the water below, I begin to write. And if not poetry, then a essay somewhat like this. There I am, but as invisible to you as the elves are invisible to you.
What gives me the most pause is that I’m leaving myself out on a limb. The soul of man, the soul of the poet, the soul of a sportsman or athlete…well that seems to carry more portent than I might be willing to live up to to. Able, I have no doubt about that…willing, well…that depends I guess on my soul. I suppose, however, since I called the shot, I’m duty bound to go through with it. I’m quite sure that when we finally reach the checkered flag, we’ll all be rather disappointed. But in sport, someone is ALWAYS left disappointed at the end. Might as well be us.
Chelsea 1 Portsmouth 0
The weekend started with the Super Bowl of English Football. The FA Cup. Other than winning the Premier League, THIS is the glory all the teams strive for. All the football teams in England, including the small town local teams that you and I would be playing for if we weren’t so old and fat. Only the top team actually make it. Rarely does an underdog sneak in from League 1 or the Coca Cola Championship league and topple a Premier League team in the final. But it happens….most recently, West Ham United ((not, as now, a Premier League club)) toppled Arsenal 1-0 in 1980. 4 years prior, Southampton rose up and struck down Manchester United 1-0. And in 1973, Sunderland smacked defending FA Cup Champions Leeds United in the mouth 1-0. So yes…everyone once in a while it happens. Every team in England has a chance to show their soul, and sometimes they do. But most often, having a soul doesn’t mean much of a shit, except for the fact that you have one.
Which brings me, I guess, to the coach of the hapless crew that Chelsea beat on Saturday. Avram Grant of Portsmouth. It doesn’t surprise me that he slipped under the radar for Manager of The Year, which was won by Roy Hodgson of Fulham. After all, Grant was called in mid-season amidst all the financial turmoil that was sending Portsmouth down the drain like a turd in a toilet. Players were bailing out. There were several weeks when the team couldn’t or wasn’t making payroll. Pompey was already on their third owner of the season when Grant was called in. And then the team went belly up and went under administration by the Premier League. For the American audience, this is similar to what happened when Major League Baseball took over the Montreal Expos and eventually moved them to Washington DC via San Juan Puerto Rico.
So the simple fact that Avram Grant was able to rally the lads and actually get them to the FA Cup final with Chelsea is nothing short of miraculous. The man might not the best coach/boss in football, but he’s got soul. And that’s what matters. Avram Grant, on Saturday, rallied Pompey and got the best he could out of them….he did MORE with his lads than Carlo Ancelotti did with his. Admittedly, Avram Grant did not have much of a team….even without going into administration, they would have been relegated to the Championship League next season. But he did more than well with what little he had. I really have to admire him.
He gave his old team all he could, and almost gave as much or more than they could handle. Much will be said, and has been said, about how this could go down as The Woodwork Game….in the opening half, Chelsea had 5 sure goals clank off one post or another, including an improbable miss by Florent Malouda from, what, 4 yards away with an empty net in front of him? 5 WTF misses. Chelsea should have been up 5-0 or more at halftime. It took Didier Drogba’s penalty kick at the 59 minute mark to give Chelsea their first goal. And even THAT one hit the woodwork before going in. Now admittedly, I think my Blues were a little bit too amped up after their Premier League Championship victory…..if they’d settled down a bit, the match would have been a blow-out. Yes, as a Chelsea Blues fan I would have loved to see a 7-0 win, but, looking back on it, I’m glad it ended the way it did. Avram Grant has soul, and I think his soul, and not horrid condition of the pitch at Wembley had more to do with the final result.
Chelsea was Avram’s old team. He’s the man that had the hell-bound task of following in Jose Mourinho’s footsteps at Chelsea. Mourinho guided Chelsea to two consecutive Premier League titles in 2005 and 2006, and when Mourinho left for Inter Milan in 2007-2008, Grant stepped off a cliff into a vale of ridiculous expectations. Think of Ray Rhodes and Mike Sherman following Mike Holmgren. Or Phil Bengston and Dan Devine in Lombardi’s wake. That sort of ridiculous. Only Avram Grant had and has more soul than Rhodes and Sherman had put together. And most likely more than Bengston and Devine as well. A lot of the great success that Chelsea has today is the result of sharp decisions Avram Grant made during his time as coach. He NEVER lost a match at Stamford Bridge while he was coach. Amazing. Then after being (some say unfairly) boosted from Chelsea, he winds up at the foot of the ladder in Portsmouth. And he has the soul to guide his lads to the FA Championship. There’s a smile at the foot of the ladder for Avram Grant. The man has got soul. He absolutely has to.
Well, the races have been run, and from a sidelong and possibly wistful glance at the outcomes, I can’t say for sure if anything in motorsports this weekend involved any sort of soul. But since I’ve NEVER allowed the facts to get in the way of the truth, maybe some soul can be found. And if mine is found somewhere, well…THAT would be nothing short of a miracle.
I honestly can’t think of a single thing that involves any more soul than was involved (allegedly) during the previous xxx weeks of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Kyle Busch tamed Miles the Monster today and took his usual bow to a castrato chorus of boos. Busch actually accomplished today what no man has done at Dover…he did The Double, winning the Nationwide race on Saturday, and the Autism Speaks 400 today. Now I’m not going to say that Kyle Busch has got soul….at least not in the sense that I mean when I say someone has got soul. After all, that dialectic designates a sense of pained and troubled artistry…and Kyle Busch’s artistry at the sport of NASCAR is generally neither pained nor troubled. Soul SHOULD be at the top of the charts, at the top of the table, and leading the points by a wide margin. But most often, 97% often, it’s not. Soul is buried deep and discovered only by persistence and where one least expects it. And in today’s Autism Speaks 400 at Dover, I can’t quite find anything that wails out soul like a psychedelic siren. Big focking deal that David Reutimann finished 5th. Soul, today would have been Robbie Gordon or Joe Nemechek winning the race. And that wasn’t about to happen.
So nothing too soulful happened. But that was okay. It was good race and vastly entertaining on several psychological, logistical, and semiotic levels. I don’t want y’all to feel guilty or inadequate if you don’t have, or aren’t showing soul at any given and particular moment. It’s alright. There is plenty of time. The lights will at some point, momentarily shine bright, and if they don’t and there’s isn’t, well…then that’s alright too. Soul is what you need to show the world when things are sad, mean and terrible ((as opposed fairly semi-normal which is the way things mostly are)). So fock it all.
Anyway, I mentioned The Double. Well….Chelsea won the Double yesterday. They are only the 7th team to accomplish that feat in English Football dating back to 1889 when Preston North End became the first team to accomplish that feat…winning the Premier League and the FA Cup. Aston Villa next accomplished that, in 1897. But…no one won the double again until 1961, when Tottenham Hotspur took both trophies home to White Hart Lane. Since 1961, Liverpool has won it once. Arsenal and Manchester United have won it three times. And as mentioned, Chelsea brought the double home to Stamford Bridge yesterday (as I write this).
The Gran Focking Prix of Monaco was this morning and I was glued to my recliner in my pajamas with a cup of coffee while the two pissholes in the snow that count for eyes caught pretty much every moment from the time I turned on the TV until Mark Webber took the checkers under caution ((no Green-White-Checkers finish for those F1 Schnootzies)). It was those focking Red Bull Renaults again. I’m beginning to wonder if Chad Knaus has cloned himself so he can extend his evil mechanations to the heretofore sacred world of Formula 1. Webber became the first Australian to win at Monaco since Sir Jack Brabham won there in glorious 1959.
Now just as there are psuedo-rumblings of turmoil in the Hendrick Motorsports camp between That Homo Jeff Gordon and his Uni-Browed Butt-Buddy Jimmie Johnson, Mark Webber’s back to back wins have sparked a few rumours of jealousy and acrimony in the Red Bull Renault camp. The intrepid young lad, Sebastian Vettel was to be the leader on Red Bull Renault, but his senpai, Mark Webber has been leading the charge on the track. I’m hoping it’s just Euro-trash gossip…after all, Sebastian is a bit too young to play the Jeff Gordon card just yet. Although he not Webber is supposed to be the senpai in this deal. Vettel and Webber both have to win something, and not just the Constructors Championship, which I do believe they will win by a focking kilometre or three…make that a thousand focking kilometres….or about 580 miles for those of you who don’t know what an Orangina is and what to do with it. One of those two boys WILL win the whole deal this year. They’ll HAVE to. Show Me Your Soul, Sebastian….SHOW ME YOUR SOUL!!!
The Gran Prix of Monaco has always been my favourite F1 race of all time. I grew up watching this race every year. But this year, something was a bit odd. They have it on the schedule 2 weeks earlier than normal. Usually the Gran Prix of Monaco is the same Memorial Day weekend as the Indy 500 and the Coca Cola 600. But, this year, it’s the Turkish Gran Prix that will start my race day triple. And where, I ask, is the soul in THAT??!! Nothing against Turkey, mind you. But…just as the Southern 500 should be raced at Darlington on Labor Day, so should the Gran Prix of Monaco be raced on Memorial Day weekend. Surely Monaco and Turkey could have worked that out in an affable and cordial manner (or manor), and so?
Okay..so fuck it all about soul, etc, incorporated registered trademark. I hereby declare that Matt Kenseth has/had soul by finishing 3rd in today’s Autism Speaks 400 at Dover. So fock all the learned linguistic scholars and their idiomatic idiosyncratic dictionaries. Drive on, gentle wanderer, on the silent wings of freedom.
But I’m warning you now. If your soul gets stolen, it’s probably because someone else doesn’t have one. So watch out when you lift up someone’s skirt, or open the Bible to a random verse, or bend over to tie your favourite shoe. Even if your soul isn’t worth the shit from the anus of a poisonous spider, beware the snap of the wheel from the axle or the crack of a mighty suspension cable whipping through the left nostril of your brain.
Hell. I don’t know what soul means anymore at THIS moment in the world of sports. Or maybe my soul is too lacking or to lazy to discover ALL the magical, mystical, and essential soul moments in sports, in life, in culture that blossomed this brave and terrible day like brilliant and angry suns. There and here I am now. Caught in a web of my own divining as my own ugly filthy spider climbs that fragile glistening web to devour me.
I suppose I could look at some scoreboard and come up with MORE great examples of bravery and soul in sport today. But as I alluded to to you earlier, we’re both going to be, most likely disappointed when we finally take the checkered flag.
My only hope, and it’s a slim and fragile one, is that YOU will be a bit less disappointed than me, when the checkered flag is finally dropped and the Prince of Monaco hands us the trophy and the champagne is drunk, and the burnouts hang in the air, well, like the burnt rubber that they are. And that will be…right about….NOW.