Listen Here, Cristiano: Sir Alex Ferguson’s Email to a Madrid Star in Crisis

March 28, 2015

“Listen here, lad, Don’t think for a tinker’s red second that I don’t know exactly how you feel, finding an email from me. I know, Cristiano. If there’s one thing they could say about me, it’s that I always knew what my boys were feeling — better than they did, most times, not that it took a chess master to out-think Gary Pallister. And yes, son, you’re still one of my boys. Now and always. Not a transfer fee on earth’ll win you a move from that club. So quit grimacing at your screen like a Kirkcaldy bricklayer with his first taste of chicken vindaloo. Sit down and pay attention. Bloody laptop’s probably got rhinestones on it.” Grantland – Brian Phillips

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The Men Behind the Curtain: Inside FIFA’s Sinister (and Pretty Entertaining!) Presidential Race

February 15, 2015

“Let’s be clear up front: Sepp Blatter is never going to lose a FIFA presidential election. Never. He’s not going to lose the one in May. He’s not going to lose in 2019, if he decides to run — which looks unlikely, but then, we said the same thing four years ago, back when he, you know, promised never to run again if he was reelected. He’s running again, and he’s going to win again, too. If he wants to rule FIFA forever, it’s hard to imagine what could stop him. Get ready for the debate about whom the moon of Ganymede bribed to host the 2480 World Cup.” Grantland – Brian Phillips


Blurred Icon: Steven Gerrard’s Contradictory Greatness

February 8, 2015

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“I’m thinking about the connection between a fan and an athlete — I mean the essential one, the basic identification, the feeling that the person in the red shirt is representing me out there. That some important part of me is wrapped up in another person’s ability to hit a jump shot, score a free kick, return a serve, make a tackle. It’s one of the simplest forces in sports; also surely one of the strangest, because why should I care whether you can catch a ball or not? Why should that have the power to make me happy or cause me pain? And yet I not only care whether you can, I feel involved when you do, as though my wanting you to do it somehow made you do it — as though desire made you my avatar.” Grantland – Brian Phillips


Football Manager 2009 – Brian Phillips

January 22, 2015

“Pro Vercelli: The End, Or Is It. A new version of Football Manager is released today, which makes this, in my house at least, a time of hushed reflection. The old era is passing away, the new era is rising up before us. Everything we knew and loved is sliding into the sea, while before us, like a mountainous country, is thrust a terrifying and exhilarating possibility. Just like every day, really, but the arrival of a new FM makes it that much clearer. Here is the past, there is the future. Eurogamer gave it a 9, but wished more had been done to fix the press conferences. …” Run Of Play – Brian Phillips


The Ball Is the End: Assessing Lionel Messi’s Career on the 10th Anniversary of His Debut for Barcelona

October 8, 2014

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“Lionel Messi played in his first competitive match for FC Barcelona 10 years ago this month, on October 16, 2004. He was already famous, of course, among the hardest-core coterie of Barça fanciers, the types who write forum posts about training-academy gossip; to the rest of the world, his eight scoreless minutes at the end of Barcelona’s 1-0 win over Espanyol didn’t do much to make him a household name. Still, if you watch the video now, it’s pretty clear, even allowing for the benefit of hindsight, that at 17 Messi was a frightening talent. He’s not ready yet, not quite, but he already has that strange quality of slant directness, that mysteriously straightforward elusiveness, that would later make him seem magical, insoluble.” Grantland


Man vs. Machine

July 11, 2014

This can’t be happening. At around the moment when Toni Kroos fired Philipp Lahm’s cross past the diving Júlio César for Germany’s third goal against Brazil, that thought started blinking in my brain like the red light at the top of a radio tower. This can’t be real. Only a minute earlier, Miroslav Klose had made it 2-0, breaking Ronaldo’s all-time World Cup goal-scoring record in the process; two minutes later, Kroos swiped the ball from Fernandinho, played a 1-2 pass with Sami Khedira to slip past Dante in the area, and scored again. 4-0 in the 26th minute. This isn’t possible. Three minutes after that, Khedira got the ball from Mesut Özil and knocked it home from inside the edge of the area. 5-0. I’m imagining this. The Germans had scored four goals in six minutes against the most celebrated nation in soccer history, a team that hadn’t lost a competitive match on home soil since 1975. I’m asleep. After almost four weeks of obliterating expectations, the World Cup finally produced a match that obliterated belief.” Grantland – Brian Phillips


World Cup Pass & Move: Weekend Warriors

July 7, 2014

“This past weekend saw quite a few footballing fireworks in Brazil. There were brilliant tactical decisions, gravely important injuries, near upsets, penalty shootouts, and Mothra landed on James Rodríguez’s arm. As a way of looking back on the quarterfinals matches, six Grantland writers — Chris Ryan, Brian Phillips, netw3rk, Mike L. Goodman, Graham Parker, and Ryan O’Hanlon wrote about six characters from the weekend action.” Grantland