Stop Making Sense

July 5, 2014

“Should we talk about where we’ve just been? The group stage was one coup after another, a sequence of thrilling games that gradually dismantled the existing order of international soccer. The last two world champions died in their baths. Italy, never expected to be a real threat, went down screaming about tooth marks, collateral damage in the Luis Suárez carnival of shame. Spain, the team that spent six years enforcing stability at the top of the sport, went out almost before the tournament had even started, like the first corpse in a murder mystery: Robin van Persie, with the forehead, in the invisible wind tunnel.” Grantland – Brian Phillips

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Train in Vain

June 20, 2014

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“The trains run every half-hour up the green slope of Corcovado, the Hunchback, through a forest whose branches scrape against the windows of the cars. They climb a mountainside where howler monkeys live, and also ocelots, and birds the color of imaginary jewels. Twenty minutes after setting out from the leafy station on the Rua Cosme Velho, they deposit tourists at the base of a long escalator, which rises to the feet of Christ the Redeemer, Cristo Redentor, the white colossus whose open arms embrace the crescent sliver of Rio de Janeiro more than 2,000 feet below. From the peak you can stand and look down on the marvelous city, a cidade maravilhosa, Rio, a bright thread curling between the mountains and the sea.” Grantland – Brian Phillips


Diamonds in the Rough

June 10, 2014

“The human body is 18 percent carbon, which means that if you subject it to high enough pressures at high enough temperatures and hold it there for a long enough time, it will form diamonds. You can try this yourself, in a laboratory. All it takes is, say, a pound of human ash, more than 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit, and 60,000 times the standard atmospheric pressure of Earth at sea level. Extract carbon, bake, compress. Check back in a few weeks. Not a DIYer? No problem. Just FedEx your burial urn to one of the many Internet-facing memorial-diamond companies that have sprung up in the last few years. For between $2,500 and $25,000, outfits like Chicago’s LifeGem and Switzerland’s Algordanza will take the cremated remains of your loved ones and return them, presto chango, in the form of wearable jewelry.” Grantland – Brian Phillips


Fear the Underdog?

May 17, 2014

“Atlético Madrid is the third-most successful club in the history of Spanish soccer, which is a little like being the third-most famous khan in the history of the Mongol horde. Good job by you, but you’re never going to stop hearing about Genghis and Kublai. Atleti has won nine titles in La Liga, Spain’s top division, which is great, except that Real Madrid and FC Barcelona have combined for 54. And when you start running the math on that, and realize there have only ever been 82 champions crowned in La Liga, and add in that Madrid and Barcelona have collectively finished second an additional 45 times (versus eight for Atlético), and further consider that Atleti isn’t even the biggest team in its own hometown (that would be Real) — well, you get a clear picture of a tough little club that’s been overshadowed by its planet-conquering, culture-altering rivals.” Grantland – Brian Phillips


The FC Barcelona Doom Metric

April 28, 2014

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“Earlier this week, during a raid in the port city of Alicante, Spanish police confiscated a batch of hallucinogenic chocolates that had been molded into the shape of the FC Barcelona crest. The chocolates, which were allegedly laced with marijuana and mushrooms, had been disguised as soccer-themed candies by the only person arrested in the operation, a master confectioner nicknamed ‘Willy Wonka.’ The incident gave rise to a whole host of significant questions. For instance: Isn’t ‘Willy Wonka’ pretty much the only possible nickname for any master confectioner freelancing in black-market drug work? Was there even a fallback option for this guy? Is ‘master confectioner baking controlled substances into candy products’ the topic heading of basically the shallowest nickname pool known to humanity? Is the phrase ‘my candy guy, Willy Wonka’ inevitably followed by a bemused chorus of ‘which one?’ at drug-kingpin summits? How does the fraternal organization of master confectioners keep its narcotics mailers straight?” Grantland – Brian Phillips


Baby Turtles on Fire

April 11, 2014

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“It was a goal, one of many. Vincent Kompany took the ball out of the center circle. Jesus Navas was loitering ahead on the right wing, totally unmarked. No man is an island, John Donne says, but Donne never saw Navas play against Southampton. Kompany rolled the ball up to his Spanish teammate, not with any real urgency — their Manchester City side was already up 3-1 at home, with 10 minutes left in the match — but just, you felt, to get his winger re-involved with mankind. Navas ran onto the pass and flicked a casual cross into the area. The ball did that juddering scythe thing it does sometimes, skipping ahead of three defenders by a few inches each. Southampton’s goalkeeper, Paulo Gazzaniga, tried to fall on it and failed. So it dropped at the feet of City’s Stevan Jovetic, who dinged it into the empty net. 4-1. From the center circle to the goal, the ball was touched three times. Ask not for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for midtable Premier League defenses.” Grantland – Brian Phillips (Video)


Sticks and Stones

February 23, 2014

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“Jose Mourinho knows how to lie in a way that sounds deeper than the truth. Of his many usefully unscrupulous talents, this is one of the most useful and least scrupulous. He says things that he knows are untrue, and that you know are untrue, and that he knows you know are untrue, but that somehow or other just stick. In 2005, during his first run as the manager of Chelsea, he called Arsene Wenger a ‘voyeur’ when the Arsenal boss publicly questioned Mourinho’s transfer policy. It wasn’t fair, but neither is poetry. The jibe captured something weird and curdled in the impression the hawk-eyed Wenger makes; they were still talking about it in England eight years later. No one actually believes Wenger spends his free hours gazing into the rear courtyard, but that’s not the point. The goal of Mourinho’s lies isn’t to persuade you to believe anything. It’s to hit you at a level below belief, to shock your sense of reality into thinking it agrees with his.” Grantland – Brian Phillips