Friday, July 07, 2006

Stories I Didn't Read

In the weeks leading up to this year's World Cup, I imagined what narrative threads I'd follow throughout the tournament. Some of them were on the outlandish side, true, but others were well within the realm of possibility. So what would it be? I was hoping for African Soccer Dazzles on the World Stage--No More Condescending Journalistic Commentary Regarding Their National Squads. And T & T Trounces England. Speaking of England, how about this--Forty Years On, England Lifts the Cup Again At Last. Then there was Clockwork Orange Returns: Total Football is Back!, Nedved Leads Czech Squad to Victory, and Scientist Astounded: Ronaldinho Shown to Actually Defy Known Laws of Physics.

As the Cup got underway and I started to watch how some of the teams performed, I added Americas Shock: Mexico in the Final, Spain: Underachiever No More, and Argentina Takes it All. I even left space for Touching Unanticipated Tale of Scrappy Little Team I Haven't Paid Attention To, Say, Ecuador Or Something.

That's a pretty good number of stories, you know? I mean, I'd have thought one or two of them might have panned out, at least a little bit. When Argentina fell to the implacable-seeming German onslaught, I figured that was it for me and the stories. Not one of them had survived.

I never reckoned on The Rebirth of Zizou (and trailing not far behind, The Rise of Ribery).

Who saw this coming? Not me. In fact, following reports of dissent within the camp and France's lackluster first couple of games, I predicted another group stage exit for Les Bleus. But from the moment Zidane scored that stunner against Spain, a different narrative was being written, even if I didn't realize it yet.

In the eleventh hour, it's been the story that brought me back. You already know the shape of it, of any story that might come out of the World Cup, but familiar stories, if well-told, are no less compelling for their recognizable forms. This is the one about both a man and a squad whose glory was widely considered a thing of the past, about the ugly duckling (no jokes about Ribery, now) of a squad we saw struggling in Group G blossoming into a thing of beauty and grace that shocked both Spain and Brazil. (The Portugal match? Not so much with the grace and beauty, but sometimes to tell a good story you leave out or change the bits that shine a little less.) I would never have believed a week ago that I'd be this excited about Sunday's final. Of course, the end hasn't been written yet (and the Italians are writing one of their own, about the international team's triumph as Serie A football sees its darkest days). I can hardly wait to see how it all turns out. Allez Les Bleus!


Ghost Dog said...

What the heck was up with Zidane and that head-butt??

Lynda said...

Of all the bizarre moments of this World Cup, that was the most bizarre.

And most people seem to be unfairly villifying or defending Zidane, depending on which team they supported--when it seems to be the truth lies somewhere in the middle. On the one hand, the man's a professional--and part of that means not losing your shit in one of the most important games of your (and your team's career), no matter how much you're provoked. Hey, I managed never to head-butt anybody in my waitressing days and I bet anybody who's worked with the public has dealt with some lot lice at least as deserving as Materazzi may have been (depending on what he said). On the other hand, the whole faux-outrage of "How could they award the Golden Ball to this unrepentant thug?" is a pretty tired line already, too.