Saturday, July 3, 2010

International Levitations & Optical Illusions: Assorted Thoughts on Watching Germany Beat England & Argentina


It’s all so gorgeously disorienting. Pleasure comes from the most unexpected sources. Every team is pulling a fast one on us, or really, they’ve been there under our noses the whole time as we allowed ourselves to keep watching ghost versions of them, reflections of who we wanted them to be. I pride myself on not falling prey to stereotypes of national identify, and yet I’ve been as exposed as anyone for holding nonsensical notions. Right now, we can’t trust our eyes.  Or actually we can only trust our eyes, and nothing else. 
After watching Germany’s last couple of games I have no idea what is real and what I’m creating out of some sort of heady liberation from my preconceived notions and my senses. All I know is we might only have another 90 minutes to watch it happen. So we need to keep our eyes peeled. They’re moving fast; they’ll dummy us all if we’re not careful. As for me, it’s clear I can’t trust myself. I am under various spells and being acted on by various forces. The first opiate: bandwagon fumes.  I’ve always been susceptible, it's the curse of the contrarian. So driven by my own resistance to what is popular that the harder I fight the harder I fall. The spring from my own resistance has a momentum of its own. Perspective is lost. 

For example: sometimes I am convinced Mesut Ozil is standing still on the pitch. In the middle of play. As Stuart Pearce so adequately points out: “he takes up intelligent positions.” Not he finds space, gets into space, uses space well; with Ozil it’s all about where he seems to wind up. But the thing is-sometimes I don’t see him getting into those spaces. He’s just there. Perching, like a bird, the impish machinery of him planning his next spot. Yes, I think I’ll go with this. Like he’s out collecting worms. And the way he winds up to kick, hops high in the air and then twists his entire body to meet the ball: at some point, the boy is just going to take flight. Though I suppose I'm especially intrigued by Ozil’s hoaxes of stillness since I spent the first two weeks of the World Cup studying the movements of Clint Dempsey, a man who must look like he’s falling down while he’s sound asleep. 
Oh, god. Do you know who Ozil is like? Ozil is like Edward from “Twilight” (I only saw the first one- I’m assuming he still does that vampire thing in all of them?) He’s in a tree. He’s in a classroom. He’s back in the tree. He’s to the left of the goal, sending Klose a perfect pass from nowhere, black kit disappearing under the stadium lights. 
My confusion about what I’m seeing is only heightened by the presence of Chancellor Merkel. The invisibility of women- as pundits, fans, even just an audience to sell things to- in mainstream media during this WC has been dispiriting. It’s surreal to see an educated (and powerful) female fan who loves the game as much as any man in the stadium, and for whom football is not just an excuse to be looked at, a walking male fantasy wrapped in a flag. (Note: I’ve thought about writing about Larissa Riquelme, but what can you say? As a woman who loves football and is constantly struggling to be taken seriously, she is my worst fucking nightmare.) During the Argentina game, the camera cut to Merkel’s reaction on every goal: she controlled the vision, and the gaze of the whole stadium. And I’m forced to wonder if I’m looking through her vision when I look at Bastian Schweinsteiger, long the object of Herr Chancellor’s eye. 
I found notes I had written after the Bayern/Lyon CL game in which I mention that Bayern Munich resembles a 19th century Bavarian Penal Colony team. It embarrassed me even when I wrote it and yet one must admit that the assorted mugs on that team require some sort of macabre, small-minded description. Have I lost my mind? When did Bastian Schweinsteiger become so, well, beautiful? Has he always moved like that? LIke some sort of half lizard half man half horse demon angel? He can not be real. I can’t believe that it was just German stereotyping that kept me from seeing him. Some of it is surely me. But I’m convinced some of it is him, too. 
Because while some things are a matter of sight, there is nothing subjective about the pleasure of a new footballer becoming great in a big tournament. In many ways my ambivalence to-all-things-country leads me to prefer the quotidian comforts of club football, but for me this emergence is the truly supernatural part about cup competetion. Oh yes, here they come, these vague rhapsodies that fuel a thousand soccer blogs. Yet if we deny ourselves a dumb gush, what’s the point of all the slogging? I've written so much during the World Cup about the ways we use the power of our collective attention for destruction; let me enjoy a rare inverse moment.
In another piece I wrote about the feeling I have when I’m watching a game intently, that the attention I’m giving it is the engine that causes it to exist. But that description isn’t quite right- it makes it seem like it’s all about me when it’s exactly the opposite; it’s about the giving away of the experience, not the holding close. When a player is as young and full of life as Germany and as improbable, that engine multiplies and a collective goodwill can form around them. 
The whole world fuels a body and it becomes more than the sum of its parts and skills. Our attention becomes a form, an action, of international levitation, of faith and grace, and through this some of the most beautiful footballing performances have emerged. I mean- think of it- it’s just a body, one body, maybe two, receiving the currents of the world and transforming it into motion. If there is something more beautiful than that- well, is there?

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