Thursday, July 1, 2010

On Mornings

You sit in smoke residue and drink strong tea, or warm beer, and you are happy. You love the shuffling in, the shared sense of shame and mischief and mutual addiction: no one has ever wandered into a darkened pub in a snowstorm at 8am on a Sunday by accident. Men, young and old, shake snow off jackets, the night before still written on their faces, and in their hair. You attempt to remember a time when you were content to spend Sunday mornings pressed up against and screaming with, sometimes at, only one dirty, hungover boy. Now anything less than fifty is a disappointment. But the sleepy smell of contented aggression, of soap and the scorned possibilities of soap, is the same.
Every once in a while there’s a girlfriend along, half-awake and texting. You’re careful not to judge them: after all, you started as a girlfriend enjoying the simple idea of the game, the feeling of the pub. But then you didn’t want to be a girlfriend anymore, and then you weren’t, and you realized you found neither the feeling nor the idea simple at all. So you kept coming. Anyway, usually there aren’t girlfriends or any girls at all that early in the morning. There is only you.

A Strategy of Hugs

Any follower of English football would be touched by the site of Carlos Tevez beaming with pride at Maradona after his second goal against Mexico. Tevez’s history with management is complicated and genuinely sad- manipulated, used, bought and sold, discarded- and look at that! Maradona figured it out. All Carlitos really needed was to be told he was doing a good job. Tevez has come alive under Maradona’s Papa Smurf Brand of Inspirational Methodology- he’s having a cracking tournament and reminding every team Argentina meets how unwise it is to undervalue him. 
And yet- I’m surprised by the unilateral endorsement of Maradona’s displays of affection. I acknowledge their charm. All that boisterous male cuddling and hair tousling would thaw even the coldest heart (um, mine). For better or worse, Maradona has staged the most sustained and authentic-ish show of male affection in recent history. That’s worth something. Think what fun it would be to see them play the Dutch, a team whose peculiar icy repressions and unwilling communications isolate them on and off the pitch. I can already see Van Persie looking to the sidelines longingly at the prospect of a big bear hug and a pat on the back.