Monday, February 14, 2011

Ronaldo retires

Slate soccer writer Brian Phillips, being awesome as usual, writing about Ronaldo, who announced his retirement yesterday.

As a media figure, Ronaldo was never cool in the ruthless-visionary way of Zidane or in the lost-album-cover manner of Beckham. He seemed affable, funny, a little ingenuous, a little strange. Those qualities made him human, but they also made him a terrible fit for modern sports journalism, which knows how to handle only one kind of superstar—the kind who is entirely focused on being one. (That is, the kind of superstar who uses the media back.)...

And so, in the retirement stories, you get bizarre summations like this one, from Paul Wilson's oddly half-hearted Guardian write-up: "His career choices may not have been ideal, his lifestyle questionable and his fitness, particularly his knees, suspect throughout, but in spite of all that Ronaldo deserves to be remembered as a remarkable player." In spite of being the person who became a remarkable player, Ronaldo deserves to be remembered as a remarkable player. This is where you can either stay alive to what's wonderful about sports or give up and admit you see players as oil wells. Ronaldo isn't a quantifiable reserve of potential that was never efficiently tapped or a set of character traits that never reliably pumped out his natural talent. He's a person, the interface of whose personality with the world produced some breathtaking moments in a game.

Phillips also touches on that theme beloved of futbol-intellectuals, that the highest purpose of the game is to model beauty and innocence, not to yield the competitively-correct outcome.

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