The Other Season In Minnesota
Sun Tzu's Other Lost Art

A Love Letter

Dear Football,

At times you have baffled me and I don't just mean the seemingly arbitrary distribution of cards both red and yellow. I mean who plays whom and where and when and why and don't even get me started on the national teams. Only a few months ago Serie A and Bundesliga could have bitten me on either leg simultaneously and I would have been hard-pressed afterward to pick them out of a lineup. I thought my decision to follow English football would be fairly straightforward - I speak the language - but it took me months to sort through the tiered leagues and multiple championships. Remember my hideous FA cup blunder when I asserted that it wasn't important and how ashamed I was in my ignorance? As recently as this week I was trying to figure out what you call the opposite of relegation (promotion) and who was coming up when poor Burnley, the QP Raisins and Hull/Newcastle/not Sunderland go down (welcome Bournemouth - it's nice to know you're more than just a place to take the waters after an inflammation of the lung.)  

At times, football, you have shocked me. For real. I was in high school when my beloved DC was the murder capital of the world (the WORLD - more per capita murders than anywhere else in THE WORLD) so I grew up with daily reports of random, senseless violence but I watched the Russia v Moldova game (more or less live) and I actually could not comprehend what I was seeing when the Russian goalkeeper got hit on the back of the head with a rocket. I'll type that again: hit on the back of the head with a rocket. Someone in the stands fired some sort of jumbo bottle rocket and it smacked the poor goalie on the back of his head. Knocked him down, stunned him and burned him. And... no, wait... and they did not cancel the game.

I mentioned football hooliganism here once in what I thought was a jest but, good lord, it's not funny. In the most recent Turin derby the Turin fans threw rocks and bottles at the Juventus team bus as they arrived, breaking the windows; and then nine fans were later injured when a paper bomb was detonated in the stands. The manager of Juventus said afterward that only a madman would ever take their child to a Serie A game.

I would guess that real football supporters living in real football countries are accustomed to these things and could probably even say it is much better than it used to be; it certainly is in the UK (at least as far as I can tell.) At the beginning of the season I admit I was amused by all the English premier league fans sitting so stiffly and stoically in their seats for most of the match but I have concluded that such proper behavior is probably strictly enforced. You let too many people leap to their feet in enthusiastic support of a great try and the next thing you know they're all shooting rockets at the midfield.

So, confusing and a little scary, football.


On this, the last day of the 2014-2015 Premier League season I am compelled to say thank you and, my god, what a beautiful beautiful game you are. You've probably thought about this a lot but it only recently occurred to me that all of the major ball sports are more or less the same: two teams face each other and attempt to get something past the other side. Basketball puts the target four feet above a normal head; hockey makes you do it on skates; tackleball insists that everything be done aerially, the ball is shaped like nothing on earth and they change the players every five seconds; volleyball shoves a net in your face; baseball gives you two things to worry about, the little objective and the narrow stick; and rugby... actually I'm going to have to get back to you on rugby. I had an entire season of rugby and Australian Rules football tacked onto my television soccer package and I have watched them both (not to mention the fact that I dated a rugby player in college so it's not like I am unfamiliar with a scrum - heh heh heh) but... yeah. I'll just have to get back to you.

Anyway. I don't know what it is, exactly, football, that sets you apart for me but I wanted to let you know that I tried to watch ten games at the same time today because I think you are perfect in your simplicity and gorgeous in your execution and I have never enjoyed sitting on my couch or breakfast drinking more in my entire life.

Yours, most sincerely,