Friday, September 28, 2007

10 + 10 = infinity

I know I have readers who will never love football. Most of them will call it "soccer", because most of them are from the United States of America. I have some sympathy. I will never love NASCAR, for example. A person of good will could write a passionate post about the sport and at the end of giving it a fair reading, my answer would still be "Nope. Still hate it."

Yesterday in China, early in the morning for folks living as I do on the West Coast, the Brazilian women took to the pitch against the favored United States and completely dismantled them, 4-0. Earlier this month, Brazil whipped China, another women's football superpower, by the same score. The big reason for both wins is Marta, who wears the number 10 jersey for the Brazilians. In the men's game, the great Ronaldinho wears the number 10.

What does it means to wear the number 10 for Brazil? The simple job description is "Wanted: someone as good as Pele." Be that good and people don't complain. Fail to meet that standard, and the Brazilian public can get a little snippy.

No pressure, right? In some ways, not as much as you might expect. The coach of the Brazilian women was asked to explain the Brazilian style of football. His answer: "Happiness." The answer might seem like a non-sequitur or a mistake in translation, but it's the best description I have ever heard. When Brazilians execute their game plan, it is happiness. It's like listening to Fats Waller play piano. If you know anything about playing soccer or playing the piano, your first question is "How did they do that?" But after a while, you just say "They did it, and I'm happy." It's a gift, pure and simple. (Well, maybe not that simple.)

There's an old saying, (Actually, I made it up a few years ago but it should be an old saying): "When Americans are dancing, they naturally assume they are leading." The story in the United States about the crushing defeat is that the U.S. coach Greg Ryan took out the successful goalkeeper Hope Solo and replaced her with 36 year old veteran Brianna Scurry, on the theory that she had never lost to Brazil. Fascinating statistic, coach. You might also notice that no Brazilian team before this year had Marta in the beginning of her prime. You didn't have an answer for her. There's a good possibility no one does, but the Germans are the next folks to get the chance on Sunday.

Here's my 'splainin' on why Coach Ryan did the un'splainable. He knew. He knew the Brazilians were going to humiliate his team, and by making this goofy move of replacing a successful goalkeeper, he could make that the story line. Nice try, coach. The real story is that the Brazilian women play happiness now, and the rest of the world is going to be hard pressed to catch up.

One of the great story lines of sport is the rag to riches story, and both Marta and Ronaldinho fit that bill. People sometimes make fun of Ronaldinho's crooked teeth, but his family had no money for the luxury of orthodontics. (Take a good look at a picture of Joe DiMaggio flashing his teeth and you'll see the same thing.) Marta made her first splash in the last Women's World Cup four years ago, but it took two months to sign her to go the top women's league in the world, the Swedish league. It took so long because Marta's family didn't have a phone in their home.

And on that note, since I wrote a post that will be of little interest to many Americans, I present a non-random "Random 10" filled with songs sung in languages other than English. It opens with Brazil's great composer Heitor Villa-Lobos and ends with David Bowie singing Helden, which is German for "Heroes".

Brazil-Germany on Sunday! I can't wait!

Aria, Bachianas Brasileras #5 (Villa-Lobos) Victoria De Los Angeles
La Foret De Mimosas Kirsty MacColl
Prashanti Ravi Shankar & Phillip Glass
Surabaya Johnny Teresa Stratas
Djore Dos The Women’s Choir of Bulgaria
Anapse To Tsigaro 3 Mustaphas 3
Batonga Angelique Kidjo
Vuelvo Al Sur Astor Piazzolla
Chi Vuol La Zingarella (Paisello) Cecila Bartoli
Helden David Bowie

Flags of many lands! My first visitor from Sri Lanka! Or as Gallito Mescalito might say over at Padre Mickey's Dance Party "SHRIEEEEEEK!" and then Red Mr. Peanut Bank could finish with "Lanka."

Now playing: Victoria De Los Angeles, Heitor Villa-Lobos; Orchestre National De La Radiodiffusion Fran├žaise - Villa-Lobos: Bachianas Brasileiras #5 - 1. Aria (Cantilena)
via FoxyTunes


dguzman said...

NOOOOOOOOO I wanted the American team to win. Shit. Not because I'm all USA USA USA, but because even though Mia Hamm's not on the team anymore, she's so effing hot.


my word verification is ohsammm. weird.

Matty Boy said...

I know the feeling. Hope Solo, the replaced goalie, is pretty damn hot, too. But Brazil is just wonderful now, and the Americans have talent but no spark.

Splotchy said...

Lovely post!