â†µAll you have to do is â†µlook at the shirts that were on display this afternoon: Manchester â†µUnited, brought to you by one of the companies that, in pursuit of â†µnothing but tomorrow's profits, imploded the universe. Barcelona, â†µbrought to you by UNICEF. â†µ
â†µI can't put it any better than Brian Phillips did on The Run of â†µPlay, so let's hand â†µthe mic over: â†µâ†µ
â†µâ‡¥The two words in the term "beautiful game" are always â†µâ‡¥struggling against each other in some ways, but they have to coexist. â†µâ‡¥That's why, for me, the necessary dream is to find a team that resolves â†µâ‡¥the tension, that plays beautifully and coherently and defeats both the â†µâ‡¥chaos of the game and all the studs-up, 10-men-behind-the-ball bullies â†µâ‡¥who try to stop it. Every so often a team like that comes â†µâ‡¥along -- recently, Spain at Euro 2008, Arsenal at their peak under â†µâ‡¥Wenger -- but most teams that have that potential wind up in the Holland â†µâ‡¥'74 category: inspired sides who thrilled everyone that saw them but â†µâ‡¥couldn't quite take the crown. Those failures, for all that â†µâ‡¥there's often something wonderful even in the manner of their failure, â†µâ‡¥are ultimately fuel for the belief that playing attractive football is a â†µâ‡¥quixotic task -- in other words, that reality is cynical. â†µâ‡¥â†µ
â†µBarca, which scored a billion goals and always-but-always looked to â†µmake the game proverbially beautiful, was the latest. They carried the â†µweight of this on their shoulders, the weight of expectation from the â†µteams that captured imaginations and came up just short, the weight of being â†µBarcelona, brought to you by UNICEF. It was a reason to watch second leg â†µof Barca-Chelsea. â†µâ†µ
â†µBarca almost certainly didn't deserve to win that game. The cleats â†µand brawn of Chelsea controlled the match, probably should have been â†µawarded 1.5 penalty kicks, and generally put the lie to the idea that â†µBarcelona transcended all. But sometimes the universe works out all â†µright, handing â†µjustice to the just and defeat to the cynical, and sometimes it does â†µit in the 93rd minute with all hope flown. â†µâ†µ
â†µA random event propelled Barcelona to the final, and once there they â†µtook it, ruthlessly. Everything that makes soccer so compelling to me â†µwas wrapped up in Messi's 70th-minute clincher: a small, unremarkable â†µman struck a ball coming at an impossible angle and redirected it such â†µthat it looped, long and promising, into the back of the net and â†µhistory. Barca won the league, the domestic cup, and the Champions' â†µLeague, and established themselves amongst the all-time great club â†µsides. Along the way they proved that sometimes nice guys do win. â†µâ†µ
â†µFans of Northwestern, Stanford, the A's and the D'antoni-era â†µPhoenix Suns and any number of a thousand different oddball football â†µstrategies crushed by reality, I hope you took it in, and were happy â†µvicariously. â†µâ†µ
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