Monday, July 10, 2006

WC - Last One, Really.

I don't think my previous post really captured the essence of my feelings post L'affaire Zidane. While the 15-year old boy inside of me, taking a break from Double Dragon, agrees in part with those who say there was something sort of . . . totally awesome about it, I've felt Just Not Right since the incident.

Even now, more than 24 hours on, the incomprehensibility of the occurence is jarring in a tritonic, broken-guitar-string, fingernails on blackboards, baby on an airplane kind of way. I've probably absorbed the Big Game cliche a bit too much from American sports movies - so my dismay over the French loss is understandable. However, even had he (and France) lost, the glory was more in the journey - the killer goal vs. Spain, the roulette spin away from Gilberto Silva vs. Brazil. Is that gone now?

I can't adequately put into words the heaviness such a harsh and unromantic conclusion brings to me. Thankfully, others have not been so inhibited, and I urge you to peruse both Alex Hemon and especially Steve Teles:
ll I can say is that, watching this replayed over and over again on television, I felt sick. Part of this was moral revulsion at the foul, which was wholly beyond the pale. But also, something else. I felt a sense of aching sympathy for Zidane. I am sure that at the moment that he drew his head back from Materrazi’s chest, he realized what he had done, not only to his team, but to his own legend. Every beautiful shot on goal, every gorgeous pass, every elegant weaving down the pitch, was suddenly sullied. No one could remember these moments and simply smile, remembering that he had seen one of the greatest men ever to grace the world’s greatest game. Now, every time one thought of Zidane, that horrible, senseless attack would be the first thing that came to mind. Zidane had done to himself what no other man on the pitch could do to him—transform him from hero to villain. I’m sure that, as he walked, deflated down into the locker room, he realized what he had done. He was brought down not by something outside himself, but by a defect of character that lurked within.

Football is, in and of itself, meaningless, a remarkably silly thing for grown men and women to spend so much time occupying themselves with. What transforms it, what makes it something much more, is narrative interwoven with morality. We watch soccer not just for the beauty of the sport, although beauty there certainly is. We also watch it because of the moral drama that is played out among twenty-two men. Today, in Germany and across the world, we saw possibly the saddest such drama that any of us will have the bad fortune to witness. I do not envy Zizou’s effort to find sleep tonight, or in the nights to come.
I had trouble sleeping last night over incident, I can't imagine his struggles.

How does one recover from this? Especially one with no more games to play? When Beckham was disgraced following his kick to the calf of Diego Simeone in '98, he turned his shame and the his country's ire into 2+ seasons of dazzling, artistic, passionate play - he was able to redeem himself so completely that he is the most (or, at worst, 1A) recognizable athlete in the world today.

What happens now to Zidane? Famously shy, is there any way that he does not destroy himself with regrets? Aeschylus would be proud to have written such a tale.

Update: An explanation?:
BBC just had on an Italian lip-reader. Apparently Materazzi told Zidane that he wished “an ugly death for you and your family”. BBC also said that Zidane found out yesterday that his mother is seriously ill.
Vile, if true. (Assuming also that Materazzi knew about his mother - it may have just been a standard 'yo mama' line that had extra poignance under the circumstances. But this is all simply unvarnished speculation...)

Update II: Or maybe...:
After an exhaustive study of the match video, and with the help of an Italian translator, Rees claimed that Materazzi called Zidane “the son of a terrorist whore” before adding “so just f*** off” for good measure, supporting the natural assumption that the Frenchman must have been grievously insulted.
Hrm. See also the end of the article for a timeline of Zizous indiscretions - a choirboy he was not.


Icepick said...

All I can say is that, watching this replayed over and over again on television, I felt sick. Part of this was moral revulsion at the foul, which was wholly beyond the pale.

Okay, the foul was bad, and deserving of a red card. But I saw two incidents in the WC this year that were MUCH worse than one man head-butting another man in the chest, where little damage is likely to occur. (All flopping aside, of course.)

But this doesn't rival either the blow the Italian landed on the American in Round 1, nor the English player grinding his cleats into another man's genitals. It was a stupid act, justly punished, but I don't get the moral revulsion angle.

Or am I not getting this because as a fan of American football I see much more severe blows landed on almost every play? (That's not meant as an insult to soccer players, BTW. Their game doesn't call for the level of violence, and that's okay!)

I do understand the sadness this causes, though. It's a shame to see someone go out on such a low, when it appeared that he would go out on such a high....

Pooh said...

Darn, that reminds me of a point I forgot to make, which ties in - Zidane had time to consider...what is known in criminal law as 'malice aforethought' - which is a key difference between the Dutch dudes vicious scissor kick at Ronaldo or Rooney's stamp - both of those occured in the heat of the play, and (Rooney's especially) were understandable, if not condonable. Even De Rossi's swipe at McBride was to some degree part of the game.

This was as unfathomable an incident as Eric Cantona (another mercurial frenchmen, who achieved not half as much at international level) launching a Liu Kang style flying kick to a fan (who IIRC hurled racial epithets in that incident as well...)

Icepick said...

Honestly, I hadn't considered the pre-meditation angle. I do think Rooney's (?) crotch-stomp was pre-meditated as well. If he had stepped on the guy at a random point, I might accept a heat-of-the-moment reason, but not when he goes looking for the family jewels.

Pooh said...

Well yeah, but in Rooney's case it was tussle-tussle-fouly-fouly-I'll get you, you dirty portagee git-stomp! Whereas Zidane walked away and then walked back...

DJ Ninja said...

Using the adjectival form of "tritone"! I'm impressed. Composers used to regard the tritone as the "devil's interval". The irony is it's just stacked major thirds.