Thoughts on people’s thoughts!!!!

20 04 2009

I’m not necessarily one for parsing the words of commentators, most of whom say whatever comes to mind rather than what they really think. Certainly most of them do it without view to the consequences and are lampooned for it by many people (for instance in the brilliance that used to be FJM), but sometimes they say things that get to the heart and soul of the problems with so many sports, sports fans, and thoughts on sports in general.

Ray Hudson, our dear RayRay, GolTV’s attempt at a Tommy Smyth on speed with an equally fast thesaurus, was once again in fine form during Barça’s game at Getafe. Now, I actually think I like Ray Hudson, despite his obvious faults (talks too much, never lets Phil say anything — perhaps these are not faults). Still, when he said that Barça’s current side could be considered one of the greatest if not of all time, then at least of the last couple of decades because of their beautiful play if it wins championships, I nearly freaked out, smashed my TV, and threw myself out of the window. What self-respecting watcher of any sport ever would say such a thing?

Perhaps my visceral reaction is confusing to some, but think about what Ray Hudson said for a moment. The logic goes like this: Good teams play beautifully. Great teams win titles. As in, if you do not win titles, you are not worthy of greatness. This is, to me anathema to everything that FC Barcelona stands for. The concept of beauty has absolutely nothing to do with success. Nothing whatsoever. Which was the better team in the 1970s, Argentina or the Netherlands?

In a world with no runners up, 2nd place really is 1st loser and is generally consigned to anonymity or only remembered by trivia nerds. However, there is little to suggest that beauty and success are necessarily intertwined. If that were the case, Real Madrid would have won 0 titles in the last 5 years and Barça, who have played consistently more beautifully than most, if not all, of La Liga, would have 4 or 5 of those titles. Instead they have 2 and none in the last 2 season.

This is a big pet peeve of mine and I’m going to go ahead and let it all out right here: just because something is successful does not mean it was the correct thing to do, nor just because something was successful does it mean it was better than everything else. For instance, if two people are in a cabin in the Alaskan wilderness in the middle of the winter with no coats, when it is 90 below 0 Fahrenheit and they have enough wood to keep warm for a fully week, but one of them decides to venture out into wilderness to seek help while one of them decides to stay inside and stay warm in hopes that someone will respond to their distress calls on the radio, and the one who goes outside encounters a party of searchers and the one inside dies because the house collapses on him, that doesn’t make the one who went outside without a coat on the one with good decision-making skills.

These are, to me, the same concepts. Doing things the right way and getting a bad result is still the right way to do things, while doing things the wrong way and getting a good result is still the wrong way to do things. Just because a Hail Mary pass succeeds once doesn’t mean you should throw one on every play. Because of the modern game’s parity in the upper echelons of the European leagues, a singular moment can change the outcome of a season. If Barcelona makes it to the final and takes on ManU and Barcelona has 40 shots on goal, but doesn’t score because of some absolutely stunning keeping by van der Saar and then a bad call by a ref gives one of Cronaldo’s dives a penalty and ManU win the Champions League 1-0, how does that make Barcelona’s season not one of the greatest ever? Even better, what if Barcelona scores a goal that is called back for offside when it clearly wasn’t and then Arsenal, who beat ManU in the semis because RvP plays out of his mind and scores a hat trick at Old Trafford, all off of free kicks, shoot a ball along the goal line that is called a goal even though it’s not really clear if it really crossed over or not? Suddenly Barcelona is at the mercy of forces outside of themselves, but, of course, that means they weren’t that great anyway, cause they couldn’t overcome such obstacles.

I’m not saying this year’s incarnation of FCB is one of the greatest ever, but to say that it is specifically not because it has won no championships is daft. Were Arsenal’s Invincibles not an amazing team? Well, sorry, guys, your perfect Premiership season means nothing whatsoever because you only won 1 title that year. Imagine if you’d won the CL? Oh, well, then we’d have reason to talk about your beautiful, brilliant play. Instead, we’re going to call you losers because that same year you didn’t win the Champions League.

My point is mainly not to judge teams by their titles first and all other things second. In a league, perhaps, but not in a tournament where teams do not play every other team. There is totality that must be considered, like the Buffalo Bills in the early 1990s who won nothing in real life, but were accurately portrayed in Tecmo Superbowl. That Ray Hudson would stoop to such commentary lows is disappointing not only for him personally, but also for the listeners, who have to hear this sort of drivel. John Madden retired, why can’t I stop hearing these sorts of things?

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8 responses

21 04 2009
Selva

I think you are both right and wrong!! Let me explain why you might be wrong!!!

Yes, we all know that Barca’s football is arguably the most beautiful. Fewer things in all of sport can rival this spectacle. Federer’s back hand cross court winner, VVS Laxman on song, Warne setting up and getting a batsman, Schumi in rain, Jordan walking in mid-air, Ali’s moves in the ring, only such timeless wonders would be more enjoyable!!! But the above said wonders are still fresh in our minds, not only because they were beautiful but also they produced staggering results along the way!!!

I say again, Yes Barca’s football is fantastic and is a very good team. But a great team is usually the yardstick against which the future teams will be measured?? So is Barca a great team, one for the ages, ‘the yardstick’, I wouldnt say so, unless they win CL!! If they dont, they might still be considered the best of this season, everyone who has watched this team play will consider them a great team. But this Barca team deserve better, the future generations should google for their videos, a ManU fan should envy them, the purists should boast about them to their children, Messi should be proud that he is part of this team and not vice versa!!! For all these to happen, this Barca team should win CL not only this season but beyond.

20 years down the line, dont you think it will be cool to google for ‘Barca 2009 CL champions’ rather than just ‘Barca 2009’. At the end of the day, results do matter, my dear!!! 🙂

22 04 2009
Rakku

@RC Rite on dude….i completely agree with u….but I don’t think that Arsenal team was even a patch on Pep’s Barca!!!! If u have noticed they even loose (very rarely) with class. All this coming from a Man U fan ….is credit by itself 😛

@Selva- I will agree with u that winning does matter….but I don’t think u got the point!!!!!! Firstly….Is winning a major tournament the only criteria to be declared a great team?????? The point here is that people do remember teams for their greatness even though they are not the ultimate champions. ….Arsenal ( as stated in the article) , Patriots (the 2007 version: even if they are remembered for loosing the SB no one will disagree that they were one of the best teams of all time). Secondly……all ur examples are of individual wonders dude…RC’s talking about a TEAM here…… Give me a team whom even the starkest of critics have loved to watch???? Give me team who have won the admiration of even their worst rival …….all this just not by winning….but playing fantastic football. I can give u a lot of teams who have won championship by playing scrapy and route 1 football!!!!!!!

22 04 2009
Rakku

Btw…wat has VVS won????? 😛

22 04 2009
Selva

First up, yes, VVS hasn’t won any ‘titles’ but to me he is the one who orchestrated the demise of the mighty Australians!! That to me is an achievement in itself!!! Arsenal is considered a great team because they won EPL, the biggest prize for them, a lot of people in England still consider, EPL as the title to win rather than CL!!! Coming to Patriots, if you give them 2 choices say, loose a couple of matches in the regular season and win SB or go undefeated in regular season but loose SB, which one do you think they’ll opt for?? Because, that is their ultimate goal, to win SB, if they loose that what good does an undefeated regular season holds?? Besides, we are talking about something beautiful and artistic, dont tell me Football is beautiful, it can be precise and powerful, but beauty, u must be kidding!!

Let us compare the invincible West Indies of the 1970’s and the mighty Australians of the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. Both teams have won similar number of titles and are considered equally good. But any day, the starkest of critics would prefer to watch the Caribbeans rather than the Aussies, because the Caribbeans had a natural flair but Aussies played just to win!!!

We are talking about the great team of a ‘generation’ not just this season or the past 4-5 years. We are talking about more than a couple of decades here!!! “Give me team who have won the admiration of even their worst rival …….all this just not by winning….but playing fantastic football” Thats exactly what I am talking about, you have to win to stay in the memories of people for such a prolonged period of time!!

Winning a major tournament is not the only criteria to be declared a great team of ‘this season’, but a great team of the ‘last 30 years’, it sure is a top criteria!!!!

23 04 2009
Rakku

Ok….first things first bringing down the Aussie can be termed as an achievement thats it……Its like in soccer someone scored a match winning goal against a great team. But that shouldnt make him a great player according to ur argument. What Im trying to tell here is…just because he didnt win any title no one can deny that he isnt a great player. Now coming to Arsenal…..u must be kidding me man..EPL is priority but no way is it bigger than CL. Being a Man U fan i would happily give away a couple of EPL titles to get one more CL. Champions league football is something which all the players and fans crave for!!!
I agree with u for once that football is not a pretty game but people loved watching the Pats. It was always exciting to watch the “Brady bunch”. And I again agree that they would take the SB anyday…..but not winning one big match doesnot take all their achievements through out the season. they will be always remembered for going unbeaten during the regular season!!!!
Im completely with u about the West Indies argument….but I dont see that argument going well to prove a point.
Nowww….Will Barca winning this years champions league make them the best team of the generation in everyones eyes….NO WAY….they will have win a lot more than that for the people to accept that fact……Arsenal had a 49 match unbeaten streak ( even Barca cant claim that one) and see where they are now!!! As a soccer fan it just hurts to know Arsenal is not considered one of the greatest team ever even after a feat like that and Im seriously hoping that this doesnot happen to this Barcelona team!!!! ( Though i would be praying for them to loose if they come up against Man U :p )

22 04 2009
Hector

The Invincibles is a great example. Of course the classic one is our ancestors, Cruyff’s Total Football masters, the Dutch Clockwork Oranje. They are legends because they were the most beautiful side to never win a title but they played so beautifully that losing to a great but functional Germany in the final but going down swinging, was enough for immortal status. It says a lot when they are even more remembered that the arguably even more talented Dutch Euro 88 winning squad which in itself included players of the likes of van Basten, Rudd Gullit, and our very own Ronald Koeman, and Frank Rijkaard.
Another case, but not as well known, ask old timers if they remember Ferenc Puskas and Hungary ‘54 despite losing to Walter’s Germany (damn, they specialize in killing beautiful sides, don’t they? yet another reason Spain’s victory in Euro 08 was so special) and then ask them about Fritz Walter and that German team.
Something that also says a lot to me, this is my man Santi Segurola’s weekly chat in Marca of all places (he is a doctor that has been locked in with the patients of the asylum). A great journalist who has seen it all and is not afraid to call out his employers when required:
http://www.marca.com/charlas/santiagosegurola/20042009.html

Rough Translations:
Q: “Who do you think is playing better, Barca or the Spain NT?”
A: I have to confess something: this Barca team is the best team I’ve seen in my entire life. Now its time to supplement that with titles but I have never seen a team play so beautifully and so well. Its not only in the offensive aspect, as traditional for Barca teams, but the defensive aspect as well. Its a total team, admirable because of their quality of play, cohesion, offensive voracity, and substance. A marvelous team.
NOTE: This is a friggin Marca journalist writing this (albeit, granted, an objective….THE objective one).

22 04 2009
Amar

Well said there.
But nonetheless all our work won’t be remembered as much as if we win the treble which I hope we do!

22 04 2009
Jignesh

Couldnt agree more…

And if John Terry makes his penlaty in the final last year- does CR7 win Fifa player of the year? The issue you are addressing is one of the most important in the world of football and modern popular culture…

Those who appreciate the intricacies will always love sides like Barcelona. Thats why I do. Thats why I like Arsenal of all the English teams… I really think its a question of media created mainstream more then anything

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