Calcio and the Linceans (Back to Field Notes)

The problem of sorting out the best soccer order lay in the draftsman’s own hands. Continue reading Calcio and the Linceans (Back to Field Notes)


Milan’s Pitch-Pine Cone Shapes

{[. . .] That hard closed cone, which defied all violent attempts to open it and could only be cut open with a knife, has thus yielded to the gentle persuasion of warmth and dryness. The expanding of the pine cones—that, too, is a season. —Henry David Thoreau, Wild Fruits}

31 October. Last spring somebody brought home a handsome pitch-pine cone, which had freshly fallen and was closed perfectly tight. (Squirrels always love stripping some pitch-pine cones.) It was put into a table drawer. I was greatly surprised to find that it dried there and opened with perfect regularity, filling the drawer; and from a solid, narrow, and sharp cone has become a broad, rounded, open one—has in fact expanded with all the regularity of a flower’s petals into a conical flower of rigid scales and has shed a remarkable quantity of delicate winged seeds.

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Ibrahimovic’s Crab Walk

{He who enters into the viscera of the earth to see the metals, minerals, stones, and gems; who observes the plants, quadrupeds, and serpents on the surface of the earth; he who immerses himself in the sea in order to contemplate the fish and other marine things; who lifts himself into the skies to wonder at so many different kinds of apparitions and generations, the birds and so many flying insects; and then perceives in them the mechanisms and the harmony of each smallest particle so well adapted to the whole—how could he then, seeing everything so infused with Providence and Divinity, how could he not detest Atheism [. . .]? —Carlo Dati, “Delle lodi del commendatore Cassiano dal Pozzo,” Florence 1664}

26 October. Heard today in my chamber around 9:20 A.M., while reviewing the Champions League match between Milan and Bate Borisov, a singular, sharp cracking sound of the ball, which made me think of the snapping of an insect (with its wings or legs striking something). It was produced by Zlatan Ibrahimovic in his exuberant attempt to score a goal from an area in the middle of the pitch, which, as I gathered, in this part of the season is set to lay squarely in the sun like the glossy rubbing of a green vase on the window-sill.

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Ecologies of Manchester City

{in the thirteen species of ground-finches, a nearly perfect gradation may be traced, from a beak extraordinarily thick, to one so fine, that it may be compared to that of a warbler. I very much suspect that certain members of the series are confined to different islands. . .  —Darwin, The Voyage of the Beagle}

6 October. Champions League matches, near the beginning of each season, resemble freshwater lakes, particularly old ones; before the competition becomes too intense, they sometimes have very species-rich endemic faunas of fishes, snails, crustaceans, and other invertebrates. This has long been known.

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(Chel)sea Slumber-Song

{For my part (. . .), I look at the natural geological record, as a history of the world imperfectly kept, and written in a changing dialect; of this history we possess the last volume alone, relating only to two or three countries. —Darwin, On the Origin of Species}

22 September. Discussions of Fernando Torres’ work may be locked in a predictable debate about the way enormous reserves of money promote a transformation toward more complex forms of footballing life, while fueling occasional catastrophes, but it is, as a few writers fairly noted, an intellectual tour de force filled with meatier arguments of great interest. Catastrophists and speculators opposed to field evidence insist on vectors of brilliant or abysmal performances, struggling to come to terms with aspects of uniformity—of soccer as a world in constant motion, but always the same in substance and state, changing bit by bit in a stately dance toward perfection. The real debate, so lost at our peril in the success of Abramovich’s (or any other oligarch’s) bombast, is the grandest battle ever fought between two contrasting visions of the traditional striker as a goal-poacher.

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Mazzarri’s Geology

Sir Charles Lyell's sketch of a land slip.

{The visible world would be more perfect if seas and continents had a regular shape. —Malebranche, Méditations Chrétiennes}

20 September. The traditional argument that Walter Mazzarri induced his reactive theory of the soccer machine from field observations, particularly on midfield conformities and unconformities, becomes even harder to understand when we recognize that Mazzarri’s own record clearly belies his legend prima facie. Simple chronology is evidence enough. Before coming to Sampdoria and Napoli, Mazzarri presented an abstract, describing his theory in its final form. The first full version inspired awe at he discovery of a ‘deep time’ in soccer, a geology of dynamic cycles that could have been discerned as a gradual and repetitive process measured by the vertical surges of wing-backs.

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