We love charming people and we love stories, but we hate liars, because we also love being contradictory. It’s always easy for us to excuse our lies, and though everything from commandments to childhood stories and nursery rhymes teaches us that lying is wrong, we feel hurt and abused when others lie to us. Or we pretend to be, because secretly, we love being lied to. This comes back to the fact that we love charmers and stories, we love hyperbole because the truth is never beautiful and makes us all uncomfortable and aware, but hyperbole, that lie makes us blush and ignites our imagination like nothing else.
Stories without lies would read like a true news report –because well, most of the media and news stations really don’t bother with the truth these days-and no one is here for that. Poetry and fiction owe their lives to the sirens of hyperbole and we enjoy them as much, if not more than non-fictional works of literature (only crazy people don’t, don’t be crazy). Without the lies and exaggerations, our conversations would be much shorter, our descriptions less vivid and our lives would be as bland and bare as the truth is supposed to be.
Football and the powers that be have been lying to us for so long that I’m sure I would fail horribly if I attempted to recall the “good old days” because I’m sure that was before my birth. The art of lying, of deception is itself embedded on the field –diving, stepovers, hounding the ref, defenders raising their hands after a foul– as much as off of it, any good dribbler knows this. The feint for example –let’s use Messi’s destruction of Nani in the last Barcelona v Manchester United match-up– is the embodiment of how easily we let football lie to us.
With Barcelona winning 2-1 at the 68th minute, fate viciously isolated Nani –the erratic Michael Jackson/Cristiano Ronaldo impersonator-against Messi– the destroyer of worlds-on the right wing in United’s defensive third. The question wasn’t if, but rather how Messi was going to get past Nani, just as how every time Sepp Blatter opens his mouth, it’s about how, rather than if he will lie to us again. Anyways, there was a very loud moment of silence –as if someone in space was screaming for Nani to save himself– and then Messi, in an impossibly-quick fashion, feinted to the left, prompting Nani to stick out his left leg in a pitifully vain attempt, and then moved the ball with from his left to his right foot like a merciless Iniesta, leaving Nani to ponder his own existence behind him.
The funny thing about this is that Nani “shouldn’t” have fallen for that feint. For the very fact that Nani and everyone else watching knows where Messi is going, just as we all know what football is about. Messi was always going right because Messi wants to score and going right is the fastest way to get into the box. He even positioned his body to allow himself the space to go right. Even if he went left, that would put him in front of the defense and provided the team with a better chance of containing him, so that would have been a better problem (a problem nonetheless but better).
But, we’re not here to argue Nani’s merits as a defender, because his merits as an attacker are still under the microscope as we speak. We’re here to understand why he fell for a move that he had no business falling for and how this relates to us as fans. The same way Nani beseech-ed Messi power in that situation –allowing him to make the first move, dictating the whole outcome before the climax of those two seconds even arrived– is the same way fans give away our critical mind to football so that players, clubs and authorities can tell us what we want to hear and slip the money away from our pockets.
We have to believe the lies of football in order to stomach every game that we watch, to realize that it’s a faceless, evil organization that makes the Umbrella Corporation look like child’s play would lead to a level of awareness that would shatter our childhood heroes and beliefs. And no one wants that, not even I, and I love to watch the world burn. We know it’s lying to us constantly –EPL is the best league, FIFA cares about corruption– and we ignore it. A lot of us do this by turning our eyes to “history” and using those rose-tinted shades to view today’s situation.
As I said before, I cannot write about the times when football wasn’t about the money, mainly because those times probably only lasted two seconds after the sport was invented, but there’s not one day that goes by as an Arsenal fan that I don’t hear about the Invincibles or David Dein, or the best one, wanting “Our Arsenal Back!!” Banners hastily put together to insult the manager, ineffectively relaying to the white-haired professor that he doesn’t know what he’s doing. You don’t know what you’re doing, except that you do, but you like pretending that you don’t because you don’t like feeling guilty when you purchase another kit sold on the official website. We rave about romance and history, as if evil doesn’t love leeching onto those, as if the road to hell isn’t paved with bodies of heroes and good intentions.
We just like to fall for Messi’s feint and then look around at everyone else with a fake-puzzled look on our faces.
Imagine if the powers that be in football told us the truth: FIFA announces that they’re nothing more than a profit machine and care less about the game than the casual American, with a footer reading “Fuck Goal-line technology!”. Messi looks sincerely into the camera during an interview and reveals that he prefers making mazy runs down the curves of his girlfriend’s body than on the pitch of Camp Nou. Jose Mourinho reveals that he’s a sociopath and has been suffering from severe depression ever since he saw Arbeloa trying to contest a high pass. Pep remains the same.
No one wants that, we love to hear that Sir Alex and Mourinho win most of their matches in the press room with mind-games rather than the hours spent in the film room dissecting players and tactics. We love to hear that players train and play with the highest level of devotion every day because seeing them as machines –who never should get exhausted, depressed or fall in love because THEY GET PAID SO MUCH!!!– makes it easier to accept that we could have played at their level, or sometimes, gives us the license to insult them. We’ll believe anything as long as it is as far away from the truth as possible.
It’s the same reason why commentators will sit there, face full of racist epithets, and tell you that Mario Balotelli plays like an animal and then turn around and call Zlatan a technically-gifted ballerina. As if people can’t see the truth for themselves. Or they will whisper to you that one team just “wanted it more”, pissing all over the hours of preparation by team and manager for that match, summarizing all the effort to being nothing more than an intense wish. The same desires for lies, to be told what to think, is why we sit here every summer, coming near death from nervousness at every transfer speculation, even when every bit of truth that exists stands firmly against them. It is how football runs.
Follow Travis on Twitter: @zitov2