For months I have been using the expression “dog years” to explain why I thought Spain would fall short in this World Cup.
I thought the unprecedented two European championships sandwiched around the 2010 World Cup championship would amount to too many matches, too many miles, for the nucleus of this wonderful team.
But I never expected to see Iker Casillas flopping around on the grass like an aged Willie Mays stumbling over second base in the 1973 World Series.
Spain was suddenly old, in a 5-1 loss to the Netherlands, which played with a talented fury, as if to make up for its cynical foul play in the 2010 World Cup final.
Maybe it was the Curse of Diego Costa that got Spain. Newly signed on as a Spanish national, he made his debut against his actual homeland, to the accompaniment of vicious whistles and boos. Then he committed an ugly head butt – not yet caught by FIFA scrutiny – and left the match. Bad vibrations for a side that didn’t need his form of new blood.
In a number of interviews about my new book, people ask me to define the “beauty” of soccer in the subtitle. (The “dark side” part is one glimpse of Sepp Blatter’s face, and résumé.)
The beauty part was Robin Van Persie making a mid-air connection with a crossing pass, timing his leap, heading the ball over the helpless Iker Casillas, and then making a three-point landing on the damp grass – Van Persie’s nose and two knees.
Dog years. Beauty. This result was more dramatic than anybody could have imagined.
“They may hate the cultural context they now find themselves teaching in, but they love their work. The Achilles’ heel of schoolteachers, one all too easily exploited by politicians, is that they love their students.”
(One of the best reads in the NYT these days is Margaret Renkl, in Nashville. In her latest post, Renkl describes the dedicated core of “born teachers” – the majority, she submits.)
(From Madeleine Albright in one of her final interviews in February):
“Putin is small and pale,” I wrote, “so cold as to be almost reptilian.” He claimed to understand why the Berlin Wall had to fall but had not expected the whole Soviet Union to collapse. “Putin is embarrassed by what happened to his country and determined to restore its greatness.” – Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, recalling her first meeting with the relatively unknown Vladimir Putin in 2000. – The New York Times, Feb. 23, 2022.