When I got my wages
I hung my head and cried.
I could not stop these visions
that swept in like the tide.
--Amazon (River of Dreams)
The journey is over, just like the voyage up river in the classic song by The Band.
It was a wonderful World Cup in many ways -- the first World Cup I ever watched at home, in its entirety, once even four matches in a day, in the early giddy days of group play, when so many things were possible.
Now it is over. Lineker’s Law has actually come true for the first time since the English striker articulated it in 1990.
The marvel is that Argentina did so well in the final, holding off what has been building since the fun summer of 2006. Argentina was tough and smart and perhaps deserved better than the 1-0 defeat, but at least somebody scored, and Germany was the best squad, by far, in this World Cup.
One more thing about Argentina. Please, don’t anybody ever again waste time fretting about whether Lionel Messi is the new Diego Maradona. That is so unfair, and mostly to him. Maradona was a genius; Messi is a lovely player, at his best taking crisp passes from Iniesta and Xavi at Barça.
Messi is a small man, anyway – his modesty comes off in all the commercials; he is Everyman with a superb change of pace. He seemed almost slumped over from the weight of seven matches, plus the weight of expectations. Be like Maradona? No más.
I’ve said enough good things about Germany. Let’s talk about the World Cup itself, one more time. Friends have been asking what it’s like to be home after eight World Cups. (Did I mention I have a book out, called Eight World Cups? I'll be promoting it at the Dolphin Book Store in Port Washington, L.I., Thursday at 7 PM.)
I love Brazil from afar – love the music, love the people, even love the way the fans despaired at the two losses. My feeling was, having chosen a buyout at the end of 2011, this was a good World Cup to watch on television. My pals worked in distant cities, under logistics harder than anything I ever faced. The NYT did great, ESPN did great, Soccer America did great, Telemundo did great.
One thing that struck me was how much better I saw the matches (particularly when I watched at home.) In a stadium, you take in the big picture but you don’t necessarily see and hear the fine points of the replays the way I do at home.
I was happy having Twellman and Moreno and Keller and McManaman explaining stuff. ESPN has been working at presenting the matches and the background for years, and I'm sad it won’t be doing the World Cup in 2018.
I want to put in a plug for my friends at Soccer America, which has been on the story all year, giving us the daily vibrations of the U.S. team (no Soccer America reader was surprised at Klinsmann’s snub of Donovan) and giving us great detail and color, hour by hour from Brazil.
Finally, please check out Paul Kennedy’s top-ten wrapup from Sunday. He praises the Times for its large and talented staff – particularly Jeré Longman’s journeys up river. I told Jeré that when he gets home he needs to listen to the Band’s version of Artie Traum’s Amazon (River of Dreams.)
So many people took us all over that fantastic country. Now it is time for the visions to come sweeping in, like the tide.
“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.