The entire day is testimony to Sky’s creativity, a street party in celebration of destabilising uber‑commerce erected on the very fringes of a firewall designed to prevent destabilising uber‑commerce, like cold war Moscow street capitalists doing a roaring black market trade in Red Army bearskin hats.
Often tears on a football pitch feel self-indulgent, the spoiled multimillionaire brat bawling because he’s missed out on yet another medal. Here, though, as the fans who remained gently applauded, it was easy to have sympathy for a man who clearly felt he had let his country down—and a country that will probably never have a better chance to win the Cup of Nations. Who can imagine the pressure when the president’s wife wears your shirt?
Football managers are modern celebrities, yet the vast majority appear to add no value to their teams, and could probably be replaced by their secretaries or stuffed teddy bears without anyone noticing.
The local entrepreneurs are always young, because only kids dare to invest. While they understand the past—the failed reforms, the failed presidents, the almost-failed state—these optimistic pioneers also imagine progress. They believe, but they are a minority. They need some compadres to join their ranks.
“Sometimes I was protected by gunmen who were supposed to shoot me. He would know me from the team and say, ‘Don’t go there because I’m supposed to kill you there.’ That showed me how much soccer means to the Haitian people.”
I was having a coffee in a courtyard shaded by mango trees in Benguela, western Angola, talking to a Swiss clown who’d married a Nigerian woman he’d met while touring with his circus. He’s spent much of the past 20 years writing about African football. “It’s all rubbish,” he said. “I hate it now, hate what’s happened. I hate the lies and the false consciousness. I hate the bullshit and the corruption. Just look at it: it’s rubbish.”
There are plenty of problems with the current system of big-time college athletics, from the devaluing of academics to the plantation mentality that allows universities to make huge profits on the backs of unpaid athletes. But fixing those problems requires thinking creatively about real solutions, not throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
Some of them died in the war. Some were slaughtered when it ended. Some of them died in the deep jungle, and some drowned in the Mekong, because the Hmong were mountain people and didn’t know how to swim. Some of them died in the camps. Moua survived. He is here. His son, on the floor playing video games, is a quarterback and a defensive back and an American.
On one pole, you have people who hate him because he’s too much of an in-your-face good person, which makes very little sense; at the other pole, you have people who love him because he succeeds at his job while being uniquely unskilled at its traditional requirements, which seems almost as weird. Equally bizarre is the way both groups perceive themselves as the oppressed minority who are fighting against dominant public opinion, although I suppose that has become the way most Americans go through life.
While the Magical Negro is downtrodden and discriminated against, yet mystically gifted, Tebow has spent the last eight years or so with every advantage at his disposal, and he’s managed to run the NFL game play gamut from merely mediocre to preternaturally awful. Somehow, he’s managed to achieve this despite terrible adversity, like licensing deals.