Not A Safari

South Africa's World Cup, as seen from New York City

the geometers

The interlocking motifs of fifteenth-century Hispano-Moresque textiles in which the idea of the eternal order is evoked by infinite pattern, by return and reworking, by form, lines, angles, and colors, patterning that outlived the caliphates of Al-Andalus, qualities for which even the Christian kings of the Reconquista reached when they wanted to evoke luxury, refinement, and the persistence of higher things in base material, is associated in my mind from time to time with the angular mode that now dominates Spanish football, the intersecting polygons of Xavi and Iniesta, or rather of the collective emergent mind one might name Xaviniesta, in which, quite apart from the creation of goals, footballing victories, and delirium in the minds of opponents, one senses a sensitivity to abstractions and a command of intricate geometries that is like a succession of rooms for the imagination and that, were it to be mapped by the placement of a spooled shuttle on the ball, might restore in visible form the intermixed Mudéjar heritage of Spain herself.

Also, Xavi looks like an Arab.



Filed under: magic

panafrican breakfast

Filed under: comestibles, joy


Let us admit this as a general fact: it is amazing how quickly other people can get over what pains you, and though I see it sitting there—the temptation to make this about something serious, I mean—I’ll shimmy to its side and talk instead about something graver than death itself: our feelings when we lose a football game or when we fail to win one in which we expected to do better than tie.

Everything about this matter of losing is in question—the earth trembles because it is unsure of its grounding—and this intensifies the pain involved. We are bewildered about the very material of the “our” in question. Are we homooúsios (of the same substance) with the eleven men who play for us on the field—I am certain that scientists will discover that spectators’ neurons are activated in ways parallel to those footballers they are watching—or are we merely homoian (of similar substance) with them? We are angry that our vociferous involvement, even at televisual distance, was insufficient to sway the outcome. We are confused at how much deeply loss plunges than victory elevates, one a springboard, a matter of a few feet, the other a diving bell, ominous and far-fetched.

Above all, we are tainted by the bitterly concentrated flavor of a game in which we have been vanquished not by the opponents’ skills or by our own foolishness but by the misjudged intervention or miscalculated disregard of the referee. A murderous thought against this man boils on the shorelines of our brains like frustrated surf, it’s unfair, it’s unfair, though our expectation has never been that the game will be fair, only that it will be unfair in a way that favors us, and from the time we were very young, we have instinctively known that little joy would remain for us in this cosmic matter of football if the videographers, stenographers, and other mortuary specialists were allowed to grasp the game with their deadening fingers, to attempt to “improve” it, and to leave to chance nothing of what happened to have been seen or what happened to have passed unseen.

Keep your improvements. We prefer football.


Filed under: magic, pessimism, unexpected


Dutch fans assemble in the early morning to see their team play Denmark.

Filed under: magic

and then time

So that after a while you get felt up by time. You, locked up in the game’s sense of dimorphic time, first half in which time is of no essence, second in which it is all that matters.

How long is a minute? It depends on what you’re on what you’re after whether that thing you are holding is a one goal lead please God let’s not let it slip or a hope to cross out a one goal lead cross it out and replace it with a one goal lead of your own. That’s two goals you’re asking for. You eye the clock at sixty minutes, and what an eternity, as Billy Blake almost had it, that whole half-hour you have left.

A minute later what happened to the time, seventy already? Christ.

Maybe we can equalize now, now, and sneak a last minute goal later, eighty, eighty five. The pacts with the Almighty begin, you haven’t equalized yet, a draw for heavens sake never mind the win, time loses its mind and the minutes reck, less and lessly, eighty six, eighty seven, a sudden jump to ninety, then the surreal zone of stupid hope and extra time.

Sometimes what you want there happens, usually not, but there are no atheists in extra time. All credit miracles.

And then you’re shat right out of the marvelous as you knew it ref’s peep peep peep out of being extraed and extraordinaried back into inelastic time of: ordinary time.

Me, my sense of the game’s time began to develop in the early 1980s and show a child the way to go for when he is a man he shall not depart from it.


Filed under: magic, peroration


North Korea scores against Brazil.

Filed under: unexpected

the tears

The tears of the DPRK players

as their national anthem was played

is another thing

the noise

won’t wash away.


Filed under: peroration

the vuvuzela

The vuvuzela: a fever, impolitic, a site for mass hallucination, plastic in which time becomes deliriously plastic, a mask assumed for non-mortals, overtones roiling somewhere to the left of human hearing, black magic.


Filed under: magic, music

black star victory

A fan celebrates the Black Stars’ winning goal against Serbia.

Filed under: joy


The story, so often retold now and familiar, of the World Cup played in Spain in which, after a beautiful performance by an Algeria that won two group games and that, through Rabah Madjer and Lakhdar Belloumi, gifted the world with gorgeously crafted goals, West Germany and Austria collaborated or, one might say, cheated, or one might even go as far to use the word Anschluss, to throw their game, ensuring a one goal victory for West Germany, in a ploy, successful, to see them both through and knock out the Algerians, is yet another thing, owing to my tender age at the time, that I do not actually remember about 1982.

Filed under: peroration, , ,