n+1: Euro Cup 2012

Dushko Petrovich, both wrapping up the tournament so far and previewing today’s final, offers this sketch of Mario Balotelli:

As a civilian, he is outlandish. Last year, his white Maserati was impounded twenty-seven times, accumulating £10,000 worth of parking tickets. He also accidentally set his house on fire with firecrackers, was fined a week’s wages for throwing darts at a teammate, and kept turning up unannounced in strange places, including a women’s prison in Brescia (“just fancied having a look”) and Xavarian College in Manchester, where he apparently came for the bathroom but stayed for a while.

On the pitch, he is always a threat. But to whom? He scores amazing goals, many of them invented out of nothing, but he often falls out of games and regularly gets kicked out. Several times this tournament, he has gone clear on goal and entered a kind of daze, as if he has forgotten where he is.

Wallace on Federer

David Foster Wallace was on NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday this morning, talking about Roger Federer. Wallace fans will know that the author’s long been interested in tennis: half of his brilliant novel Infinite Jest takes place at a junior tennis academy; there are two tennis-related pieces in his collection A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again; he even once wrote a very entertaining aerial-view piece about the U.S. Open (I think for Tennis magazine), that I don’t think has been republished since it ran several years ago.

Wallace was on this morning’s show in part to publicize his article about Federer in The New York Times’ sports magazine, PLAY. NPR’s Scott Simon said the article would appear in September, but it’s already online, and the ‘Published on’ date is tomorrow. The piece is “Federer as Religious Experience,” and it begins:

Almost anyone who loves tennis and follows the men’s tour on television has, over the last few years, had what might be termed Federer Moments. These are times, as you watch the young Swiss play, when the jaw drops and eyes protrude and sounds are made that bring spouses in from other rooms to see if you’re O.K.

As with most Wallace pieces, I could sit here all day and pull quote after juicy quote. Just go read it.

How We Are Faking

The Observer offers this enjoyable Dave Eggers essay on Americans and soccer, which comes from a forthcoming book called The Thinking Fan’s Guide to the World Cup (Abacus). I particularly enjoyed this riff on the sport’s “penalty-fakers”:

But diving in soccer is a problem. It is essentially a combination of acting, lying, begging and cheating, an unappealing mix. The theatricality of diving is distasteful, as is the slow-motion way the chicanery unfolds. First there will be some incidental contact, and then there will be a long moment – enough to allow you to go and wash the car and return – after the contact and before the diver decides to go down. When you’ve returned from washing the car and around the time you’re making yourself a mini-bagel grilled cheese, the diver will be leaping forward, his mouth Munch-wide and oval, bracing himself for contact with the pitch. But this is just the beginning. Go and do the grocery shopping and perhaps open a new account at the bank, and when you return, our diver will still be on the ground, holding his shin, his head thrown back in mock-agony. It’s disgusting, all of it, particularly because, just as all of this fakery takes a good deal of time and melodrama to put over, the next step is so fast that special cameras are needed to capture it. Once the referees have decided either to issue a penalty or not to our Fakey McChumpland, he will jump up, suddenly and spectacular uninjured - excelsior! - and will kick the ball over to his team-mate and move on.