Tuesday, April 13, 2010

You Have To Get Up Pretty Early to Pull One Over on CSKA Sofia. But Not That Early, Really.

I've got a bigger thing I should be working on today, but I wanted to link to a recent post I did for Can't Stop the Bleeding on Greg Akcelrod, a French event promoter/lite con man (redundant?) who overcame his tragic lack of being-really-good-at-soccer to become a soccer prospect in Europe, simply by doing a bunch of sketchy web marketing for himself. Jonathan Clegg's original Wall Street Journal story is here, my (admittedly not the best thing I've ever written) gloss/musing at CSTB is here.

While Akcelrod's story is pretty interesting, the truly interesting element, for me, was how decentralized and structure-less the world of soccer scouting appears to be. There's more about this in the CSTB post, but the broke-ass, hope-powered human lives of pro sports vagabonds, weird international minor leagues and itinerant athletes is one of my dream writing topics. (The Journal generally does a very good job covering this; I blogged about another great WSJ story on Weird Soccer at CSTB last year) It will likely remain just that, sadly: I don't sense the market for this sort of thing matches my depth of interest, and I'm also not sure there's an advance out there big enough to justify reporting trips to Manila or Baku or Rangoon or wherever the story might take me.

It also might well be that people who don't give a shit about God Shammgod -- or even know who he is -- might not find it so pathos-rich and fascinating to find him plying his playground-legend trade in China's equivalent of Flint, Michigan. I do know that I always find it interesting. Thomas Friedman's mustache of understanding notwithstanding, it seems to me that we don't quite seem to have this globalization thing figured out yet. Which, okay, attribution:

"It seems to me that we don't quite seem to have this globalization thing figured out yet." -- Joseph Stiglitz

So obviously I don't know too terribly much about globalization, although I suspect that there are a few supposed experts who could join me in that club if they were to put down the pom-poms and be honest with themselves. And anyway, I know enough about the shape it's taking not to like globalization very much, and that cheap certainty is just about good enough for me. But the weirdnesses of globalized sports and the human foibles and goofinesses that define that weirdness -- and, less abstract and more to the point, the human beings stuck riding those odd waves -- are pretty fascinating to me. Greg Akcelrod's too-easy soccer impostor-y and Stephen Constantine's one-man-soccer-NGO life seem to hint at something deeper than "funny old world," although it's an awfully big thing to try to understand the shape of. Fascinating and odd as their stories are, though -- to quote myself from the CSTB post, because cheapness is different than plagiarism -- the (human) haystack is more interesting to me than the (human) needles in it. Also, to point out the obvious, this is one fucking huge haystack. Made of people. To be clear. Okay, I should get to work.

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