Living Arg

A month ago, for many Americans, the game the world calls Football had mostly been appreciated through viewings of Ted Lasso, Mbappé was assumed to be a reference to an old pop song by the family band Hanson or the latest high-caloric iced mocha drink from Starbucks (Mbappécino), and Messi sounded like a new Netflix reality show from Marie Kondo. What a difference a beautiful month with the beautiful game makes, especially when it’s capped off with an otherworldly, storybook final game in which two legends faced off on the biggest stage in sports and, in the end, both of their legends grew. Messi established himself as the GOAT and Mbappé’s hat trick secured his spot as the greatest of this time, and the foreseeable future. In short, if, a month ago, you set out to finally get into soccer, there’s only one word necessary: goooooooooooal! For a brief moment, we were all Andres Cantor calling the end of the match. As Brian Phillips writes in The Ringer, We Are All Witnesses. “Every game is a story. And when you consider the stakes, the performances, the history in the balance, the refusal of either side to lose, the moments of astonishing play, the sudden reversals and wild swings of momentum, the knife’s-edge uncertainty of the outcome, and the epochal significance of a result that brought the career of the world’s best player to an almost magically perfect climax, it is hard to imagine a story more overwhelming or more satisfying than this one.” (Unless you’re from France, in which case, it’s not at all hard to imagine.)

+ Ed Caesar in The New Yorker: “This was the best World Cup final I have ever seen, that perhaps anyone has ever seen—a match stuffed full of so many remarkable incidents, so much tension, such dramatic momentum swings, such joy.”

+ “His penchant for walking is not a symptom of indolence or entitlement; it’s a practice that reveals supreme footballing intelligence and a commitment to the efficient expenditure of energy. Also, it’s a ruse—the greatest con job in the history of the game.” Jody Rosen in The New Yorker: The Genius of Lionel Messi Just Walking Around. (I did something similar through four seasons of high school football practices and yet, my coaches never quite saw the genius.)

+ Ryan O’Hanlon in ESPN: Why Lionel Messi is the best male athlete of all time. (Whether you agree or not, it’s an interesting argument. Messi is definitely paid like one of the best athletes of all time! He also now has the most liked image shared by an athlete on Instagram.)

+ Of course, the match was not all about Messi. It was also about Argentina goalkeeper Emi Martínez whose pretty American shoot-out shenanigans were largely beyond the US TV frame, but whose hand job seen ’round the world was not (Emi, get a grip!)

+ It’s possible that Argentina had an unfair advantage. “The witches said their main focus is to use rituals to absorb negative energy from Argentina’s players and exchange it with good energy.” NYT: Behind Argentina’s World Cup Magic, an Army of Witches. (You’d have to be a real lunatic to believe in this kind of nonsense. That said, I’ve hired a handful of them to go to work for the 49ers next month.)

+ The final, in photos. And equally exciting, from WaPo, photos of fans watching the greatest final ever.

+ In addition to bragging rights, Argentinians will get all the Budweiser left over from Qatar after it was banned from the stadiums. Um, congrats?

+ The next stop for the World Cup is the Women’s World Cup next summer in Australia and New Zealand and then the Men’s next meeting in North America in 2026. Meanwhile, if you’ve got the bug, there’s this from NPR: The World Cup is over. What soccer should I watch now? Sadly, Ted Lasso season three doesn’t yet have a release date. This season, Ted won’t have to remind people to believe. After this World Cup, we already do.

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