Unprofessional Foul


January 21, 2011

Cantankerous Notes on YouTube Soccer Videos.

Gripe! Grumble!

YouTube is a glorious place sometimes.

If you can swerve and shimmy your way past the endless reels of poorly-shot vlogs, rants about something-or-other, and even all the goofy viral vids involving arachnid-averse weathermen or news anchors possessed with sublime skills of the Freudian Slip—though let’s be honest, those videos are great—you’ll dive headlong into a subterranean world of soccer highlight videos, all lovingly compiled by fans for our viewing pleasure.

They can be a treat, or they can be a torment. They can amplify the footy experience with their whimsy, or they can bludgeon you to death with an mish-mash of bad sounds, grainy video, and sadness.

To wit, we’ll begin with one of the better homemade efforts by a guy who clearly loves the slow-mo functions on Final Cut Pro:

Bursting with poetry and rich with evocative, slooooowed down snapshots of the 2008/09 season, this fella Hyperio2 does a rather good job of elevating the possibly mundane highlight with a bit more whimsy and editorial style. Ooh, look at the flags being flown high at Old Trafford, or Phil Brown’s please-don’t-fire-me wince. Hey, is that Big Phil Scolari? I remember him once.

When footage of actual goals and such begin—we do need that nice preamble of funny-looking fans that convey the passion and soul of this mercilessly sanitized sport—they’re all artsy and not just a vid capture of some shaky handicam footage culled by someone sitting and recording his TV screen and using the DVR. I think I experienced mild vertigo when trying to follow Tuncay’s long-range shot at 1:07 thanks to some nifty editing. That said, goals like Paul Scharner’s “HUH?!” outside-foot volley are left alone, presumably because no amount of visual trickery could possibly enhance such a bananas goal to begin with. The same is true when Paul Konchesky larrups one in around 3:30; we get to track that perfectly struck ball from start to finish while the scene seems to collapse in on itself like so many Hitchcock shots.

It’s obvious at this point that I quite enjoyed this video, simply because it’s a nice diversion from the rote cut-and-paste mercilessness of anything done by the BBC on Match of the Day.

Their approach is much simpler and direct: quick graphic, a couple of angles of the goal before moving on, all of it set to some British rock-music-of-the-month that’ll have the lager-full masses headbanging in their living rooms.

But we’re still interested in the fan vid, so many of which fail to please me like they should.

A lot of that is down to the fact that it’s not always easy to get high-quality base footage to use as the foundation for any tape, but the editing choices aren’t helped by the use of some godawful, temple-bashing techno music. Soccer isn’t a crowded nightclub, but we feel like we’re beaten kicked to death like a bass drum while trying to find a good example of a player’s oeuvre.

Like this compilation about Kaka.

At least I think it is, based on the number of times his name is plastered on screen:

I can seriously make it about 24 seconds before muting it, lest some Euro technopop suddenly stalk me and become the soundtrack to my nightmares. At least the videos themselves are clear enough, though occasionally, I’m watching game footage so blurry that I wonder if someone’s stretched saran wrap across my face and then smeared the transparent film in butter. But really, it’s all back to that soundtrack.

Moving to a player from a decade ago, a lovely collection of goals and gusto from Eric Cantona, but paired with Metallica. The two have about as much congruence as tuna fish and cheesecake. Then again, I’m sure someone out there enjoys the pairing, washing it down with a gallon of Mountain Dew: Code Red for good measure.

The goals are wonderful, but I can’t stop jumping around the room to notice much. James Hetfield was great back then, wasn’t he?

Finally, I’ll try a Lionel Messi vid.

Not bad. Yes, it’s still a bit bizarre to hear Eddie Vedder’s baritone warble accompany Messi’s silky skills, but the urgent tempo of one of Pearl Jam’s more frenetic songs does fit somewhat with the blistering pace of Lio, not to mention the rapidity of those Barcelona counter-attacks. I’ll call this a push.

Overall, I’m admittedly a grump about these videos. Lovingly crafted as they are, the art is a little lacking, but then again, it’s YouTube. I’m just glad the videos are right side up. Though I wouldn’t recommend that every highlight video by like the first clip up top, all languid and methodical and imbued with a sense of storytelling, it’s a bit closer to whatever I’d consider the Platonic ideal to be. (Especially that crescendo in music and highlights from about 7:20 to 8:25 chopping sharply into Robinho’s goal around 8:27, timed neatly with the bass solo, because really, a bass solo sounds about right for Robinho)

So, folks with far more skill than I to edit video who are being vaguely criticized by a guy who doesn’t have the first idea of where to begin, consider your loving paeans to your soccer heroes a bit more before you upload. Don’t just grab a Sky Sports clip and shove the Prodigy down its throat, and certainly don’t slap the most face-melting speed metal atop some Ronaldinho pirouette and expect me not to scowl fiercely on my couch. You don’t need to be some fragile auteur like Darren Aronovsky, but you can also shy away from being Michael Bay, Brett Ratner, or the irksomely-monikered “McG.”

Give it a little art the same way those fellas on the pitch do. It helps us all remember the glory of soccer a little more clearly, and with just the right amount (read: none) of techno.

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About the Author

James T