A girl I love once gave me a book as a gift. It was a good one, notable, but as she said in her inscription, not something I should bother reading. She was right and I never have, never once turning past the inky message on the flip-side of its paperback cover.
“It’s still wet paint,” she wrote there, describing the fragility and intoxicating fragrance of our young relationship. “I’m even still reading UF.”
Years have past, as they do, and that “paint” is long since dried, weathered, and peeled away. We applied new coats, again and again, until the canvas itself stiffened and cracked and gave way to something altogether different and lovely. I don’t think she’s read much of us lately. I’ve written less.
Soccer is not my first language. It’ll never be my best. A New York kid (not to be confused with THE NY Kid), I was raised to be fluent (and often unfortunately florid) in hockey, football, and baseball. Now, almost two decades after the American World Cup, about 10 years since I tied my perishable flesh to Spurs’ intractable fate, and at the end of more than three years with Unprofessional Foul, I feel at home in the game. I’ve stopped looking for equivalents. I speak, but more importantly, think in soccer.
I speak and think in a tongue not invented or perfected, but certainly developed and broadened by UF’s writers. James T will have more to say about our particular dialect and its genesis in his post later, but this site has never been about technique or, heavens, coherent essays and sensible grammar — I once tried to edit Ned, whose Norwichian screeds you might remember as having been like Joyce, but ridiculous. Once, I tried.
Whatever we’ve done here was forged in daily email threads. In talking to each other. At our peak, probably just after the 2008 European Championship, the group was exchanging hundreds of messages every day. That’s a lot of writing, almost all of it about the game and its soap operatic travails. There was, as the English are so fond of saying, banter, but there was also serious debate.
Ah, yes – “serious debate.” The expression, in passing, connotes some kind of unsmiling argument — earnest discussion giving way to pragmatic deliberations. Is this serious? Nothing fun in that. But time with Unprofessional Foul could never be spent “in passing.” Here, one kept his head, existed and learned things. About soccer, certainly, but other more elemental stuff, too.
Blogging, for me, had been about bile or anti-bile. You were either toxic and anonymous or Will Leitch.
Neither seemed fun, so we did something different. We were serious, we were fun; it was possible.
There’s no payoff coming (beyond that), at least in this space. Not to you, loyal and intelligent as you’ve been, there for every bootroom, ready to pounce on every error, from dubious syntax to my fundamental fucking misunderstanding of the complications facing Bosnian football’s tri-partite governing body. And none for me, for now.
I’m not sure what this was all about except that I loved it and knew it would end. And now, finally and with everyone’s permission, Unprofessional Foul is doing just that.
I think it’s poor form to remark on an event as it unfolds (says the twitter fiend) or to discuss one’s feelings while simultaneously untangling them. (Why do you think people say, “That’s so funny!” instead of, like, laughing? They’re checking the temperature.) So in that vein, I leave you — us — with this:
I loved a girl once. She gave me a book I never read, but cherish all the same — for its promise then and everything that’s followed since, I’m thankful. When we say, “Let’s be friends,” I know we mean it, I know we will, and I know why.
For those of you who knew me as @QuimFont, he too has been laid to rest (months ago). Stay in touch on Twitter: @gregjkrieg