The Run of Play is a blog about
the wonder and terror of soccer.

We left the window open during a match in October 2007 and a strange wind blew into the room.

Now we walk the forgotten byways of football with a lonely tread, searching for the beautiful, the bewildering, the haunting, and the absurd.

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A Bit of Quality for Christmas

Angel holding the sun.


Dear Reader, on this morning of libation,

Fragrant with holly, redolent with peace,

I thought I’d post a poem—with trepidation,

The muse being passed out on a floor in Greece;

I’d hoped to share the season’s revelation,

But then I couldn’t quite afford the lease:

Take, then, this rhyme, my sub-Byronic way

To thank you all for reading Run of Play.


I read the Sun myself—not for the stories,

Or what old playboy scholars still call “articles,”

Which always seem to dwell on English glories

Flying apart into component particles—

Predictably, since no one heeds the Tories,

Marries a virgin, or salutes old nauticals,

Or knows St. George’s heart will run obsidian,

Until the streets sound rather less Dravidian.


Too much sun-gazing’s known to make you blind,

Like too much—well: I read it for the third page,

Which, like a bolt from Otto Klemperer’s mind,

Greatly improves the tune inside the birdcage,

And makes the cruelest shrieks seem almost kind,

And helps one’s conscience reach the reassured stage;

In short, I’d read the liberal touchy-feelies,

If not for their appalling lack of Keeleys.



I’m joking, though. I read it for the football,

Which frankly should assume a lower station,

Its writers’ real aim being to shot-put all

English locution and elucidation;

But though the thing is filthy as a soot-ball

And hardly worth the notice of the nation,

It has the biggest headlines, wall to wall,

And beats standing in breadlines, all in all.


“Ron-derful!” “Tev-riffic!” “Fernand-abulous!”

The foreign players make for rich discussions;

Put two past Pompey and they’re strictly fabulous,

But win a spot-kick and the repercussions

In ninety-five-point headlines built in Scrabulous

Will be enough to give all Spain concussions;

You just can’t trust them, as you’ve heard, I’ll vouch,

From that sublime diplomatist, P. Crouch.


And now one’s coaching England, which is bitter,

As British bosses face annihilation;

If only Lampard hadn’t missed that sitter,

Or Harry Redknapp had, incarceration;

“Don Fabio”’s a rather heavy hitter,

But can he castrate the accursed Croatian?

Till he beats back the checkerboard battalion,

He’ll always seem…perhaps a bit…Italian.



Well, what does it matter if a player dives,

Or where he’s from, or what he makes of gravity,

In this weak age, when even Micah thrives

Behind the camera, and his own depravity?

I’d ask why he and Ashley don’t find wives,

Except I’d rather not expose the cavity;

Football, not love, was tailor-made for cameras,

Unless the player is Giorgios Samaras.


Reader, I think the Sun lacks Christmas spirit.

Try as I might, I cannot find a way

To demonstrate its carolling, or hear it,

Or match it to the purpose of the day—

If Jesus came to take our sins, or near it,

Perhaps it gives him more to take away;

In any case, to help you read this happily,

I’ll try to keep from ending it too sappily.


A Bit of Quality for Christmas

by Brian Phillips · December 24, 2007

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