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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Breaking Down the Barclays Premier League Email Autoreply System, Part Two

A duel with swords.

Things keep getting stranger on the email autoreply front. After a fairly straightforward message from Blackburn yesterday (text: “Thank you for contacting Blackburn Rovers Football Club. Please be advised that due to the large number of messages we receive, we will kick your filthy teeth in. If you would like to speak to a Blackburn representative, we will stomp your huddled family. Thank you again for your interest in Blackburn Rovers”) I woke up this morning to find an unusual letter from Arsenal.

Subject: AUTOREPLY: Attn Club Chairman No to Game 39
From: LeClerq-9000 <>
Date: 2/13/2008 5:15 AM


The dogs in this accursed city had scarcely ceased to whine when, prising the lids apart slowly as a check against the unwelcome ingress of daylight, I opened my eyes to find that the maid had come into the room and was busy adjusting the curtains, for all the world as if unconscious of my presence. I daresay that I might, à l’ordinaire, have been glad enough to find her, wan little thing though she was, but a certain precept regarding the daughters of Belgian innkeepers flashing through my mind, and the quantity of wine I had consumed on the previous evening flashing through it, rather more distressingly, only a moment later, I only groaned and sat up in bed, in which attitude the little wench observed me when she turned upon hearing the sound.

We regarded one another quite à couteaux tirés, I resenting her intrusion on my rest, she resenting—what? Some comment, no doubt, forgotten the moment it was made, from the night before. At last she said rather stiffly, “Ah, Monsieur is awake. There is a letter for Monsieur downstairs.” Whereupon she returned to her dusting, and refused to take note of my existence for the thankfully brief remnant of our shared stay in the room.

The effect of this encounter upon my already dismal mood, you may well imagine. I was not, I suppose, the very plum of courtesy to the fat apron-clad host who handed me your missive—all bowing and wringing his hands, everything is to Monsieur’s satisfaction, the room was warm enough for Monsieur, avec tout le tralala, until I simply seized the paper and turned my back on his prima ballerina performance. Put a man with a monkey-organ three steps to his right and I might have dropped a penny in his cup, but in the instance I only stalked off to a table, leaving him to be singed, as it were, by my comet’s tail.

Montano, I have read your note with consternation. I have come to this town to paint. If I am to find that spirit which I sense moving out on the far waters—that spirit we discussed, you may recall, by candlelight, as boys at Grosvenor Hall—then I cannot permit myself to be troubled by your damned inconvenient carping. You may be prepared to sacrifice your life upon the altar of your uncle’s inheritance, but I’ll be hanged before some tiny solicitor’s office with a fire and a clerk and a tinkling bell over the door shall ever bear my nameplate.

I shan’t trouble to write to you again. Due to the high volume of correspondence we receive, Arsenal Football Club cannot guarantee an individual response to each message. Thank you for your interest in Arsenal Football Club.


The first thing I thought after reading this message was: My God, Mathieu Flamini needs to spend more time in practice. But before long I started to think the whole thing was a hoax, so I hit “reply” and dashed off a quick note:

Dear hilarious secretary at Arsenal —

Ha ha ha, you’ve scored your little point about email autoreplies. Reading my blog over at the Emirates lately, are we? Well, come on, either send me the real autoreply so I can put it in the feature, or ignore me, one or the other. No more pranks. Just because your boyfriend downloaded the director’s cut of Dangerous Liaisons on bittorrent last night doesn’t make you awesome, I checked.

— Brian

An hour later I had a new message in my inbox.


You have denied my identity and impugned my honour for the last time. I say it plainly: you are a coward and a villain. Perhaps you would be so kind as to name a friend who might speak to my friend about a time when we could we could pursue some further conversation together. If you choose to ignore my little request, I trust you will not begrudge me the satisfaction of proclaiming your cowardice in the church.


And that’s where things stand now. As far as I can tell I’ve been challenged to a duel by the Arsenal email autoreply system. I’ll probably play it cool for a while—I don’t really know how to fence, and I’m not even sure that a theoretical software routine would be vulnerable to cutting damage. More details as the situation develops.


Breaking Down the Barclays Premier League Email Autoreply System, Part Two

by Brian Phillips · February 13, 2008

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