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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I Was Hoping This Wouldn’t Be Awkward

I smell like Irish whisky.  I have big hands, son.

Look, I know I haven’t been there for you. I know that. No one who leaves the house to buy cigarettes and doesn’t come back for six years is drinking his coffee out of a father of the year mug, believe me. It doesn’t matter now why I left or where I went. Maybe you thought I was in jail, maybe you thought I was dead. Let’s just say that whatever you thought, you probably weren’t far wrong.

What matters now is that I’m home. And I’m not going anywhere.

Kip, you’re a ten-year-old boy. I don’t know what the hell that means. I’m looking around your room, and all I’m seeing is a bunch of plastic dolls wearing bike helmets and wetsuits, and I’m thinking…Jesus Holy Christ in the morning, I know how to sweat out the Bushmills shakes, I know how to bluff a Czech border guard on the midnight train out of Salzburg, but I haven’t got a clue how to relate to my own damn son. Well, I’m here to learn, Kipper. I’m here to learn.

One thing I do know is that all these years you’ve been going through some tough times and you’ve been doing it by yourself. Barnsley go through Liverpool and Chelsea to make the semifinals of the FA Cup, and you’re supposed to put that in perspective without me? Arsenal destroy Milan in the Champions League but fall apart at home and you’re supposed to make sense of that on your own? Is Avram Grant looking at a concrete trenchcoat? Have Everton got a decent shot at fourth? No offense, but being a kid is tough enough without you trying to understand this nonsense without help.

Well, that’s what I’m here for, now. Maybe we’re never going to be as close as we would have been if I hadn’t left. Maybe you’re never going to come to terms with what I did. But look, one day, I hope you look back on this time, and think, I reached an age when I needed to know whether Alex Ferguson’s purple-faced rant was pure comedy or a legitimate critique of the culture of refereeing. And that’s when he came back. That’s when Mom forgave him, and that’s when I started to forgive him, too.

I’m going track down a top-off for this Scotch. Hell, you’re old enough. You want a taste?

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I Was Hoping This Wouldn’t Be Awkward

by Brian Phillips · March 17, 2008

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