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.
It’s time. I don’t just think it’s time, I know it’s time, and I know it’s time because Soccernet has a giant clock on their front page telling me it’s time. “Brian,” it says, “only 2 days, 19 hours, 50 minutes, and 19 seconds till the start of Euro 2008. Make that 16 seconds! Just about time to unstake the tarp on your tournament coverage, wouldn’t you say?” Well, here we are. Tarp unstaked. In 2 days, 19 hours, 48 minutes, and 5 seconds, the official Euro 2008 anthem is going to ring out over a confused and hostile crowd at St. Jakob Park in Basel (Shaggy? What? Why?), and I plan to get you as close as a bag of potato chips and a fitful connection to ESPN Deportes will let me.
As you’d know if you’d ever tried to write blog coverage of Euro 2008 in exactly the same way that I plan to write it, the first thing we have to do is pick a team to follow. That is task number one, and it cannot be shirked. To shirk it would be the equivalent of eating dinner even though you have neither prepared food for yourself nor gone into a restaurant. Yeah, well, not on my watch. Play with conceptual impossibility on your own blog, Douglas R. Hofstadter. In these parts, we don’t throw like that.
Anyway, late last night, while all the house was asleep, I put on my listening shawl and crept into the study to play Chopin records. I’d read a lot of theories about the best way to pick a team, ranging from the resentful (root for Croatia because they knocked out England) to the resentful but historically inflected (root for Norway because they once pillaged and terrorized England), and I thought I had my own system locked down. And it wasn’t even based on a desire to humiliate England. Smoke that, England.
My plan was to sink into a contemplative trance and let the free movement of my mind lead me to the discovery of the team I’d wanted to follow all along, only without knowing it. I closed my eyes and let the gentle plinking of Chopin’s nocturnes take me down the winding paths of memory. One by one, moments from Euro 2008 qualifying matches passed before me like figures from a magic lantern. I saw Robinson miss that back-pass from Neville in Zagreb. I watched Christian Panucci head the ball past Craig Gordon in stoppage time at Hampden Park. Once more I felt the full tedium of France’s latest draw with Italy, and I thanked my lucky stars that they wouldn’t be playing again any time soon. After a while I seemed to drift back even further, to my early childhood, and I remembered the first time I ever heard a rumor about Cristiano Ronaldo going to Real Madrid.
In the end, I settled on Poland. That’s right, Poland. Maybe you’re surprised? Well, don’t be. Poland are coming like cannonballs. We are coming for you, Germany and Croatia, and for the next, oh, 2 days, 19 hours, 20 minutes and 57 seconds, I will harbor no doubts as to the likelihood of our success.
Anyway, for the duration of Euro 2008, this site will be bringing you ALL the hardest-hitting news from inside the Polish national team. Don’t worry, though. My passion as a fan of Poland is absolutely unquestionable, but it’s not like I know most of the players’ names at this point. I will keep it accessible to you, the benighted supporter of teams wearing orange or blue. Think of it as a way for you to learn a thing or two about the inevitable tournament winners while suffering the heartbreak of your own team’s losing campaign. As a Poland fan, I may not understand how you feel, but I certainly do pity you.
Oh, you’re wondering how I picked Poland? I picked Poland the way some long-ago person slipped into the first fur coat. Sometimes, your whole brain can tell you something is wrong, but you just know it’s right. There’s also a better than decent chance that the whole thing is Chopin’s fault. I’m not overlooking the possibility that he embedded subliminal cues into his musical scores those 160 years ago. Say what you like, but the man cared about his country.
Read More: Euro 2008
by Brian Phillips · June 4, 2008