Ronaldo’s Goal for Corinthians and the Sudden Violence of Joy
by Brian Phillips · March 9, 2009
Leaving the goal aside, the celebration means something. For one thing, it’s a reminder of the incredible intensity of feeling that Ronaldo commands in Brazil—something Tom Phillips captured in his Guardian piece last week—and a rebuke to all the internet kids who seem to think Ronaldo is some kind of long-running joke, dethroned from his own name by Cristiano. I don’t care how many transvestites he’s been in elevators with; Ronaldo was a more natural, dangerous, and joyful player than Cristiano Ronaldo is or ever will be. So when he spends a year broken with injury, goes back to his homeland, is mobbed by the media after his first game to the point that he emerges with a black eye, then scores an extra-time leveler against his team’s biggest rival and sets off a celebration that threatens to tear down the stadium, there’s a sense in which it’s all just appropriate, the universe paying its chaotic tribute to greatness.
This is also an event that could define the line between a riot and an outpouring of joy. The crowd that rushes the fence seems to relent at the precise moment when mass hysteria starts to look dangerous. Watching the video, you never have a sense that things are about to get really out of control, but you do get the impression that it wouldn’t take much—an accident one way or the other—for that intuitive assumption of security to go down in a sudden panic. One of the depressing things about this game is the frequency with which it spills over into violence. It’s worth remembering that that danger is in some ways intimately connected to the game’s ability to create ecstatic happiness, and—given that that’s not really an excuse—that most of the time it doesn’t spill over at all.
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