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.
This won’t be new to many of you, but I absolutely love the Guardian‘s “Seven Deadly Sins of Football” feature, which is essentially a compilation of shocking, outlandish, and dismaying moments, helpfully grouped according to an ancient Catholic doctrine based on Gregory I’s revision of the work of a fourth-century monk called Evagrius the Solitary. Needless to say, this is exactly the sort of thing I think the mainstream sports media should be doing.
It helps that the Guardian‘s football writers have a suave way with an anecdote and clearly relish the cracked stories they’ve uncovered—for instance:
Goalkeeper abandoned in forest – Arges Pitesti, 1999
It’s one way of making your point. Not a particularly constructive way, but a way nonetheless. After Romanian league Arges Pitesti’s goalkeeper Bogdan Vintila had conceded a soft goal against rivals Universitatea Craiova, coach Florin Halagian, a notorious disciplinarian, stopped the team bus as it passed through a forest on the way home. Vintila was ordered to get off the bus and ended up walking 10 miles through the forest before he found a lift home. JW (from Wrath)
Barson packs a piece – Aston Villa, 1919-1922
Either side of the first world war, Frank Barson was the game’s first real hard man, a preposterous specimen with thighs like tree trunks and hair greased back so tight that it came within an extra comb on terminally restricting the bloodflow. He was once banned for seven months after cleaning out a Fulham player. And after one especially zesty display during his time at Barnsley, he had to be smuggled out of Goodison Park to avoid a group of Everton fans who wanted to discuss a couple of tactical subtleties. Some stories suggest he brought a gun into the manager’s office to accelerate discussions over a pay rise. And he unashamedly spoke of his friendship with the Fowler brothers, who were later hanged for murder. RS (from Wrath)
Preston rule the world briefly – Preston North End, 1888
Very much the Chelsea of their day, in the late 1880s Preston North End were synonymous with glamour, wealth and dizzying on-field success. End won the first two league titles thanks to their deep pockets and a whole team of foreigners from Scotland. They became known as “Proud Preston”, taking no heed of what pride comes before, which in their case was a retreat into relative obscurity for much of the ensuing 120 years. They might have taken a hint from the FA Cup final of 1888, when they were confident of beating West Brom. They had after all scored 55 goals on the way to the final, including a record 26-0 win over Hyde. So confident were they, in fact, that they asked to be photographed with the trophy before the match – heresy among the pantheon of modern-day football superstitions. Inevitably, the mighty End lost, West Brom winning 2-1 with a goal 13 minutes from time. MT (from Pride)
So far, I think Wrath is my favorite, but Pride and Envy have their moments. (Greed is a little predictable, this being football and all.) Gluttony, Sloth, and Lust are slated to appear over the next few days, and for some reason, I’m especially excited about Sloth. In any case, they’re all well worth a look.
by Brian Phillips · May 19, 2009