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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RE: Rafa’s return

The news that the unemployed Rafa Benítez has returned to his Liverpool home creates remarkable artistic opportunities for the staff of The Run of Play. Our problem is to decide among the many options.

The first thought that presents itself is a Shakespearean one: imagine an opening scene in a half-darkened hall, with Lord Roy slumped to the side of his rather over-large throne; Captain Gerrard enters quietly and whispers,

My Lord, ‘tis bruited all through Merseyside
That th’ exiled prince hath crept back to his lair. . . .

So much is clear. But from there do we go the Titus Andronicus route, now-could-I-drink-hot-blood all the way? Should we take a middle option, Roy wandering the heath after losing to Mick McCarthy, “he’s mad that trusts in the tameness of a wolf?” Or the subtler Hamlet style?—after all, Hodgson is not easily cast as a man of action. He puts forth a brave face, but it’s easy to imagine him, on hearing of Rafa’s return, “sicklied o’er by the pale cast of thought.” (The man reads a hell of a lot of books.)

To think of Hamlet is to think of the Ghost, and from there it’s but a short step to other literary ghosts—say, those in A Christmas Carol. This would have been a more attractive option two weeks ago, though we should remember that the Christmas season doesn’t officially end until January 6. Clearly, Bill Shankly must be the Ghost of Reds Past, and we have to find a role for Martin Škrtel, because if that visage doesn’t frighten you, what will? The biggest question here is whether we present Roy as Scrooge and Rafa as Marley, or vice versa.

(Note to interns: please re-read Dickens’s story and see if there’s a plausible part for Paul Konchesky’s mum. But move quickly!—we’re running out of time.)

My own preference at the moment is for grand opera: Hodgson’s stolid baritone clashing with Rafa’s coloratura soprano—that would be smashing! But here too questions must be asked. There’s the Puccini option: Scousers as bohemians, romanticized lowlife. There’s the Wagner option: Tristan und Isolde rather than Götterdämmerung, I believe—though now that I think about it. . . . But let’s not confine ourselves to the obvious. We’ve got to be willing to think outside the box. Picture this: Nixon in China.

Okay, this should give you all plenty to mull over. We’ll all meet in the conference room tomorrow morning at 10:30, so be ready for your best brainstorming. And speaking of being imaginative: interns, you can do better than Starbucks. Let’s have some good coffee and real pastries for once, okay?

À bientôt, everybody!

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by Alan Jacobs · December 30, 2010

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