>April 2011, April 2009 & October 1975

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[The past week has been a big one – tonight, the Bruins go up against the Canadiens for their 33rd playoff series, Manny Ramirez retired after testing positive for PEDs again, and the Boston Red Sox officially have the worst record in baseball following Dice-K’s implosion on Monday night.   Those, right there, are three things I am itching to talk about.  I’m going to break schedule and publish this odd, sentimental-type post I’ve had in the wings for a while a few days early and a more topical post on Sunday.]

I was twenty years old the first time I saw Fenway Park.  In the early hours of an April morning I quietly – no… piously – let my fingertips glide and bounce across the gritty brick facade all the way up Lansdowne Street.  The Yankees were in town for an afternoon game but it would be several hours before that magnificent game day atmosphere would ebb in like a tide and consume absolutely everything – I had it to myself.

It’s a memory I can call up whenever and recall with stunning clarity.  I remember first noting the peculiar ways in which Fenway is capable of manipulating light.  How it forever seems to be cast in it’s own shadow – an effect owed in large part to the endless, heavy, red bricks and a muted green color scheme threaded throughout.  I couldn’t help but think of how quintessentially timeless that ballpark is.  Boston is not the perpetual noise machine that other cities can be and there are several places within the city limits that feel a million miles away, affording a sacred kind of quiet.  Fenway Park, 8am, is one such place.  Absolved in the silence, it wasn’t difficult to fade out everything else and imagine walking the same path, up towards the C gate, rounding around back towards Yawkey Way, in the queer morning hours before a game, circa 1955, ’38 or 1912.

“More horses.”

As it often goes, there wasn’t any way for me to understand, at that time, the significance of that morning.  But that was the moment I decided to move to Boston – one of the most important decisions I’ve made yet.  I was utterly enthralled and knew I’d sell everything I owned to make it back and that I’d be signing a lease in the city before the end of the summer.  Which I did – back on July 1st, signing at 1607 Commonwealth Avenue. 

Another important decision, I went back to school three months ago.  Actually, no – to say that isn’t entirely accurate because I’d never gone to college before in the first place.  Since then, I’ve kind of, sort of, basically been incredibly fucking stressed out.  I’ve simply not felt like myself an awful lot recently, so consumed with the drag of working forty hours a week while going to school three nights of the five.  I hate complaining, but I was seriously struggling with the whole thing and by the end of March, I knew something had to give.  And it did – when halfway through the semester it was divulged to me that I was failing my biology course (three assignments, weighed equally, and I failed two so no coming back from that).  It was a course I didn’t have to take, but took for the sake of the challenge.  Now, having dropped that course like a bad habit, my GPA is salvaged.  But I won’t qualify for financial aid next semester either.  So it’s another loan, another schedule virtually identical to the one I have now.

So, lesson learned.  I’m man enough to try new and difficult things because they are new and difficult and man enough to know when I was simply never capable of succeeding at them.  Either way, it’s probably going to cost me a lot of fucking money.  But I digress.  I promise there’s a point.

The night I realized I had failed, I crawled into bed and absentmindedly turned on an installment in the Ken Burns’ Baseball documentary.  I just wanted to click off for a few hours and not think about anything.  Not how badly I’d fucked up or how unbearable the stress was becoming.  And when I want to be just a step above actual unconsciousness, I turn to Ken Burns.


“It’s what I’m here for!”

It’s somewhere in the middle of the series (which, jokes aside, is remarkable).  About an hour and fifteen minutes into the thing, they’re talking about the 1975 World Series.  Game Six, specifically – which is generally regarded as one of the best games of baseball ever played.  Some of the era’s top players, in top form, playing against each other in the World Series. 

You’ve got Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, and Ken Griffey playing for the Big Red Machine.  Fred Lynn, Dwight Evans, Yaz and Carlton Fisk for the Sox.

Rose talks about this magical moment where he realized late in the game just how special it all was.  And, ever a man for amazing quotes, remembered what he said, playing in the World Series on a great team against another great team: “Now this is fun.”

You know what happens next.

The game goes into 12 innings, tied at six.  The Reds went through eight pitchers, sending in Pat Darcy to face Fisk.  On the second pitch passed, Pudge slams a line drive high over the left field line.  Tossing his bat and running sideways to first, Fisk threw up his arms and with his entire body begged the ball to stay fair.

It really plays like he willed that goddamn ball.  It is one of the most iconic images in the history of sports, and for good reason.  It’s magic – the ball never should have had a chance, the wind should have dove in and killed it or it should have hit the foul pole and pang! gone left into the stands.  Instead, it hits the foul pole, pops right over the Green Monster. 

I’ve seen that tape countless times before.  I’ve seen the game in it’s entirety a couple of times.  But that night, my mood had it that it was like I’d come unstuck in time, watching the thing on a live feed.  The grandstands spill over.  By the time he’s rounding third, Fisk is dodging fans left and right, bouncing over the stark white line along those final ninety feet.  Slams his spikes into home plate & the Red Sox win the game on a miracle home run, forcing a game seven.

I close my computer.  Lace up my Sambas.  Head outside into the cool air to pick my girlfriend up from class.  And for a few blocks, I just think about that home run.  I play it over and over in my head and note how my heart skips when Fisky’s arms go up – you can’t help but see it in slow motion.  I feel weightless – at some point the stress just bled away and while I’m vaguely cognizant of how little I suddenly care about the class I failed, I also know it’s not going to stop me.  I failed – I tried and I failed.  But I’ve two other classes to focus on now and three and a half more years of classes ahead of me after that.  There’s no point getting stressed.  None.  That night, it’s all so very clear – that happened.  Moving on.  Still going.

Throwing myself into sport for a moment when I really needed something to grasp onto, I felt pure and I felt secure.  It’s funny – funny ha ha funny -that it took Carlton Fisk to beat down a debilitating sense of dread in me but to his credit, dude did it in one night, thirty six years after the fact. 

I was just in awe of everything.  That moment in history was just so perfect and so wonderful.

The three family homes lining the walk seemed like perfect pieces of architecture.  The music clinging to the air for a moment as a car passed sounded wonderful.  The air was sweet.

I thought about my life and the myriad of ways in which it’s changed – damn near every one of them dramatic as all hell – since that morning in April two years ago.  It’s staggering when viewed as a panorama.  It took that one visit to Fenway to alter the course of my life.  I wonder what my life would have been like if I’d happened to have been born a Cubs fan? 

I think now, several weeks after the fact, watching that home run again will be something I’ll always remember as another turning point.  I’m in school for a reason – because I wasn’t happy with the path I was sprinting down.  One of dead-end job after dead-end job.  Less because of a lack of a degree, more because I really didn’t have any ambition.  That’s changed since I’ve moved here. 

“Now this is fun.”

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>My Favorite Sports References in Literature

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[like a dark horse, my dear friend and frequent contributor to the Desk Jasper Moore up and submits a new guest post in a week when I really didn’t have too damn much to write about in the first place.  This one’s one of my favorites – indicative of what the guy is doing over at The Triumph — you owe it to yourself to head over there just as soon as you finish reading this here post.  Much Obliged – Your Editor]
It’s not exactly a secret that those of us who spent our entire childhoods reading are not known for being particularly athletic. When I was 7 I read The Neverending Story around 8 times and failed literally every part of the Presidential Fitness test (on the upside, I got to be judgmental of all the kids who only saw the movie—I’m actually rereading it now and that book still kicks a lot of ass).

But it’s also not a secret that we like to obsess over trivia, impose mythic structures onto everyday life, and know absolutely everything, and all of those habits work at making us really resent our inability to get involved in sports (I once wrote a poem where I used the highs and lows of the Boston Red Sox as a metaphor for a 
relationship—how quickly you transform from Ted Williams to Bill Buckner when things get rough).
This is exactly what getting in a fight over your girlfriend’s insistence on trusting Google like it was her father feels like.
So in honor of this contradiction: my favorite times that a writer’s looked at the field of athletics and said “yes.
This is what I need.”
#5: The Opening of Bailey’s Café, by Gloria Naylor

“…If he’s too good a crowd could turn real ugly, if he’s too good he might not make it out of town that night; so the Northern games are where he goes all-out and hopefully gets himself voted into the East-West classics and his team into the Negro World Series…”

This is actually the book that inspired the list—I’m partway through and it’s pretty good. At times the book is so dark it feels like Naylor is deliberately trying to make you feel awful, and at times the narrative voice gets a little gratingly folksy, but for the most part it’s a really solid book. And it opens with page after page of praise for the Colored Leagues of the 20s and the way that baseball was, for its young black narrator, the only thing he saw in life that gave him hope that a world might exist outside the one he lives in.

Here’s how good that passage is: the narrator states that for him, the world begins and ends at New York, and I’m still cheering for the same teams as him.
If that guy had a swastika sticker on the back of his car, I don’t think I’d hate him any more than I do now.” – your editor’s comments on a Yankees bumper sticker


#4: Soccer and Vodka, Solomon Volkov’s Testimony
Yeah, I’m putting Testimony in the fiction category. The work is hugely, hugely controversial—to the point where a symposium of musicologists (you know: grown up band-camp kids) got into an all-out brawl over it. I’m gonna go with the position that, authentic or not, and despite desperately wishing it was true, it’s just not trustworthy. Still a damn good read though.

Anyway, there’s a quote in it where Dmitri Shostakovich off-handedly says:

“Listening to football on the radio is like drinking imported Stolichnaya.”

“Max, I have only enough love for my son or for Zenit Leningrad. Not both.”


And God-damn, that is a wonderful quote. Not only does it name-drop some great vodka, but it’s an incredibly intelligent composer—one of the greatest to ever live—pausing for a moment to talk about how much he loves soccer. He once said that “Football is the ballet of the masses.” Given that Volkov’s whole aim was to show Shostakovich as a clever, human soul, this line is probably the highlight of the book for me (also, unlike a lot of the book, something that I can picture the real man actually saying).
Jesus Christ, this is the most adorable photo of the entire Bolshevik era. Not that, you know, it has a lot of competition.

#3: George Orwell Tells Soccer to Go Fuck Itself
“Serious sport has nothing to do with fair play. It is bound up with hatred, jealousy, boastfulness, disregard of all rules and sadistic pleasure in witnessing violence: in other words it is war minus the 
shooting.”

Given that Orwell say war (shot in the throat, remember), this is a pretty big compliment to the world of sports. It’s from a whole big essay of his on soccer (or, excuse me, football) where he talks about how absolutely brutal soccer is in England. It’s him elaborating how horrifying it is to watch people get furious about kicking a ball around, how repulsive the bloodlust of boxing fans are, and saying that people who say sports bring us together and inspire peace are goddamn idiots.

Look, I’m not gonna tell him otherwise.
Mind you, I think that all those things are what makes sports beautiful, but, then again, the guy who got shot in the throat fighting for democracy and wrote the most chilling scene about hatred and propaganda in the history of literature (The Minute of Hate, which was pretty much just a political version of your basic Glasgow football fan) probably knows better than me.

I like to think the reason no recordings of his voice survive is just because he decided we didn’t deserve them.

#2: Soccer and Suicide are the Scots’ Only TalentsAlasdair Gray, 1982 Janine
1982 Janine is the narrative of Jock MacLeish, Conservative Scottish Nationalist, getting absolutely smashed on Glenlivet in a Midlands hotel room and telling us the story of his life, distracting himself from the sad parts with elaborate sadomasochistic sexual fantasies—and then preventing himself from climaxing by thinking about his least favorite memories. Said fantasies are, in part, a way of asserting power in his sex life that the lack of an independent Scottish nation has denied him in his political life. This continues until he overdoses on sleeping pills, his mind explodes, he talks to God/The Author, and then goes to sleep and tries to tell an actual story. Gray says it’s his favorite of his books.

“Tee-hee! I’m charmingly insane!”

Right as he tips over into absolute drunkenness—and starts to realize the political meaning behind his masturbatory fantasies—when he makes the following observation about what it is to be Scottish (Hogmanay is New Year’s—and a really big deal in Scotland):
“Who spread the theory that the Scots are an INDEPENDENT people? Robert Burns. …The truth is we are a nation of arselickers, though we disguise it with…a surface of futile maudlin defiance like when we break goalposts and windows after football matches on foreign soil and commit suicide on Hogmanay by leaping from the fountains in Trafalgar Square…We are a poor little country, always will be, always have been, but it would be a luxury to blame ourselves for the mess we are in 
instead of the bloody old Westminster Parliament.”

But…he seems so ordinary.

Everyone know that Scottish football fans—particularly in Gray’s hometown of Glasgow—are pretty much a sack of knives held together by beer and scabs. But it’s pretty brilliant that he made the connection between that and Scotland’s perpetual disenfranchisement. And between that and arselicking—and, given some of the content of the book, I don’t think he’s being entirely figurative in that either.
Yeah, that’s hippo-sex. And also football, somehow.


#1: The Opening of the Sound and the Fury


“Through the fence, between the curling flower spaces, I could see them hitting. They were coming toward where the flag was and I went along the fence. Luster was hunting in the grass by the flower tree. They took the flag out, and they were hitting. Then they put the flag back and they went to the table, and he hit and the other hit. Then they went on, and I went along the fence. Luster came away from the flower tree and we went along the fence and they stopped and we stopped and I looked through the fence while Luster was hunting in the grass. 

     ‘Here, caddie. He hit’. They went away across the pasture. I held to the fence and watched them going away.”


Here’s the context (which is denied you when you first read the book). Benjy Compson, our narrator, has the mind of a three-year-old and no concept of time. The only member of his family who treated him well was his sister Caddie. His brother Quentin was…kind of obsessed with Caddy and her sexual purity, because it represented the honor of the family.
Also… yeah
Caddy got knocked up and ran away, Quention went off to college in Boston [FUCK YEAHeditor] and promptly drowned himself in the Charles River [oh. –editor], and Benjy’s father drank himself to death. There was a chunk of land the Compson family owned that was supposed to be sold to pay someone to take care of Benjy when his mother died that was instead sold to send Quentin to Harvard and turned into a golf course.

Benjy walks along the edge of it every day. The family thinks he knows the land was his, but he doesn’t. He just wants to hear the golfers shout “Caddy!” because it makes him remember his sister, and when he remembers things they may as well be happening to him.

“Oh, I’m sorry. Was that hard to follow? Tough shit, Yankee.”

That’s what Faulkner does here. He takes golf—which not even my love of Scotland can make not-boring-as-shit—and turns it into a way through which the idiot who personifies the fallen south attempts to relive a time when his family wasn’t in ruins. The novel opens with benjy watching a game of golf and that scene forms the nexus, not just of the novel, but of the entire history of the American South.
Jesus Christ, Faulkner. I’d hate to see what you would do with baseball.

“Write the book that unmakes the world. No big deal”
[Sidenote: Can I just say that shirtless Faulkner photos are the greatest thing in the world? After Orwell with a katana.]

>Talkin’ Bout a Shaq Pack

>I want to tell you something about myself that you might not know. 

I fucking love Shaq.

“Sheeet, thanks Kelly.”

As the Desk fast approaches our twentieth post (a milestone, in as much as I have not yet been distracted by something shiny yet), there has been ample time to establish the fact that some sports ain’t going to get a lot of ink around here.  This sentence, right here, marks the very first time the word “basketball” has been written on this site.  It’s just one sport I’m not very interested in.  Hell, maybe the one sport I consistently can’t be bothered to care about.

But when Shaquille O’Neal arrived in Boston last year, I arched an eyebrow.  Waning passion aside, I know the sport – I do.  And I was curious to see just how the Big Man would fit in with the Celtics.  I really didn’t think he’d fit in against the likes of KG, Ray Allen, Pierce and (before he was traded) Perkins. 

Quickly, two things became abundantly clear.

a.) he fits remarkably well with the squad and was worth every penny of his $3 million salary contract

and b.) Shaquille O’Neal is a constant source of joy in my life. 

Now, I’ve had a fondness for the guy for years.  Shaq is a notorious comic book geek.  His affinity for Superman in particular is very well publicized.  He still answers to Superman, a nickname he’s had since he joined the league.  So, a while back, when Dwight Howard showed up to the All-Star game in Sup’s cape –

Which was pretty badass.

-Shaq took to one of my all time favorite programs, PTI, and addressed the nation.  He straightened his shoulders, looked straight into camera and, speaking slowly and deliberately, said,

“Let’s get this striaght.  I am the original son of Jor-El.”

Which is the single most endearing quote of all time.  How can you not love Shaquille O’Neal?

But it gets so much better. 

Right now, I want you to take everything you know about Boston, Mass. and let’s put it over here.  Just keep all the stereotypes of a pissed off, remarkably exclusive city that behaves like a neighborhood near-by and refer to them as necessary while I break this down. 

Damn near the first thing he did after signing his contract and moving to the area, was to head to Harvard Square and be a living statue for an afternoon.

Then, on Halloween morning, he transformed – as a man becomes a man-wolf by the moon’s light – into Shaqueeta –

– and boarded a rush hour red line train.  Likely fearing for his safety underground, Shaq…Shaquetta… came back above ground and drove back towards his home in the quiet town of Sudbury.  Along the way, he stopped, tied a pair of autographed sneakers to a post and tweeted the coordinates.

In December, Shaq went to a community center in Roxbury and played Santa for and Nintendo with the kids…


Then he led the Boston Pops for a number in their holiday symphony…

And as we were hit with one of our worst winters in years, Shaq still found a way to make me smile a bit when the Boston Globe started using the now internationally-recognized Shaq-o-Meter to track our snowfall.


And when you’re walking two miles to work in two feet of snow, you need your laughs.


Shaq doesn’t have a debt to society.  He’s not trying to repair his image or even create one.  He’s Shaq.  He’s got a pretty well-defined image at this point, folks.  It’s like the dude wakes up in the morning, laces up his kicks, eats some cereal and then just runs with that first magical thought that comes running to his head.

Today, I’m going to Roxbury to hang with some kids.  Also, I’ll be Santa.

Today I will totally hang with a  panda.

Somehow, taunting reason and convention, Shaquille O’Neal just straight up works in this city.  

>Pinklon Thomas (guest post!)

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(So here’s something I’m terribly excited about – a guest post from Jasper Moore, the fellow responsible for two of my very favorite blogs, The Triumph and The Gutrotter)

Lemme tell you about Pinklon Thomas.

I am not a man who really follows much in the way of sports. I cheer for the teams that are important to the people who are important to me, or who I have a special connection to (Baseball: Red Sox 100%. Football: Steelers. Rugby: Scotland. Softball: Arizona State), but I’m rarely drawn to the spectacle itself—where I find my passion in sports is in the way they create mythos, the ability of athletics to elevate real people to a near-mythological status.
So it makes pretty good sense that one of the sports that fascinates me is boxing. It has the things that make baseball such a wondrous thing—legacies, history, romance, myth—but with a heavy dollop of violence and something incredibly primal to it.
Well.  Mostly primal.
Boxing generates legends like very few other things in the world do. Jack Johnson (not the giant vagina of a folksinger) was a man who pretty much beat racism to death with his fists. The Hurricane was…well, that’s actually a lot more complicated than Bob Dylan said, but whatever. Ali defined what it was to be a champion. Even Mike Tyson, despite being about one step away from being one of the more disturbing Batman villains, is still somehow charming in his psychopathy.
And then there’s Pinklon Thomas, whose main triumph—besides being one hell of a fighter—was being one hell of a nice guy. And accomplishing that so well that he’s my favorite man to ever throw a punch for money.

“Gonna beat you senseless now.  Let’s get lunch after.  I’m buying.”
By the time he was 10—before I was drinking coffee—Pinklon was addicted to heroin and crack. By the time he was 16 he was a pimp, had a hit on his life, and he went off to prison for three years. Immediately upon getting out of prison he walked down the street into a gym and started training. After three fights, at the age of nineteen, he decided to go professional.

That video above is after Thomas lost the position of World Heavyweight Champion to Tyson—his first loss in 25 professional fights—and if you watched the beginning of it, you’ll have seen that the word “respect” got batted around like it was a mafia film starring Rodney Dangerfield. Not only is Thomas a former champ, but he’s a man that nobody has anything but good feelings for. When Tommy Morrison cuts open his eyebrow, nobody really seems happy. The announcers are mourning the fact that Thomas is never going to be a champion again more than they are celebrating Morrison’s victory, and even Morrison seems to feel guilty that he took out Thomas. This is the kind of thing you only see in mythology—Thomas has this incredible ability to bring the respect and admiration of anyone whose face he manages to bash in.
Part of this, of course, might be the fact that Thomas’s fighting style, described by John Darnielle (who, among other great things—black metal, Prince Far I, and mutually destructive codependency— introduced me to Thomas), was that of “a really annoying mosquito—who weighs about seven hundred pounds.” Thomas wasn’t a showy or glamorous fighter, nor was he much of a self-promoter or a glory hound. Instead, he fought like he lived: unrelentingly.
You ever play Punch Out? (If not: were you ever a child?) You know how that game is just about enduring every beating while you chip away at cartoonishly huge opponents with ludicrous gimmicks? That’s pretty much how a Pinklon Thomas fight went. The man would step into the ring—usually in bright pink trunks, looking vaguely bored and weathered, wearing pink shorts, casually graceless—and he would shake his opponent’s hand, nod, smile, and then just slam his left hand into their face like a pneumatic press for round after round.
That. Every 30 seconds. For half an hour.
By the way, the first fight he ever lost was the one he lost to Tyson for world champion. Until then, he had 24 consecutive victories, zero losses. Nineteen of those wins were knockouts And that fight took eight rounds—eight rounds against a man who usually knocked out his opponents in the first, hit harder than probably any man who ever lived, and was probably kept alive by the same mystical forces that sustain Michael Myers in Halloween. And Thomas did that entire fight with a dislocated elbow. Tyson’s also one of the only fighters Thomas was ever an asshole to (which, let’s be honest, is pretty understandable). Think about that. The man stared down a living supervillain and called him gay in public.
Over the course of his career up until then, he had broken each hand twice. Including one fight where he broke both, and went on to not only fight but actually win the fight with two broken hands. Along the way he beat the shit out of Gerry Coetzee—a Dutch South African with the nickname “The Bionic Hand”—at the height of Apartheid’s international attention. And let’s be honest, there’s something beautiful about a black ex-con from industrial Michigan beating a white Afrikaans man into a pulp in 1983. Like so much about Thomas, it just felt like a triumph for everyone involved.
 I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a clearer recognition of impending doom.
If you watched that video, note the attitude. Coetzee is beaten, he’s bleeding, he’s panting. Thomas looks tired at first, and then you realize that he’s just bored. He’s still dodging Coetzee’s punches like he’s in the goddamn Matrix, he’s still swinging that piston fist like it’s an automatic weapon. And, in some weird roundabout way (and this isn’t to say anything about Coetzee himself), he’s punching racism in the face until it spits teeth.

But what’s he doing now? That’s half the reason he has this article. Dude is helping kids. Tyson—the man who beat him—went on to be one of the greatest train wrecks in the history of sport. Meanwhile, Pinklon’s founded a charity  devoted to keeping kids off of drugs and encouraging them to do what he did: punch addiction in the face.

The man has been able to make a living dealing in violence and show business his whole life, and he’s remained decent, kind, humble and down-to-earth the whole time. Unlike nearly every other heavyweight champ, Thomas has a real respect for almost everyone he meets, and reading interviews with him nowadays is about as heartwarming as anything you can do with your time. Thomas managed to be simultaneously the greatest artist of violence on the face of the earth and a man who was never impressed by himself or anyone else. He managed to beat 24 people in a row into submission and never forget that he was an ordinary sinner.
He is the most huggable man who could also instantly punch my brain out.

>Profiles in Not Giving a Fuck: Eric Cantona

>There are some days when I have the urge to write about something but I just… I just don’t know what.  Beyond a nagging feeling in my chest, I’ve got nothing.

Then there are days like today.  When a story falls right into my lap, observed with a satisfied sigh and a smile.  And I thank God to be alive.

In an interview with the BBC’s Football Focus that aired this weekend, former Manchester United forward Eric Cantona reflected upon one of the more outrageous moments of his fourteen year career.

On January 25th, 1995, Cantona straight up drop kicked a fan in the throat.  

Right about here.

This is why I do what I do.

“CHAMPAGNE SUPERNOVER IN THE SKYYYYYYY”

Cantona, who back in the day, looked like the lost Gallagher brother, was born in Marseille and finished his considerable career with Manchester United in 1997.  In 2001, he was voted the club’s “Player of the Century” and in 2002 was one of the first inductees of the English Football Hall of Fame, despite earning caps with the French National Football Team every year between 1985 and 1995.  Dude was 6’2″ and raked in 161 goals in his career.  Like Bill “Spaceman” Lee, Eric Cantona was the sort of athlete who’s prowess on the field was every bit as formidable as his mental agility, wit, and grace.  He has since gone on, in addition to being Director of Football for the New York Cosmos, to    make a career for himself as an actor and has publicly expressed very defined political views.

Before we get to the aforementioned kick-in-the-fucking-throat, let’s recap really quickly.

  • In 1987, playing for France for the third year in a row, Cantona was fined for punching his teammate, Bruno Martini, in the face.
  • In 1988, Cantona was banned from international play that year for insulting the French coach on national television.
  • In 1989, “King Eric” kicked the ball into the crowd and ripped off his jersey when he was substituted in a game against Torpedo Moscow.  It was a scrimmage game.
  • He was transferred to Montpellier at that point, where he was swiftly involved in a conflict with Jean-Claude Lemoult during which he flung Lemoult’s boots at his face area.  Despite six players calling for his removal, he was ultimately only suspended ten days.
  • In 1991, having disagreed with a referee’s call, Cantona threw the ball at his face area.  At his disciplinary hearing, he was suspended for one entire month’s play.  In response, Cantona walked up to every judge, one at a time, and called him an “idiot”.  The suspension was upped to three months.
In 1992, he totally banged your girlfriend while you were at the store.
  • He retired in 1991… for about twelve minutes.  He received an offer to come and play for Marseille, but on the advice of his psychotherapist (you know I’m not making that up) he moved to England to start over.
  • He won the Football League First Division Championship with Leeds United in 1991.  Then with Manchester United in 1992 – the only footballer to have won the title in consecutive years with two different teams.
  • In 1993, Cantona was fined for spitting at a fan and with two consecutive red cards, was banned for five games.
Then came the 1994 -1995 season and the Kung Fu shit.  
(I’ve included a longer version of this because context makes it so much sweeter)

After the game, Eric said this, and this only: “When the seagulls follow the trawler, it’s because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea.  Thank you very much.”  Then dude got up and left.  
He was initially sentenced with 120 hours of community service, probably smoking in slow motion or telling chicks they “picked the wrong dress today”.  Then he was fined twenty thousand pounds and suspended for the final four months of the season.  Then the ban was upped to eight months.  Then he was fined again.  Then the large women.  Then the petite women.  Then the large women again.  
But here’s the fucking thing.  The guy Cantona randomly selected out of thirty thousand people to kick?  A young man named Matthew Simmons.  Who had violently attacked a Sri Lankan gas station attendant two years prior and attended a National Front rally.  You might recognize that name because it essentially means “British Nazis”.

Matthew Simmons was fined and banned from ever attending a match in England ever again.  Also Wales, for some reason.

He didn’t kick the single father with cancer.  Or the guy who occasionally cheats on his taxes every couple of years.  No, no, Eric Cantona randomly selected and then kicked the fucking Nazi.
And that is a magical thing.

In this weekend’s interview, he was asked about the incident.  He said he had a “great feeling” about the attack at the time and he’s happy it’s a memory for some fans to look back on and cherish.  “People have their jobs,” he said, “this was like a freedom.”  He goes on, “I did it for the people.”

“Ah, ’67.  A good year for tiger piss.”

Long live the King.