Maybe it’s because I’m finally starting to get the hang of American sports, or that I’m mellowing in my old age, but it seems like a while since I received any good hate mail in response to my columns.
I used to get about one complaint every week, mostly attacking me for being a foreigner and informing me that I have no place daring to have an opinion about U.S. sports. Admittedly, that opinion was often that football games take far too long (like the Super Bowl) and that the catcher’s mitt in baseball is a comically-giant hand, but now five of my last six columns have been firmly centered on things this side of the Atlantc…and nothing.
In fact, the most insulting thing anyone said to me last week was when a friend asked — very much mistakenly I hasten to add — why I wasn’t a big soccer fan because I apparently only talk about football and basketball anymore.
So let’s talk about soccer — even though I might be upsetting people. It came out recently that the English Football Association may be considering none other than José Mário dos Santos Félix Mourinho as the replacement for England manager Fabio Capello after the European Football Championship this summer.
In case you know nothing about Mourinho, he is a controversial figure. Though clearly a talented manager, he has done little to win the hearts and minds of opposing fans or the authorities, and is a walking definition of the words “arrogant” and “outspoken.” If I need any pointers in upsetting people, I should turn to the self-declared “special one,” a man who once boasted he had no equals, saying the world’s hierarchy was “God, and after God, me.”
As an England soccer fan, it has been frustrating how the English Football Association has picked foreigners over English managers in recent years, and worse because the experiment so far doesn’t appear to be working. We certainly don’t look like a team worthy of winning another World Cup anytime soon. It is also hard to believe that a non-English boss, even with all the credentials in the world, will really care enough when push comes to shove. But maybe, just maybe, Mourinho could be the elusive case that proves history wrong.
While in charge of Chelsea he made enough enemies in the world of English soccer to last a lifetime — including my hometown, Reading, after alleging that the local medical services did not do all they could to care for goalkeeper Petr Cech after a serious head injury.
It’s no secret that everyone hates the English, particularly on the pitch. Soccer rivalries, history and attempts to draw attention to the serious corruption at the heart of the soccer world have created enemies everywhere. From countries like Scotland and Argentina to key figures like FIFA President Sepp Blatter and UEFA President Michel Platini, everyone delights in our downfall. So deep does the dislike go that some have even attempted to cast doubt on the indisputable fact that soccer was born in England.
Already, then, Mourinho has something in common with us: he knows what it’s like to be the bad guy. He wouldn’t be a diplomatic figure on the world stage, and he’s not going to make us any friends, but I’m not sure if I care about that anymore. Apparently, nothing England does is appreciated. When we play by the (flawed and corrupt) system we get shunned; when we complain, we get ostracized.
I don’t think England is going to be winning any trophies for a long time due to a critical lack of investment and development of young talent, so the chance of getting our own back on FIFA and UEFA on the field is practically non-existent. As good as Mourinho or any of his English counterparts may be, I’m not expecting any miracles. I’ve been down that route again and again, and had my heart crushed every time.
But, on the bright side, if we are going to go down in flames, at least with Mourinho we’ll go down fighting. He would take no prisoners, and I think many England fans would enjoy seeing him tear into the opposition, the authorities and even the press. He would whine and moan and complain, but always for us. His enthusiasm would spill over — he once stepped across the sideline to pass a ball back to his team — and he would occasionally get banned. He might even flaunt that ban by hiding in a laundry cart so he could still give talk to his team at the halftime (allegedly).
If we can’t beat them on the field and we won’t join them in their shady and corrupt deals, let’s be the thorn in their side and just do whatever we can to annoy the hell out of world soccer.
Like all the greatest English kings, Tom Taylor welcomes your hatred for his work. Threaten to do off with his head at tom.taylor “at” stanford.edu.