Good Morning Generation

In my quest to be the ultimate soccer nerd I come across amazing parallels to American sports from time to time that make me laugh.  For example, everyone in America constantly complains about the hypocrisy of the NCAA.  We bitch about how the system doesn’t maximize its revenue potential nor pay the athletes it exploits for profit.  It further pisses us off that it seems to only reward crooked old Southern gentleman with absurd colored blazers that figured out the scheme decades before the rest of us and made millions.  Ditto with FIFA, the governing body of soccer.  It’s too long and complex to get into but all the similarities are there.  Sepp Blatter, the head of FIFA, may as well put on the standard attire for Orange Bowl execs and you’d think he was in control of the BCS. 

Getting more specific than that though one particular parallel stood out amazingly when Barcelona defeated their sworn rival Real Madrid 3-2 in the second leg of the Spanish Super Cup final this week.  I could describe it in length for you but TheBigLead’s Ty Duffy did the best job yesterday when he described the following: “Barcelona and Real Madrid are absurdly better than everyone else. The teams faced other opponents 109 times last season and were defeated eight times. Two of the losses came in second legs of the Copa Del Rey after the teams held first leg leads of 8-0 and 5-0. The only time the two teams are challenged is when they face one another.” 

What’s even more descriptive and important to my argument is Duffy’s point on their styles of play, “Club identities harden when the two meet. Real Madrid become the embodiment of fascist muscle. They become cynical. They blunt vibrant individualism for the collective good. Barcelona are the romantic artists fighting for oppression. They are noble, and want to reemphasize to you just how noble they are. One team kicks. The other dives. Both are hypocritical and often nauseating.”  I couldn’t help but notice the similarity to two teams of a particular American past time.  The National Football League in particular.  The Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots, to be specific.

If you haven’t had the chance yet, you need to read GQ’s excellent piece on Vick that ran yesterday written by Deadspin founder Will Leitch.  In that article, Vick basically implies that the Eagles were perfect because they taught him how to play football correctly while (most importantly) allowing him to be the playmaker we all know and love.  It’s widely debated right now and what Vick says gets 1000 times more controversial than that, but his message in that particular section resonates.  Michael Vick thrives because he needs to be allowed to create.  It’s what he does.  It wins game.  It’s why Vince Young won a national title in college and Vick’s literally the only NFL quarterback who has the athleticism to achieve that same success at the professional level.

For those unfamiliar with soccer, the reason Barcelona thrives is that they are undoubtedly challenging the modern philosophy of the game with their style of play.  A decade ago soccer made the move to stronger, taller, more athletic players (think: Cristiano Ronaldo) who were supposed to forever alter the way soccer was played at the highest level.  The players were supposed to out-athlete their opponents with a lot of long passes through the air, unfairly fast shots, and header goals.  Along came former Barca player Pep Guardiola though to eventually manage the team he once starred for and forever alter the general theory on how soccer is best played.  Guardiola and Barcelona by extension emphasize short passes, speed, and, most importantly, creativity.  Height is of no importance.  All of Barcelona’s stars are under six feet tall and this is especially highlighted by one Lionel Messi, only the undisputed best player in the world, standing at a wopping 5’ 7’’.  While Messi gets all the accolades, the Barca attack is actually run through all-universe midfielder Xavi.  He’s the quarterback of the offense and is measured at a non-so-outstanding 5’ 7’’ himself.  It goes against every modern philosophy of soccer and represents a major chasm in how the game was supposed to advance in the modern age.

Michael Vick is Lionel Messi.

Tom Brady is Cristiano Ronaldo.

I’ll make this short.  The New England Patriots are the paramount example of a great NFL team because they’re wildly predictable and they’re incredibly disciplined.  They represent systematic American football being played at its finest, under the most disciplinarian coach in the game.  Counter that with Michael Vick and the Eagles.  Andy Reid is renowned for his offensive  imagination  and the way he constantly redefines the way his team scores the football.  How poetic then that he got paired with the single most innovative offensive player of a generation.  If this all plays out like it should then we’ll get the dream matchup of a Vick vs Brady Super Bowl in a strange rematch of the bizarre 2005 version that saw Donovan McNabb throw up Willie Beamen style and TO make a remarkable return from a broken leg.

The obvious flaw to my argument that arises though is that American football is nowhere near the same game as international football.  One sport thrives on discipline and set plays (NFL) while the other thrives on freestyle play and creativity (soccer).  And thus the question presents itself:

Can Michael Vick actually win a Super Bowl?

My response is this: please….pretty please.

If there’s anything I took from the Michael Vick article it is this fact.  Michael Vick may be publicly neutered and the black version of Peyton Manning now for his sponsors, but the truth is the man still has an unrivaled swagger that comes as the result of knowing that he is always the most athletic player to step on a football field anytime he plays.  Peyton has it too, we’re just never allowed to see it because it’s such a protected secret.  It’s the reason so many free agents flocked to Philadelphia this offseason and it’s the reason the Colts are a lock for 10 wins every season no matter who else is on the roster.  The players know who the best QBs are and they’re naturally attracted to their talent.  A Super Bowl win by Michael Vick would do wonders for the NFL and for America’s reputation in general.

As I’ve delved further and further into the world of international club soccer I’ve run across a common theme about the United States.  Most countries think it’s only appropriate that American football is our favorite sport because it represents our countries attributes perfectly, in their not so humble opinions.  Those attributes?  We’re wildly impatient.  We expend all of our energy in short uncontrolled bursts.  And we have an unholy attraction to structured discipline that doesn’t allow us to fully achieve our potential. 

Does that not perfectly describe the NFL?

Are you really going to now tell me you’ll root against Michael Vick?

Generation Y, where we can’t wait for the Dolphins to choose Terrelle Pryor way too early in the supplemental draft.  (side note: Kyle Orton is still available you turds!)