Monday, July 10, 2006

going out with a (head) bang

My 12th grade AP English teacher was arguably the most lenient, least effective, and least favorite of my high school English teachers. However, she did leave us with a little pearl of wisdom on the next-to-last day of high school that has stuck with me for years: "It's never too late to ruin a good reputation."

Watching the final match of the World Cup yesterday, I couldn't help being reminded of this admonition. I love soccer for its grace and perpetual motion, for its requisite athleticism and (more often than not) its sportsmanship. Though Italy had been stalwart throughout the tournament with a defense that did not allow an offensive goal (there was one own-goal scored in the game against the U.S.), I was pulling for France primarily because this was Zinedine Zidane's last run before retiring. He's a fun player to watch, one of the greatest of the age, and his skill in controlling the ball commands immense respect. Frankly, I wanted to see him end his 18-year career with a World Cup win.

So when Zidane was ejected after earning himself a red card for head-butting Materazzi in the chest with ten minutes to go in overtime, all I could think was, "Ten more minutes. Couldn't you have made it ten more minutes?" France had outplayed Italy the whole game, and Zidane would have been France's best chance for a goal in the final minutes (not to mention the penalty kick shootout). I'm sure Materazzi said something that very well may have warranted an ass-kicking, but maybe at another time and place, and in a different manner.

I can only imagine working the same job for almost two decades...and then, at 4:50 p.m. on the last day, walking up to an unsavory coworker and knocking the crap out of them.

This incident doesn't change years of amazing accomplishments throughout Zidane's career. But it does cast them in a different light. They are overshadowed by this final, failing move. People will see him differently because of it. I know I do.

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