The Anatomy of a Goal: How Error Leads to Perfection


Rowan Ricardo Phillips in The New Republic:

An average goalscorer lives off of the mistakes of others, rather obvious mistakes like a slip by a defender, a weak attempt at a save by a goalkeeper, a panicked miskick that by fortune finds the forward’s foot. But the thrill of the goal and its relative rarity imbues the goal with the power to minimize rather obvious errors. We don’t tend to recall the miscontrolled pass that turned the ball over to the other team seconds before the vital goal was scored. It would be too much for the mind, which at its best seeks beauty and joy, not mistake and despair. Ninety percent of the glory of the game is the fruit of error. Football is the world’s game in part for this reason: the mistakes made during a game can be worth nothing or worth everything, can be wiped away as of no consequence by a mind in search of consequence or be worth, in the mind of the malevolent, taking a life. Opportunity for the average goal scorer is a cannibal act. What makes us human, that we fail, is what gives them life.

Great goalscorers score average goals, too, of course. But when the moment arrives, that moment to do the unthinkable, to bypass a physical law—that is when you get a glimpse not only into the physical marvel of these players, but also into how they read space and time. Much like when you read a great writer and gain an understanding of their sentences, what they do with incident and predicament, how they introduce a variation into a theme, so it is when we observe a great football player turn the physical—meters of space on a rectangle, centimeters of space between players, the telling spin of a ball moving through the air—into the emotional.

More here. [Thanks to Brooks Riley.]