Something Great

Arsene Wenger cobbled together starting lineups with spit and duct tape and Denilson and somehow the team dragged its ass over the finish line in third or fourth.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Dedicated to Aaron Ramsey

Take away the emotion for a moment and examine the facts. A red-card tackle by Ryan Shawcross has broken the leg of Aaron Ramsey. The precedents show that Shawcross will be banned for at most 3 games. Aaron Ramsey will miss at least 40.

The (very likely) 3-match-ban does not do justice to his actions on the field. To debate the intent of the foul is useless for two reasons. The first is that it is impossible to definitively do so during a match and the second is that the intent ultimately does not matter. It doesn't matter because the result is unchanged. Aaron's leg is still broken whether Shawcross meant to injure him or not.

You will hear that Shawcross cried as he left the pitch. You will hear that Shawcross never had malice in his heart. You will hear that Shawcross is deeply sorry. Remember, none of that changes the fact that he broke his peer's leg while playing football. Moreover, as pundits and fans absolve Shawcross for his remorse, it his reaction that is most telling.

Pretend for a moment that you are walking down the sidewalk. Someone is walking in front of you and a moment after you pass them you hear a yelp and crash. You turn around to see that they have fallen and appear to be hurt. What is your reaction? Hold that thought. Now you're walking down the sidewalk again. You're late for work and the person in front of you is walking too slowly and in the middle of the sidewalk. As you hurry by you give the fellow a little shove to get by and woops, the guy falls down. What's your reaction? Oh my, it appears the guy is having a heart attack now as a result of the shove... now what's your reaction? For the first scenario, you've played no part, and your reaction is oh my gosh, confusion, and bewilderment. For the second scenario you instantly feel remorse, you apologize emphatically because, after all, you didn't intend for him to fall down. And for the third scenario you probably freak out, you apologize profusely, you might even start to cry once you realize there is no going back.

I'm being inane but the point stands. If you're truly surprised your tackle has injured someone you look confused, you look around, you might even assume they're faking it. This happens all the time. In the NFL some linebacker makes a tackle, he gets up, maybe even celebrates, and then - oh my gosh, that guy is hurt, it looks like he tore his ACL or something, I'm gonna go tell him I hope you're OK and he'll nod at me and wave me off. It's the same in soccer. In the Serie A some defender slides in, it's a fair challenge but the forward grabs his ankle. The defender walks away, expects the forward to get up, and if he doesn't he looks a little confused. He may not even show remorse. More often than not you see the defender try and shake the forward's hand. Hey, it's part of the game. Look at the foul on Van Persie. It was Georgio Chiellini and it happened exactly like I've described. I can't overstate how often this happens in sports. It's a true unintentional injury. And it's the reason why you haven't heard a peep about Chiellini.

Now look at the Shawcross foul. He lunges. He dives in. He commits full-hearted to a tackle that, even if he had won, results in a throw-in for Arsenal. This wasn't in front of goal, this wasn't a scoring opportunity, this was in the middle of the field and Shawcross had a heavy touch. The ball was getting away from him. So he lunges. He puts all of his 200 pounds into a swing that cuts through Aaron Ramsey's leg. It makes me sick. I hate even thinking about it. And then Shawcross pops up and his reaction is instant. He immediately is stunned and starts tearing up. It's the reaction that says, oh my god, I can't believe I just did that. Nobody intends to break someone's leg. Nobody tries to injure someone like that. But Shawcross committed himself with devastating force. He knows it. He knows it was excessive. If it wasn't excessive, if he truly didn't put something extra in the tackle, why would he react like that? Why would he freak out if this was like any other play in soccer? He lost control, he let himself lose control, and instantly realized his actions.

It's also why his - I'm so sorry's - are going to be emphatic. He might cry on camera again. He feels bad, and the more it lingers on him and the more he is sorry, the more he will incriminate himself. If it's an honest play then you say, woops, sorry, it's part of the game, I never wish that on anyone. That will not be his apology. I'm sure of it. If his apology is matter of fact, or in any way is indicative of a "these things happen" kind of foul, then I will take this post down. I'll delete it permanently and post a picture of penis after I've taken a cold shower. I'll label it with my full name and social security number. That's how sure I am.

But more seriously I will admit I'm wrong. If Ryan Shawcross can look into a camera, shrug, and say, it's a terrible thing that happened, it's part of the game, I do that tackle 99 out of 100 times - then I'm wrong.

There is a reason why it looks strange. There is a reason why you almost never see a tackle like that. It happens so fast. It kind of comes from the side. It's an odd play. After a heavy touch like that a player just runs by (and jerks his head up in the air as if to say, shit) or he slides. That doesn't happen. Shawcross tries to kick through the ball like he's clearing a medicine ball off the goal-line. Huh? Why would he do that? How can you watch that inexplicable decision and say there was no thought involved? He didn't mean to kick Ramsey? What did he expect? Shawcross lunges and kicks through the player and the ball and expected... ... what... exactly to happen?

It's easy to blame Arsenal. "It's the Arsenal style, you beat Arsenal by getting physical." I even read somewhere that Ramsey showed inexperience by dragging the ball with his foot instead of clearing it. What!? This is Ramsey's fault? Has the world gone mad? I won't address those comments. I don't have time to waste - not even on a blog that nobody reads. This is Ryan Shawcross' fault, and the price he'll pay is a 3-match-ban.

That's despicable and it's a travesty to sports. But there is no use begging for more games. Suspension with wages is silly. He doesn't deserve a permanent ban from soccer, he deserves what in my opinion would be worse, a label. A foul like that should not be forgotten. Aaron Ramsey will never forget when his leg was shattered and Shawcross should never be allowed to forget either. It's the only power we have as fans. Fans shape the legacy of players and we label athletes all the time. Ryan Shawcross' label should always include a red-card, leg-breaking foul. It's the reason I wrote this post, so that I don't forget.

So don't forget what Ryan Shawcross did - whether he's in the Championship wasting away at Watford like Martin Taylor or he's starting at left back for the English National team. Intent or not, accident or not, there must be a consequence for putting another man's career in the balance, and the least we can do as fans is always associate him for what he did to Aaron Ramsey.


Jim said...

I agree with just about everything you've said here. I missed the game today because of school obligations, and after viewing the Match of the Day highlights, I'm glad that I did. Seeing it on replay was awful. I can only imagine how unsettling and shocking it was in real time. It was total deja vu, and it brought me back to the worst soccer-related memory that I have. Everything was the same. Right down to Cesc's anguished expression.

But this time, there was no quit. And this time, we're pursuing the leaders, not the ones with the targets on our back. This game ended with the team gathered by its captain in a huddle, no doubt vowing to push on for Ramsey, and not with players in tears and Gallas refusing to move from the halfway line. At least that's something.

Of the prodigies and young stars in the making that Arsenal has unearthed in recent years, Ramsey has shone the brightest. Wilshere, Vela, Gibbs, Merida and company may yet go on to do great things, but Ramsey looked like a finished product that just needed a little polish. He was ready. For Wales, for Arsenal, and for everyone who loves the game, I sincerely hope that his bright future becomes a reality.

Jim said...

Arseblog agrees.

Dadric said...

But didn't you hear? Ryan Shawcross comes from a good family. A GOOD FAMILY. It's beyond me how you could be so ignorant as not to see how this makes everything ok.

Besides, the Arsenal is just a bunch of foreigners anyways. Not worth worry.