Archetypes of Football's Next Monomyth:
Champion's League Final Considerations
Football as (an Imperfect) War Metaphor
In an Indiana University School of Health survey, they found that more than fifty percent of male role models were athletes. In many other, less surveyed, football-crazier countries, the figure could very well be significantly higher.
Historically speaking, sports were both preparation for, and a metaphor for, war. Yet while the legendary heroes of ancient epics needed to actually don armor and wield lethal weapons in the face of grave danger, the modern hero need only kit up, do something notable involving some shape of ball on some field or court of play, and face the media pressure.
As football in particular is concerned, the reason this metaphor often becomes unsatisfactory is the egregious diving we're all very familiar with. Athletes have become such such promotional opportunities, that they slip out of their soldier's mold and it becomes necessary to 'protect' them, both refs and hero-worshipers alike.
These "stars" are also means for even more powerful interests. While they roll around on the ground and bring the camera to a standstill, our flat screens display both their histrionics and their advertisements.
With football's yearly apex days away, many, neutral football purists wish for a match to transcend this rut of the beautiful game's, a match not defined by the most-sponsored player diving the most convincingly, but by the eternally heroic act, something which hovers above both sport and at least the idea of war.
Enter Joseph Campbell
Or one sentence:
Campbell's biggest idea is that many of the world's traditional tales from every epoch of humanity can basically be boiled down to one, essentially human formula. Aping James Joyce's term, he anoints: 'the monomyth.' In his most famous book, The Hero With A Thousand Faces, he goes on to posit that all the world's religions, currently and in history, are also culturally specific representations or "masks" of the same transcendent truth.
This idea has had far-reaching cultural influence, shaping the impressionable minds of billions of movie goers. If you were to name the ten most-viewed epic films of the last quarter century, chances are the brain behind them was at one point entranced by monomyth. Author of The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers, Christopher Vogel, impressively deconstructs "The Matrix" using Campbell's concept of the monomyth. George Lucas and Peter Jackson are as meticulously faithful as the Wachowski brothers.
Bayern vs Chelsea in Archetypical Elements
To one place, five people and two objects:
- Homestead - Where the hero is from before transcendence. In this case, ironically, the (fingers crossed) site of the transcendent moment as well.
- Primary Obstacle/Adversary
- Donor - He/she/it who gives the hero a crucial gift, or has a 'gift' taken/stolen from them by the hero
- Gift - What the donor offers/relinquishes
- False Hero - The pretender
- Boon - The transcendent something which the hero returns with
THE HOMESTEAD: ALLIANZ ARENA
|I'm iced like crazy.|
THE PROTAGONIST: ARJEN ROBBEN
|Why do teams trade me, I may be the best winger on the planet?|
Two years ago, during Bayern's deep Champions League run which was extinguished by Jose Mourinho's Inter in the final, Robben scored two of the more clutch goals in recent Champion's League History, both in the waning minutes of two-leg affairs, both which took his team from the brink of elimination through to the next round. This one was against Fiorentina in the round of sixteen, and this one finish off heavy favorite Man U. in the very next, quarter final round. Neither of these ever get old to watch.
"When I go on a run I don't know where it will end," says the prancy winger. A well-placed-yet-booming left-footed drive is usually the intended outcome, through a window that's hard to believe exists even after you watch the footage.
During the series against Real, Robben was tactful in defeating his old coach, the infamous Jose Mourinho. Despite their history of on-field--sometimes during the game--hugging, Mourinho had this jibe at him during their fixture, through a spokesman:
"Jose has always said it: Arjen simply lacks character, and the absolute will to win...After the smallest knock he could not play, and Jose had to let him go."
The hypocrisy of attacking someone's character through a spokesman, btw, is extreme, yet in the final Robben did something to betray his enigmatic qualities. He opted out of a penalty in the shoot-out. He explains:
Matter-of-fact as his explanation may sound, going against one of the world's three best keepers after having given him a look at your approach decreases the normal statistical advantage of the penalty taker considerably, and it takes a protagonist with rare common sense to apprehend this. Just ask the game's other potential protagonist, Christiano Ronaldo, who, facing another of the game's three best keepers for a second time, made the converse decision.
Finally, Robben, who has never fared higher than 14th in the FIFA World Player of the Year voting despite leading both his club and country within a game of their utmost glory in the same year, faces his other former team: Chelsea, the final, bus-shaped obstacle across Robben's road to redemption.
THE PRIMARY OBSTACLE/ADVERSARY: JOSE MOURINHO
|Somebody please handcuff me for extreme hypocrisy?|
THE DONOR: ROBERTO DI MATTEO
|Di Matteo thinks, smugly: 'I can give greater gifts.'|
Matteo took over for the fiery Andres "DVD" Villas-Boas and it is unclear whether he or the re-empowered veterans have guided their improbable run to the finals of this competition, but he did re-bestow one clear gift upon Chelsea...
THE GIFT: THE 4-2-3-1
THE FALSE HERO(ES): TALES OF TWO FRANKSFrank Ribery is slightly more durable and quite possibly more skillful than Robben. He has carried Bayern at times this year--especially during an overwhelmingly successful early-season stretch amidst a slew of key injuries.
Yet if he was the true protagonist, why would he bitterly sucker-punch his own teammate in the right eye over a dead ball? Is that what protagonists do, or frustrated, jealous pretenders?
Robben's productivity (they've both netted twelve goals but Ribery has started 50% more games), his Champion's League pedigree (Did I mention Robben has netted 34 times in the Champions League) and his consistency across club and country outfits mark him as slightly more suitable for alpha-dog status, despite Ribery's formidable abilities.
If there was a question between the two though, it was answered at least temporarily by who punched who. The interesting and again enigmatic thing about the incident was that Robben was actually suggesting a third player, Tony Kroos, take the kick...
False hero is a role Frank Lampard should be used to playing, as he has--in my opinion--been playing this role for the England national team for the better part of a decade. The fact that tactically-savvy Roy Hodgson has just awarded England's 2012 Euro captaincy to the would-be hero of the better part of the same last decade, Steven Gerrard, probably spells the end of Lampard's strangle-hold on this indistinction for country.
A heady, aware player with plenty of knack who has both a great scoring record as well as a well-lofted chip, Lampard has a tendency to turn into mashed potatoes on the field when big games arrive at their scrappy, physical climaxes. Against German opposition, this type of ending to this type of game is to be expected.
THE ANTAGONIST: DIDIER DROGBA
|While I roll around on the turf clutching parts of my body that no defender came close to touching, check out my new Adidas Predator boots with 'Lethal Zones,' available to humans in the coming months says my agent who is also human.|
A late first half Drogba goal to begin the scoring and unnerve the crowd could be Chelsea's vets last chance to be able to grab, pump and then kiss the elusive, silvery boon.
THE BOON: THE 2012 CHAMPIONS LEAGUE CUP
|At home within the homestead.|
-posted by A. R. McKenna