Friday, August 17, 2007

Sisyphus and the King – file, Guitougoal (MotM & Offside)

Sisyphus and the King

Sitting in a slow corner thinking about the last car I ever owned, again, watching dust dance in shot sunlight shafts. A man came to me, a stranger and in a soft voice he said “Albert?”

“Sisyphus” I said, so we could talk.

Call me Sisyphus; every day I roll my rocks higher without any hope for effect or reward but just occasionally the reward is in the rolling of the rocks themselves.

“What do you remember about goalkeeping?” he seemed to be peering under my eyebrows.

As I’ve said "A man's work is nothing but this slow trek to rediscover, through the detours of art, those two or three great and simple images in whose presence his heart first opened."

It was no accident; he’d unlocked the door with a calm and steady hand. I was already strapping up the gloves, spitting on them, planting studs in the earth, filling territory, a rock in the tempestuous waters of my defence; a lion in the mouth of a mysterious cave for any opposition. I was a sleek cat, ferocious guardian in those days.

“Would you like to talk to Lev Yashin in Vegas, maybe write a few words?”

“The Russian? But, …he’s dead.” I blurted out.

“Aren’t we all?” he replied as he walked back into the shadows from which he had come, some tickets now on the floor by my foot.

Lev Yashin, the Russian colossus, the Black Spider, the man who’d said “What kind of a goalkeeper is the one who is not tormented by the goal he has allowed? He must be tormented! And if he is calm, that means the end. No matter what he had in the past, he has no future!”

That’s my kind of goalkeeper; he might be the King of Goalkeepers. Why Vegas? I thought.


I was always a stranger but here in the Vegas candy bowl I felt like ordinary boiled sugar in an acid ocean of saccharine explosions. The hawkers, the hoods, the strippers, their marks; all screaming for attention over the nerve-jangling nickel waves of the slots.

Here the hot sun was cooking a Petri dish of degenerates, they were sizzling, devolving in the harsh light. Even the sand here was different from the ancient dust in Algiers, here the dream had been infiltrated, subverted with rhinestone and here, decadence was a badge of honour.

Walking in from the Nevada sun, the bar was unlit, I was blind. I put my hand out and followed my way along the wall until I could see again. I thought I was alone.

“Lev?” I called out but the sound sank into the velvet walls. There was a cough from a table near the exit, I looked over and saw two figures silhouetted there; a big man and a man in a cape.

They’d been playing chess, some of the pieces had fallen over but all I could see was the lamplight in the eyes of the great man. More than 270 clean sheets, and over 150 penalty saves in a career that spanned 16 years in Russian, European and World football.

He smiled, he knew I was tongue tied.

“Can I introduce you to my friend?” he said “Sisyphus, this is, ah… Lucky, Lucky Jackson.”

Big aviator sunglasses in the gloom, a lock of black hair hanging, a curled lip.

“Please ta meet ya, man” he held out a hand and I saw the rings.

“What…what is this?” I shook his hand, it felt warm and delicate.

Elvis laughed like only he could, can, Lev Yashin was smirking.

In a low voice he quoted my own words back to me "Truly fertile Music, the only kind that will move us, that we shall truly appreciate, will be a Music conducive to Dream, which banishes all reason and analysis. One must not wish first to understand and then to feel. Art does not tolerate Reason.” And I understood.

“Pleased to meet you too Lucky” I said.

What follows is a record of our conversation that day, Lev, Lucky and I.

Sisyphus: With all the ephemeral show ponies on display these days, is anyone really practicing the true art of the goalkeeper?
Lev [laughing]: Well, goalkeeping is a funny art, not normal…and I was a bit of a rebel for my times...

Lucky: I think most people have an instinct to rebel…

Sisyphus: What is a rebel but a man who says “no”?

Lucky: I couldn’t say no to the army…

Lev: No, army no, but goalkeepers too. Goalkeeper can’t say no to the shot hein, like girls can’t say no to cars eh Lucky?

Lucky [grins]: I once gave a pretty waitress an Eldorado, as a tip!

Sisyphus: Mon dieu! The coffee must have been good! It’s a matter of consent non?

Lev: The goalkeeper consents to put his body between the ball and the net, then he agrees to be famous…

Sisyphus: Fame is an aberration, a construct, a fake.

Lucky: Yeah, there’s a Me impersonator in Stockholm now, an old ham calls himself Blue Swede Shoes, huh! Even the Admiral wasn’t that bad, man…

Colonel Parker: A fella’s gotta eat! Hi guys, thought I’d find you all here.

Lucky: Man, you nearly gave me another heart attack, I thought you’d been fired.

Colonel Parker: Another day another boulder eh Sisyphus? Listen guys, I got a great idea…

The fast talking man in the Panama hat told us of his vision, a movie “The Penalty” an all action romantic comedy based around the adventures of a maverick yet charismatic goalkeeper in his quest for the heart of his one true love.

Colonel Parker: Marilyn’s gonna come back, play the broad, hey, how much does it cost if it’s free?

Lucky: I..I..I’m not sure about this…Marilyn ya say?

Colonel Parker: Monsieur Camus will do the scribblin’ and big Lev already has a contract to consult. I ‘m gonna leave you to work it all out, gotta go, hasta la vista babies!

Colonel Parker slips off out on to the strip. There’s a pause while the dust settles.

Lev: He seems like a nice man da?

Lucky: He’s the devil in disguise, huh!

Sisyphus: There can be no devil without God and if there is no God…

Lucky: Y-you know, more than anything I’d wanna be a good actor, a great actor but I always ended up doing those soft movies, darn.

Sisyphus: Hmm, a penalty is a dramatic moment Lucky, maybe we can do something.

Lev: I can help, I’ve saved more penalties than anyone, ever, I think.

Sisyphus: Didn’t you used to wear all black too?

Lev: Yes, they called me the Black Spider, big scary black spider, but only a bad thing for the other team, hah, for Moscow I was their pet, their friend.

Lucky: Yeah man, I know that feeling, big scary with a soft heart

Sisyphus: Does the penalty fit the crime?

Lucky: I am in double trouble on this one sir, my mama told me ”You do the crime you do the time” but the Admiral, man, he did a whole lotta crimes and I’m doing the time see…

Lev: Ah, the gulag …

Sisyphus: So what kind of part would you really like to play?

Lucky [scratches head]: Ah… singing-millionaire playboy, race driver, sir

Lev: Isn’t that what King Con made you do before?

Lucky: Only about 25 times Sir

Lev: Couldn’t we make this goalkeeper er…less realistic?

Sisyphus: This time the hero should seek understanding, the strike is the question, the save is comprehension which is also the goal …

Lucky: I could use my Karate, you do Karate in football right?

Lev: It’s normally called shoulder barging, but they don’t do that in penalties, they just shake their hips and stare a bit.

Sisyphus: Stare a bit, hmmm.

Lucky: Shake their hips, yeah?

Lev: Yeah, then the striker strikes, the goalie dives, saves and the whole stadium go crazy, it’s the best feeling in the world…

Sisyphus: Surement, but there is that stare…

Lucky: And the hip action…

Lev: Well, yeah but it’s a big moment, the tension, a time for men to be men.

Lucky: A man is just a little boy wearing a mans body

Lev [laughing]: Yes, you feel like a little boy in front of 80,000 screaming people.

Lucky: I know man, I know.

Sisyphus: Hmph, we should be focusing on the moment, non?

Lev: Actually it goes a bit silent in that moment just before the penalty is taken

Sisyphus: During the staring bit

Lucky [stands up]: With the hips, like this

[Elvis lifts his arms a bit, snarls and slowly gyrates to a sudden brass band thrust. Camus falls off his chair]

Lev: Hey Lucky, be careful man, he’s an intellectual he doesn’t understand those things

Sisyphus: *!@*!

Lucky: Hey, sorry man, I got into the moment.


We ended up editing our footage down to a 7 hour stare, with strategically placed hips and glimpses of Marilyn in the stands. Elvis read the voiceover with dark liquid power, a eulogy that spanned the perspectives of each of this trinity.

In a moment that stretched out forever, the tunnel vision was a metaphor for the solitude of existence and the ultimate futility of the actions of the striker or the goalkeeper, even the manager.

I thought it was funny but Colonel Parker wasn’t too interested in the movie itself, he said "I don't give a damn about your movie script, I don't understand it and don't try to explain it, just sell it!" Later he apologized "Hey sorry guys, you don't have to be nice to people on the way up if you're not coming back down."

But when it got around to the filming he kept asking the producers for more money for every frame showing Elvis’ hips as he set himself on the goal line.

The film was never released, it turned out that Colonel Parker (a.k.a. King Con) was really a Dutch midfielder. He’d embroiled the genetically enhanced van de Kerkhof twins in a Total Exploitation scam to expose Elvis across all media, leading Michels’ to Total Football and players covering all positions.

That was why he’d never allowed Elvis to tour Europe, in case Bill Shankley discovered the secret and sought to turn Ron Yates into a playmaker occupying the hole just behind Roger Hunt. Hell hath no business like the beautiful game.


We met once more in that dark bar in the middle of downtown Vegas. We were all back dressed in black, sensing each others existence in the pale lamplight. Not much was said, we’d all died before.

In the end we stood on the strip that night and together we looked around, Lev saw a world of forbidden neon fruit, I saw electric fishing nets for fools.

Elvis just breathed it all in and when he breathed out the world seemed brighter. He swung his black cloak off, reversed it in a violins sweep and paused to fix a diamond clasp. The virgin white satin now shimmering in the city lights, the rhinestone, diamante and pearls their own luminance.

Elvis grinned, his plump cheeks, the star in his eye, his imperial radiance, seemed to be the source of all we purveyed.

The return of the King.

He hugged Lev Yashin with regal grace and Lev was swiftly whisked off by the men from the institute in a black sedan.

“See you on the other side, man” he said as he put his arms around me too. For an instant I knew what he meant. I started to say something but with a sideways look and a flick of his hair he was gone.

It was as if all those fake stars on the strip had suddenly become real. The goalkeeper, the philosopher the King; crying culture in the face of their destiny, choosing freedom for a chance to be better men.

I lit another cigarette, put my head down and started walking again.


Zephirine said...

With four Pseuds involved in writing this, not many left to comment at this quiet time of year!

It's an amazing piece though, surreal, touching, dreamlike, 'banishing all reason and analysis' but thought-provoking too. Thanks to all four authors involved (and to Elvis, Albert and Lev, though I will never thank Col Parker for anything)

And the first sentence is simply stunning, who could not read on after that?

olivierroth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
offside said...

Hi Zeph,

let's be clear about this (and you can probably guess from the unmistakable style), the writing is all File's.

The insider knowledge of Las Vegas, and actual quotes from the King and Colonel Parker, as well as a good deal of inspiration are all Guitou's.

Mouth poured the drinks and shook his hips, while I lit Albert's cigarettes.

offside said...

And of course, greengrass was invited but couldn't make it because he was doing an Elvis show.

You couldn't make that one up...

Paulita said...


I mean, really wow.

I'm gonna save a second read for this to enjoy when I'm sitted in a proper location and not this hell hole.

thank you in advance.

Paulita said...

oh, I'll also start conjugating verbs in the correct way when I'm out of here.

guitougoal said...

I wonder what's happened to Marilyn quote?
- Sigh but long deep and sensual sigh.
do you think Ebren felt compelled to do some editing?

offside said...


I'm looking through the various drafts and fragments and I can't find the Marylin quote. It does ring a bell, but...

Was is really just a sigh?

mimi said...

Refreshing. Drawn in, and there's something about eyebrows that rings a resounding bell.

Is this a new everlasting thread? Has all the right attributes, including that we all know that Elvis is working in the chip shop down my road.
Surreal is not a word I like to use when playing with Pseuds, but I think it has a place here. Freshly baked madeleines anyone? Or maybe tea in a furry cup.

guitougoal said...

it was an amazing sigh,so inspiring lord Ebren didn't want to share it ..
madeleine for marilyn anis gras for Albert

munni said...

this is terrifying.

offside said...

Relax, Munni, you don't necessarily have to spend YOUR afterlife in Las Vegas.

nesta said...


All I can say is WOW! Is there a sequel?

guitougoal said...

a sequel!- that was a mega budget production the resurrection process cost us a lot of bucks (said colonel Parker)-
talking about resurrection.......are you the real Nesta?..:)

file said...

is is amazing, that Homer, Socrates, Plato and Vermeer all get sultry, beautiful Muses, Graces and Nymphs...

I get Guitou

I'm not complaining tho, even Polyhymnia couldn't have inspired this little exploration!

nesta said...

Last time I checked I was still in physical form Gui.

I loved this story. Every line needs examining for it's meaning. Perhaps Zeph could post it at the other site too. It transcends sport and is far too intellectual for a simple soul like myself to fully understand. A pseuds classic and I'll invest in the sequel if I can have a cameo.

Zephirine said...

I'd be happy to post this at the Other Stuff site as it would sit happily with the more literary offerings there, but it'll get more readers here :)

Our File is definitely on song at the moment, and you'll find some excellent poems by him over there.

Ebren said...

Quick note to say I didn't edit this. In fact I didn't even have time to post it (it's been a crazy-bust week).

You have Margin to thank for it's arrival and any editing that went on (although I suspect he didn't do much/anything).

file said...

think Guitou might have dreamt the Marilyn quote, I know he was working on this late at night

thanks Margin for delivering this intact, thanks all for comments

MotM said...

Yes - this is from the lurid imagination of File. I was pleased to be invited to sing "doo-wop" in the background wearing a shiny suit.

Now how far is it from the LA Galaxy training ground to Vegas...

greengrath said...

...a kith ith jutht a kith,
a thigh ith jutht a thigh...

DoctorShoot said...

hany lives but I am confused...

the colonel gets to push Rock all his living time and Sysiphus wears the camusian cloak in the afterlife!! foul I say... give the colonel his southern sun city dues...

las vegan miserables!! oh fie...

and what of that last great world synchronised special from hawaii?? where is the footage now?

vegas shmegas...

on the other hand I may have to use the following: "A man's (sic) work is nothing but this slow trek to rediscover, through the detours of art, those two or three great and simple images in whose presence his heart first opened" without attribution since I saw it somewhere on the net...

levremance said...

Have to admit I'd never heard of Levremance Yashin until now. It's great to have a namesake though.

Thai-Californian-Tahitian-Merseyside sports-writing is in a good place right now.

high plains drifter said...

the four again
its too cruel to be so cool
whole lot of shaking in new levis and blue pseud shoes
i'm personating all over

is this a taproom then? if so then Lordie here it is:

Zephirine said...

You're quite right, Drifter, it is cruel to be so cool, these guys are just so damn good it's depressing.

Taproom could be here or on the netball thread if you like...

Tweet it, digg it