Sunday, December 14, 2008

Sportswriting About Sportswriting About...--or, Is the Champions League A Bore? by Beyond the Pale

Duly noted that we Pseuds--Ringo37, Beyond, and our several brilliant commentators--have lately involved ourselves in involving ourselves with involving ourselves in....what am I saying? Sportswriting about Sportswriting about Sportswriting?

Back in the hoary days of yesteryear (just so we're clear, this is not product-placement, as the product no longer exists) there was a cleaning substance sold in the U.S. called Dutch Cleanser. On the label one saw a little Dutch girl--cleaning, naturally. Behind her, on the wall of the inevitably spotless interior, there was a mirror. In the mirror, one saw the little Dutch girl cleaning the same spotless interior, on the wall of which one saw a mirror...and so on, into endlessly receding mirror images. Or if not endlessly, then diminishing until...

Or as offsideinthemirror has so thoughtfully put it, putting a fine point upon all this by applying the same sort of image to our lively discussions here:

"Writing about sports is sportswriting, fine. Writing about sportswriting is something we probably need a new name for. But commenting about writing on sportswriting is a kind of writing that leaves me entirely baffled as to what it should be called."

And the esteemed Ebren, obviously with nothing but the naked truth in mind, has helpfully responded:

"Dog above Offie-- let's hope no one replies to your comment. The consequences don't bare [sic--sorry, Ebren!] thinking about."

To which the indomitable Offside, never one to say die, whether bare or clothed--remember, it's always as warm as a fine day in Paradise here on our enchanted isle--comes back:

"Dunno, sounds like a perfectly valid avenue of discussion to me. I wish I had more resources at the Pakalolo Institute so that it could properly investigated. 'sigh'. "

(Beg pardon Offie for a wee spelling edit there, courtesy of the proofreading staff at the Institute.)

"Language disguises thought," wrote Ludwig Wittgenstein, respectfully paraphrasing our Ebren, in his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. "So much so, that from the outward form of the clothing it is impossible to infer the form of the thought beneath it, because the outward form of the clothing is not designed to reveal the form of the body, but for entirely different purposes."

Which brings me back to our little Dutch girl discussion about sportswriting about sportswriting about...for what else, indeed, is a sports blog but an extension of the little Dutch girl model? We may feel silly about our mirror-staring, in short, but that doesn't stop us doing it.

"The world is all that is the case," opined Senor Wittgenstein, that kindly feeder of birds. "The world is the totality of facts, not of things... The facts in logical space are the world."

E.g., a recent popular post on the Guardian sports blog--a site frequented, the Institute has determined, by many if not most of us Pseuds--is this one by Scott Murray (a writer indeed nominated by some of our commentators as belonging in the great tradition of colorful nonselfconscious sportswriting--as if such a thing ever existed):

"The state of the European Cup: discuss. Though, unlike the competition in its modern guise, let's get straight down to the nitty gritty so we don't waste anybody's precious time: the Champions League group stage has become such a tiresome, irrelevant farce that it is threatening to bring this once-great competition to its knees..."

MouthoftheMersey, a dedicated regular here, offers the first response to the Murray post, and I quote in full:


"A thought is a proposition with a sense," that tireless old blogger Ludwig once declared. "The totality of propositions is language."

Last time I checked, 205 posts had followed MotM's on that particular Guardian thread. Many of the posters happen also to be familiar Pseuds: Ringo37, Private Dic, DonWendyAgain, et al. Here's Beyond's post, which came at the bottom of the comment chain initiated (as cited above) by MouthoftheMersey--and Beyond, like a good little Dutch girl, is citing a fellow commentator, Jimathon--

"Agree in principle with Mr. Murray's premise--the group stages are a total bore, unless one somehow actually enjoys seeing the haves beat up on the havenots--but fear it doesn't go far enough. For my money the current configuration of the UEFA Champions League is all about their money. Corporate business is in essence not sporting. Football is a world language, thus its world popularity among not only the rich but the poor. There was a time when the twain could meet on these grounds. That time is no more. Thus I feel that Jimathon's comment--

'For heavens sake! Whats [sic] wrong with people nowadays?! Always going on about the good ol[sic] days. Everything was always better back then wasnt [sic] it? Sepia tinted glasses anyone?'

--is blind to the true history of this matter. Without sepia glasses but with clear eyes one may view the 1968 Bert Haanstra film Return Ticket to Madrid and view from an intimate perspective--that is, the fans' as well as the players', as the Ajax team is given a private tactical preparatory talk by trainer Rinus Michaels, and then the matches unfold --the first-round fixtures that year between between Ajax and Real Madrid. It is thrilling stuff indeed. It is not mere nostalgia but simple objective judgment that's required to see how much has been changed by the ramping up on money and hype around the tournament since that time. What was once a glorious competition has now dwindled to tiresome pimping designed, and quite successfully, to extract the maximum money from the maximum number of gullible fools. I believe that if Mr. Murray's premise is logically applied and extended to include the entirety of the tournament in its present state, this conclusion is sadly unavoidable."

Pseuds will note that Beyond made sure to reference a Dutch film about a Dutch football team so that the little Dutch girl model might subliminally haunt the minds of thread followers. (All this at no charge, mind you.)

But to get back to offsideinthemirror's original telling objection--which now begins to seem as though perhaps it shows more than it tells: once again, for refreshment:

"Writing about sports is sportswriting, fine. Writing about sportswriting is something we probably need a new name for. But commenting about writing on sportswriting is a kind of writing that leaves me entirely baffled as to what it should be called."

"The world and life are one," Wittgenstein interjects at this point, the strands of his grass skirt lapping at his knobbly kneecaps as the fresh breezes of the isle flow gently as zephyrs through the Institute's air-circulation unit. "I and my world are one. There is no such thing as the subject that thinks or entertains ideas."

There is something, it seems, about the Pakololan climate that either encourages or discourages thought--exactly which, it remains to be decided by our analysts.

And so I ask our great resident Pseuds scholar emeritus: how, Offie, does one ever truly avoid that horrible self-referential pitfall, the little Dutch girl trap, while blogging? Because a blog without a response stream is like the sound of one hand clapping, is it not? And is not every writer about a previous writing--including our most prolific thread-stitcher at the Institute, the redoubtable, never-at-a-loss-for-a-reply Offie himself-- thus forever writing about writing? Where does this all end? When the dikes finally give way and the sea of words floods in and washes over everything and leaves only silence and a cow floating past on a clump of dirt and grass (another wonderful Bert Haanstra image, drawn naturally from the abundant Institute archives)?

And compared to the wonders of all our minds, is not the Champions League truly a great bore after all? Or is saying this a matter of saying the unthinkable?

"We cannot think what we cannot think," suggests Wittgenstein in his grand Tractatus--indeed, merely confirming a discovery made some time ago by a highly-qualified team of researchers at the Institute--"so what we cannot think we cannot say either."

And how pleasant must it not have been, indeed, back in Paradise before the Fall, when that charming little Dutch girl Eve and her rather foolish but well-meaning consort Adam could communicate with the trees and flowers and birds and other animals without using language at all, as the Bible tells? Is there a single Pseud out there who supposes they'd ever have bothered to attempt to discuss whether or not United was going to draw Real Madrid in the first knockout stage?

For, compared to the wonders of our minds, is not the Champions League a great bore after all?


MotM said...

Good job I wrote "Agreed" on that thread and not "No brainer". What would Ludwig have thought of that?

I suspect Ludwig and Bertrand might have been keen on blogging - they certainly enjoyed a natter!

offside said...

You know you've made it when they start writing blogs about you.

(*leans back, whistles, checks hair in the mirror*)

And for my birthday, too, how thoughtful of you, BtP. Thanks a milllion.

(*sits down to a plate of oysters and glass of Muscadet*)

By the way, Wittgenstein was well offside, for both goals and most of the apr├Ęs-match conference.

guitou said...

Lord have mercy.
Can't keep up with your talkin and walkin
The talk at the same time.
Better stick to the chinese version of The
Russel Brand diary..ah.

zeph said...

Happy birthday, Offie!

Thank you BTP for introducing the little Dutch girl concept... In Russell Hoban's book The Mouse and his Child there's something similar, where a tin of dog-food has a picture of a dog serving a tin with a picture of a dog etc etc leading to the concept of Beyond the Last Visible Dog...

Wittgenstein was good on pizza, apparently.

guiti said...

that's right,
Happy Birthday Ol.ol.olfsideinthefrontpage.
Your gift in the mail: "my life as a frog" by le professeur Lagrenouille.

offside said...

*Two dozen oysters later - feeling much better*

Thanks, G, Z, I have to say this narcissistic blog was the perfect gift idea. Would love to stay and chat about the offtopicness of little Dutch girls feeding dogs in mirrors but la tarte au citron is ready.

*checks hair in mirror again - still nothing - makes note to self to ask Guitou about haircare products - wanders off hesitantly towards dining room*

munni said...

good lord, I can't wrap my head round this discusssion at all. I will be without regular computer access for a few weeks, so just popping in to say happy new year to all the pseuds, and bon anniversaire, offie.

mac millings said...

Wait a minute - "OUR enchanted isle"? You, too, BtP?

How is it that around 15% of all Pseuds live on Pacific islands? By the way, I'll remind you that pakalolo is one of our words (yes, a fairly broad use of the word "our" there).

boldinthemirror said...

No comments on haircare products offie, you may have the last laugh and the glory for your birthday-

Fede said...


why try to wrap your head round this discusssion when you can do the opposite and wrap this discusssion around your head? It's a great pseuds' fashion accessory and it will keep you warm wherever you're er, headed.

Enjoy your holidays.


where else would sensible people choose to live, England? lol.

offside said...

Oops, that was me. Cheeky computer.

Professor Freud Greengrass said...

I wish you a belated Happy Birthday, and hope you have found Billy's Little Plaice in order to complement your ne-sided diet.

are you sure that the girl on that bottle was Dutch? I seem to recall one of my research fellows mentioning that she was "Pennsylvania Dutch", which in Yankspeak apparently means "German". Is this strange nomenclature universal in the USA - some sort of "Don't mention the war"-caper?
I hope she was Dutch - that will save you from re-working your piece to make all those elegant side- references German.

beyond the last visible dog lies Dog Above.

mac millings said...


"Pennsylvania Dutch" is used (broadly, and not entirely accurately) to refer both to a language and a people - most people are thinking of the Amish and/or the Mennonites when they use this phrase.

The reason the word "Dutch" is used, when "German" would proably be more accurate, is, I'd imagine, something to do with the word "Deutsch".

bluedaddy said...

Have a Happy and peaceful New Year munni

guitou said...

Happy holidays to you too, i'll be around your town this week end for few days- See you at malo for mojitos-

offside said...

It's been bugging me for a couple of days, but I've finally remembered the name of that place in Connemara where Wittgenstein used to stay and where I spent a wonderful couple of days in a previous life: Killary Harbour.

Well worth a visit, if you're in the area.

gg, I haven't made it to Monaco yet, so can't fill you in on the delights of the Little Plaice.

Is this the weirdest article/thread we've ever had on here? If so, congratulations BtP, it takes some doing.

beyond the pale said...

Offie--BTP is honoured indeed: if one never does another thing, having initiated the weirdest thread in the world's weirdest embroidery might do as a final last-straw perpetration. Yes, no doubt it was the auspicious occasion of your birthday that was entirely responsible for the obscurity of this post. Apologies to anyone who didn't get the blogs-about-blogs joke (as the bad comic said to the exiting throng).
And too Offie, as all this pseudo-elevated intellectual dithering has obviously whetted your appetite for more Wittgenstein, you can find same over on Other Stuff right now (under "All Saints"); this time though it's more the kindly bird-feeder than the diabolical puzzle-builder LW whom one had in mind.
MotM--I believe Ludwig would have thought, "Hmmm..." and then thought a bit more...and perhaps read a bit of Russell Brand in the original Chinese.
Mac-- Believe you're right about "Dutch" and "Deutsch", but rather than further elaborate himself within this particularly knotty linguistic pretzel, btp here vows to restrict himself to nothing but Bolivian side-references in his next Pseuds post.
Fede--Wonderful sartorial suggestion, muchas gracias (as we say up here in the Andes) for that.
And last but not least, Zeph--thanks for helping out with The Last Visible Dog: same mirror-within-a-mirror concept as what one seems to have had in "mind" here. (Does that make btp the wag who wags the dog?)

gg said...

Beyond the Pale,
Greengrass appreciates the way that btp refers to itself in the third person.

Tweet it, digg it