Sports fans who also appreciate great writing about our games lost a champion this week.
Bill Littlefield remembers the work of Eduardo Galeano, who died on Monday.
There are a lot of bad books set in sports.
Perhaps the worst are the ones allegedly written by coaches. These books are built on the shaky proposition that guiding a group of athletes toward a championship qualifies somebody to tell stock brokers and supervisors at McDonald's how to turn their employees into winners.
He refused to let the commercialization and marketing of the game destroy the joy he found in its most glorious moments.
But he also wrote about soccer, and he refused to let the commercialization and marketing of the game destroy the joy he found in its most glorious moments.
In a wonderful book titled "Children of the Days," Galeano tells the story of Manuel Alba Olivares, who was 11 when he witnessed the goal Diego Maradona scored after dancing past six Englishmen during the 1986 World Cup. Just as the net billowed with the goal, young Olivares went blind. The goal was the last thing he saw. But according to Galeano, Olivares can still describe in perfect detail Maradona’s every move.
It’s a talent Eduardo Galeano appreciates. In "Soccer in Sun and Shadow," he wrote, “I go about the world, hand outstretched, and in the stadiums I plead, ‘a pretty move, for the love of God.’ And when good soccer happens, I give thanks for the miracle and I don’t give a damn which team or country performs it.”
Eduardo Galeano has been justly celebrated elsewhere as a counterweight to those who have written history from the perspective of the winners. He preferred the stories of those whose brave struggles had been forgotten.
But the sense of humor evident so often in his voice was inseparable from his achievement. In a piece titled "Author’s Confession," his subject was soccer and himself, but it was also about every fan from anywhere who ever had a dream.
“Like all Uruguayan children, I wanted to be a football player,” he wrote. “I played quite well. In fact, I was terrific, but only at night, when I was asleep.”