Slate’s Phillips on Ronaldo

I don’t know a lot about soccer. I’m your typical late-comer who enjoys the aesthetic side of the game without having the greatest sense of its history. I learn what I can, and I enjoy the rest.

The great player Ronaldo, who just retired, is typical of the cultural marker that I know of without really understanding. He peaked when I was still in my “I hate soccer it’s so boring” phase, which is I think a trial that every matured sports fan must complete and then leave behind, making room for the more justified distastes for NASCAR and golf. By the time I started paying attention, Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo were the stars of the day, attracting all the love and ire of 5 billion soccer fans across the world.

That said, I found Brian Phillips’ summation of Ronaldo’s career and public persona in Slate an article worth reading with the balanced levels of insight, thought, and perspective that I try to bring to P&P content.

I don’t understand Ronaldo by reading the article, but I understand how a fan watched Ronaldo play, and what sort of a once-removed relationship there was between fan and player and media. Of note:

As a media figure, Ronaldo was never cool in the ruthless-visionary way of Zidane or in the lost-album-cover manner of Beckham. He seemed affable, funny, a little ingenuous, a little strange. Those qualities made him human, but they also made him a terrible fit for modern sports journalism, which knows how to handle only one kind of superstar—the kind who is entirely focused on being one.

And:

Over the years, Ronaldo somehow contrived to become the leading scorer in World Cup history, to become, with Zidane, the defining player of his generation, and yet, simultaneously, to become a joke.

I would also urge you to watch the highlight films, which show a player full of talent, in which “talent” is the barely visible ability to create space and opportunity where none appeared to have been.

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