Saw this Mayapple in the woods the other day (its flower is hidden beneath the leaves). It reminded me of Ole because of its impish smile (to anyone who’s English out there, his name is not pronounced Olé). Having an impish smile doesn’t mean that Ole is naive–nor does the fact that he’s Norwegian–though there is a natural tendency to think that a Norwegian with an impish smile rolls that way. The pundits generally believe our Ole is a good coach, but lacks nous, the English term for gravitas. For example, he doesn’t understand how to defeat the low press. He doesn’t rigidly choreograph his players movements like Conte or Guardiola (less rigidly) or map out complex movements on the field like Bielsa. The complexity of football has increased tenfold since he was a player and he is in over his head. He’s too nice a guy. Ole just wants everyone to have fun, be creative, and score goals the good old fashioned Ferguson way.
I personally don’t know. I’m not privy to anything that Ole or his staff does on the field in practice or in individual and group talks. The thing is nobody else is either. He is being defined by surface qualities that may or may not accurately reflect his intelligence and ability as a football manager. But, of course, in a world in which image is everything, why is this surprising? The criticism by the pundits implies that being a genuinely good and decent human being isn’t enough, that you can’t win unless you’re ruthless, obsessed, and narcissistic. I wonder.
I was part of a religious organization called Subud in my early twenties. At the time, I really needed something to ground me. It was a less than perfect environment because of the imperfections of the leaders. I imagine this is true of any religious group to some extent. We learned how to speak in tongues, often in a language that resembled Arabic. Eventually, the group’s dysfunction caused me to leave and I’ve never regretted it, though I still do speak in tongues at times.
The high point of our local group was for me a man who quickly became a significant friend. This is odd for men–to have friendship with another man on a spiritual plane. It has only happened once or twice in my life. With women it is natural. With men, rare.
He told me that I had made my weaknesses into strengths, a statement which I still ponder at times. Also, that we were members of this group as a way of atoning for our abuse of sex and power in this or previous lives. I think he was right about this. I had been opened to the true nature of reality too quickly by way of drugs, as had many of my generation, and the result was an obsession with power and sex that destroyed our connection to god.
It is the supreme tragedy of my generation. We could have done so much and, in the end, did so little.
I was a project manager and spent time with everyone in the small, telecom corporation I was part of. Two of the software developers doing diagnostic programs for a particular computer were great talkers, borderline competent, and had motivational posters on the walls in the space they shared. I often thought of the disparity between how they projected themselves and what they could actually accomplish, though one of the posters continues to stay with me to this day…obstacles are what you see when you take your eyes off the goal, or as my freshman English prof and mentor would say, the brass ring.
I roped this great and loyal man into helping me with my first novel, whose first draft was borderline competent. Without a hint of sarcasm, he called it kaleidoscopic. He really wanted to help. Somewhere near the tenth version, he said, “Just a little further and you will touch the brass ring.” At that moment he was more of a father to me than my own father. Only later would I discover that he had hundreds of sons and daughters. I was only one of many.
“Everything in the game is designed to kill you.” – Hidetaka Miyazaki