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Football: The Allthing

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Ruminations upon joy, bravery and football

This picture. I mean.

I'm not a huge cry-er, but when my wife held this up with a choked, "Look at this," I burst into tears.

The central guy, the gentleman in red and blue, is legless. He's attacking. The other two have a foot apiece. Their concentration in the moment makes them look like hunting birds. They're Team USA Amputee Soccer.

The thing is, you know somehow these guys are finding a way. They're figuring out how to - I dunno - use crazy trap strength to maneuver their torsos in space, or something. They've figured out some stuff, and they got taught some stuff by guys who figured out stuff earlier. They're passing it down.

But look at the whole of football history - it's the same thing there. Cruyff invented his turn, and 25 years later every academy in the world considered it a basic ballhandling manuver. But it's more than just football. It's humanity. It's what we do. We hone, relentlessly, at these things which interest us.

The difference is, these guys, win or lose - everyone understands they're all winning, really. The joy of the sport - the effort it takes to be there, to play football without feet - reminds us both that we have this beautiful thing we all can share, this amazing celebration of mind and movement and will, and that we all need to stop being such self-indulgent idiots about partaking in the rites and rituals thereof. And that winning, while certainly a transcendent joy, is just one of the many joys available every time the whistle peeps and the game gets underway.

Getting to the point that more folks are into the joys of that moment, every little flavor - that soughing sound when a guy wrong-foots everyone (everyone, all the thousands there not on the ball) and surges into space; the multilingual universe of gestures and protestations directed at officials; guys who don't have a plant foot but still find a way; guys who don't have a foot at all but still find a way.

It's not hard to imagine a culture that can appreciate the beauty of the moments of the game as they loop past like pearls on a strand, and weigh the worth of those moments properly against the raw outcome of the contest . It's the wisdom of a culture that understands the painful itch of making those pearls, the layers of pain and effort that clam poured into creating that single bit of physical art, as something more than "a knobbly necklace that's worth some dough."

Here's to football, our allthing.