15 September 2008

The superheroes' superhero

Time for a Sport Is A TV Show first - a guest post. Superman - yep, that Superman - takes time from his busy schedule to reveal the inspiration behind his glittering career as a superheroing do-gooder-about-town.

Hey, Supe here. You no doubt know me as the Man of Steel, using his superpowers to rescue chihuahuas trapped in abandoned industrial buildings and foil evil plots designed to kill many innocent people and that sort of thing. What you may not know about me is that in my spare time, while I'm not single-handedly maintaining the delicate balance between Good and Evil on Planet Earth or generally using my special abilities in an array of non-perverted ways, I love to watch soccer - something which the chroniclers of my story have failed to pick up on.

Not many people in Metropolis are really into it, and anyway, it would be difficult for me to 'come out' as a soccer fan at this juncture - it would kind of ring false with this whole Clark Kent image I've had to portray for so long. I was an ace quarterback in high school, and I used to go around with that stupid jacket with the letter on it all the time back then. There were college scouts swarming all over me back then, but I actually hated football; soccer was my true love. I don't know why I kept up the pretense; I guess it would have been seen as kind of weird to admit to loving soccer in the rural Midwest back then. Whatever, it's too late to change my persona now.

I have so many issues I would like to discuss about the 'Beautiful Game', such as the MLS' single entity structure, the forthcoming purchase of Tottenham by Lex Luthor and the time that lovable scamp Stephen Ireland asked for a pair of my underpants in the mail. But I'd like to take this opportunity to get a couple of things off my extraordinarily sculpted chest. In order to do this yet maintain a degree of secrecy and keep this whole soccer-loving thing quiet, I wanted a sports blog with as pitifully low a hit-rate as I could find. So here I am.

First of all: Shay Given is the best goalkeeper in the Premier League. There's no disputing this. To be honest, it's been a bit embarrassing to see so many relative no-marks being elevated to this status in recent years. I mean, COME ON!: Cudicini, Friedel, Niemi, Robinson...Then Petr "Peter" Cech comes along and everyone decides that he must the greatest, because JOSÉ SAYS SO. Listen, you could have put a scarecrow in a scrum cap behind that Chelsea defense between 2004 and 2006 and they would still only have conceded the odd goal every twenty games or so. It makes me sick the way he has to do nothing for an hour, then when a shot somehow finds its way on target and he tips it over the bar, the commentator gushes: "What a save! That's why he's the best goalkeeper in the world!" And when he makes a mistake it's treated as some huge shock, even though he does it all the goddamn time these days.

Shay Given, meanwhile, has been stood behind various attempts at a back line at Newcastle for over a decade. He actually has to do things like MAKE SAVES and CATCH CROSSES, constantly for ninety minutes. What's more, he does it, and without the aid of being so freakishly tall. What's more than more, he's had to contend with playing at a club with a seemingly institutionalized aversion to defensive organisation. And he's being doing it consistently, even finding the time to recover from almost literally being gutted. Even I would have had trouble trying to do that. That's not true, actually.

Oh, hold on: there's another frickin' hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico for me to divert. I'll be a couple of minutes. Acquaint yourselves with genius:

Okay, I'm back. So we've established something: Shay Given is fabulous. But what I really wanted to talk about is something far more shocking - something very personal, and the main reason why I chose this darkest and dottiest of virtual corners for this piece. It is a revelation so unbelievable that you'll probably have a hard time believing it, for all sorts of reasons. Here goes:

My whole life is an effort to emulate Shay Given.

Now, I quite literally know what you're thinking: "This is highly improbable and, on the briefest of investigations, a chronological impossibility - in fact, I'm beginning to doubt whether you are the real S-Man at all." Just hear me out. It's the least you could do, considering that you would all be speaking Apokolipsian if it wasn't for me.

Part of my superhuman powers is the ability to see into the future in my dreams. (For example, I can exclusively reveal that Liverpool will never win the league again, and that the biggest Broadway show of 2017 will be a musical revival of the oeuvre of Captain Beefheart called Attack of the Trout Mask Replicants.) In one such instance, I dreamt of something called a 'goalkeeper' in something called 'soccer', with a name beginning with 'S', flying through air saving something or other. (For reasons I didn't understand at the time, the dream was set in Nicosia, Cyprus.)

I didn't quite grasp my extraordinary capabilities at that age; I figured I was was just prone to some pretty funky nocturnal brain activity. In any case, I became obsessed with this mysterious figure. It touched me deeply how he used his incredible physical attributes to ward off what I assumed was a metaphorical representation of the bombardment of the world by the forces of Evil.

I took to insisting that everyone call me 'Shay', which really confused people and even led Mom and Dad to take me to a shrink (don't tell me - that's not in the comics either?). When I became a superhero, I got my Mom to put a big 'S' on the front of my costume. She thought a thunderbolt or a nice kitten would be better, but I stuck to my magnificent guns. Actually, my costume inadvertently led to the adoption of my nom de superhéro. In one of my first acts of selfless charity, I rescued a woman from a burning barn in the middle of Wyoming. As I flew her to safety, she asked me what the 'S' on my chest stood for. I couldn't exactly tell her it was a tribute to a soccer player who hadn't been born yet, so I had to think quickly: "It stands for...uh...Super...uh...Superman?" She thought it was a great name, so I stuck with it. Bottom line: if it wasn't for Shay Given, I wouldn't be a superhero, and you would probably be dead.

It's been a real pleasure to have lived long enough, through the exposures to Kryptonite and the bipolar episodes, to see this vision fulfilled. The inside of the Fortress of Solitude is covered with Shay Given posters, and I even made a life-sized bobblehead figure of the great man. I hope to be able to pluck up the courage to meet him some day. He is a symbol of security in a fraught universe. I just long for him to wrap me up in those big arms and whisper to me in that soft Donegal accent: "There there, Supe, everything's going to be alright. Everything's going to be aaaaalright..."

God, I'm so lonely. Oh Krypton, why did you have to die? WHYYYYY?

Anyway, my Supey-sense is tingling again. That's right - Supey-sense. That arachnid bastard stole my catchy little phrase. If you hear differently, don't believe it. Oh yeah - I called up Ol' Fly-breath before I started on this and asked him who his favorite keeper was: "Uh, does that Zenga guy still play?" Idiot.

So, I'm off. Stay safe, yadda yadda.

The Supe.

Flickr photos (1, 2, 3, 4) by Dunechaser, grewlike, österreich_ungern, A.Currell.


Steve,  16/9/08 11:20 PM  

Excellent guest post, Superman. It explains so much. Might we ever hope for a follow-up? If so, the regular readers (several of which are now back from vacation) will be sure to tune in.

You might consider talking about the impact of kryptonite when it's exposed to the groin. Did you emulate that part of the foreseen future, too. I hope Given is fully recovered from his own injury to that area, but I don't know about future susceptibility.

Did you know that Given and his wife received a Papal blessing from John Paul II (a former keeper himself) upon their marriage? Any tidbits you might like to share about your own WAG, Lois Lane, could be interesting, too.

Superman 17/9/08 8:43 PM  

Look here, Steve, I don't take too kindly to my good lady being called a WAG (unless you mean WONDERFUL AND GORGEOUS). She's an intelligent, independent woman who has eschewed the opportunity of an easy life in the shadow of a superhero (me) for a proper job. She reads books and everything. I'd go to your house and make my point more forcefully, if I hadn't long ago resolved to use my powers purely for good. Curse my sound Midwestern moral compass!

Oh, and Federrari or whatever your name is - don't think I didn't notice that last YouTube clip you snuck up there. Real mature.

Steve 17/9/08 11:31 PM  

Holy Cannoli, Superman. I certainly didn't mean anything disparaging when I referred to your dear friend Lois as a WAG. I thought by the acronym (wives and girlfriends) that it was innocuous enough, but by your reaction there must be negative connotations. Please accept my apologies. I was unaware that it might impugn her good name in any way.

And please don't curse your Midwestern moral compass. I'm from Ohio, and probably have one that directs itself similarly.

Fredorrarci 18/9/08 12:40 AM  

Steve: on behalf of everyone here at SIATVS Mansions, many apologies for the conduct of our 'guest' poster (the inverted commas because it is a highly dubious way for a guest to behave). I hope it doesn't spoil your enjoyment of Sport Is A TV Show. I guess we've seen a strange and disturbing side of Supe he usually keeps hidden from comic book artists and TV scriptwriters.

Supe: way to go, Mr. "I-Only-Use-My-Powers-For Good". I provide you with a valuable service by allowing you to air your innermost thoughts, and you abuse a valued contributor. I don't know what's got into you. Perhaps your Given love has mutated into Newcastle fandom and you're a bit peeved, but that's no excuse. Who do you think you are: Danny Guthrie? An apology is in order.

By the way, the Given/Dublin clip was a response to your hit-rate jibe. How could you know the blog's hit-rate? *I* don't even know the blog's hit-rate!

Steve 18/9/08 4:15 PM  

Thanks for going to bat* for me, Fredorrarci. I suspect it was a simple misunderstanding, though I must confess I was somewhat taken aback by the Man of Steel's reaction.

I'm glad you made a special note of the final YouTube clip. I hadn't viewed that one first time around. Looks like even super heroes can have human moments. D'oh!**

* Sorry to use an expression from a distinctly American sport. Maybe I've got baseball on my mind because the local team (Chicago Cubs) are on the verge of clinching a playoff spot.

** This is yet another old expression, but one I suspect made the leap across the pond.

Superman 18/9/08 10:50 PM  


Fredorrarci 19/9/08 2:05 AM  

Oof. Looks like I touched a nerve...

Steve: no need to be sorry for using such a term. No anti-Americanismism here. And best of luck to the Cubs. I see that the White Sox are top of their division too. What odds an all-Chicago World Series? (And has it ever happened before?)

Steve 19/9/08 4:05 PM  

Thanks for the accommodating view of American sports, F. I'll try to adopt the same attitude in the face of any hurling references you care to throw our way (if I recognize them, that is).

There actually was a subway series in Chicago. You have to go back a ways, though. To 1906, in fact. The chances of another are not seen as great by the odds makers. By my calculations, you'd take the imputed probability of the Cubs winning their league (0.3525 according to the Tradesport site) times the probability of the White Sox winning theirs (0.1275) and get 0.045. So it looks to be about 20 to 1 against. Then again, we've all seen 20 to 1 shots come in, haven't we?

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