Stars upon thars


Medal ceremony (dramatization)

As the triumphant shouts of victory ring out long into the night from Johannesburg to Madrid, those of us who were privileged to share this moment are forever bound by an experience greater than all of us. Those mighty warriors, those gallant soldiers, the glorious and great Red Fury, have shown us what we love about the game, and ourselves. A true champion for Spain, for Europe, for Africa, for the world, for beauty itself.

These magnificent Spanish knights dispatched not merely eleven men in orange shirts. They conquered cynicism. Ugliness. Sadness. And they did it with breathtaking, stupendous perfection. I have no doubts that even the Netherlands are proud to have lost to a team that transcends what we thought was possible about the sport.

See? I can make Grantland Rice puke in his grave, too. Doesn't change what we saw.

Here's your six word World Cup Final:

********ing awful game.

Not Spain's fault.

I know, who could have foretold this outcome, aside from the billions of people who saw Holland and Spain's other games this tournament.

It wasn't even that bad a game, although I don't know why they only played two fifteen minute halves, or why they showed that Dutch martial arts exhibition for ninety minutes before the game started.

We should have known this would have been a tense, badly-played game. The World Cup is too big to be good. How else to explain all those agonizing misses, from players who previously could do no wrong?

The Netherlands' strategy was simple - if you can't beat 'em, beat 'em. Shudder to think how close it came to working. Holland bet that Howard Webb wouldn't decide a World Cup by showing a red card in the first half, and they were right. If it had worked, right now we'd be pleading to have Italy back as our world champs.

Hey, I understand where Holland was coming from, kind of. Their job was not to please sensitive bloggers, but to bring joy to their fans. If the United States could only win the World Cup by covering their cleats with the blood of their opponents, well...yeah, right now, comfy in my seat, my country out for over a fortnight, sure, I can tsk-tsk those who stoop to conquer. If you ask me again in four years, I'm afraid I might give a different answer.

But, I'm not a Holland fan, so I'm relieved that this Holland team didn't win. There are enough people who worship winners just for being winners, and hearing them excuse players like Nigel de Jong would have been sickening.

It's a little unfair to blame Webb for not giving Spain the 3-0 win Steve McManaman predicted - no player has been sent off in the first half of a World Cup final, after all. Although if ever someone had it coming, it was de Jong. He and van Bommel put the "ouch" in "douchebags."

And I can understand Spain playing a little more cautiously after the yellow was shown instead of red. Spain is a tougher team than they're generally given credit for - well, before today - but when kicks the chest are legal, you want to be sure you're very, very open before you receive the ball, don't you?

So Spain didn't roll up its opponents gloriously. Their opponents wouldn't let them, and varying degrees of credit for that, diminishing from the group stages to the Final. Obviously overmatched teams like Switzerland and Paraguay (and, if you like, the United States last year) shouldn't be held to the same standard as Germany and Holland.

I suppose the reason those negative strategies worked for Spain's opponents has something to do with Spain's inability to find a worthwhile second forward.

Or, in the case of today's game, a first forward. David Villa will go down in history as one of Spain's greatest players, but he was a fried lemon out there. Hey, it happens. The problem really is when del Bosque has no one to replace him except freaking Fernando Torres. I thought that was the substitution that lost the World Cup.

But Spain persevered, and good for them. It still feels more like "Thank God Spain won!" than "Congratulations to Spain, best team in the world!"

One more thing to be thankful for. For only the second time since penalty kick shootouts were introduced, neither the semifinals nor the final were decided by the abomination of the penalty kick shootout. Only two knockout matches were decided by penalties, the fewest since the introduction of PKs in 1982 (where only three matches COULD have been determined by penalties). Not only did the best team won, they won on the field. That by itself is worthy of notice. Spain are champions of soccer, not coin-tossing.

....wait. Only one team survived this tournament without a loss. Holy mother of God. New Zealand are champions of the world.