Did you happen to catch the Man City-Liverpool game a couple of weeks ago?
The weather was crap, with icy cold rain, and at one point, they showed Mario Balotelli sitting on the bench with his new teammates. He had a hood over his head, if I recall, and looked as miserable as a stewardess with a horrible case of diarrhea on an Inter-continental flight.
I’m certain Mario was thinking, “Why couldn’t I have been bought by Sevilla? Or Napoli? Or Barcelona? Yeah, Barcelona. That’s the ticket. It’s nice there all the time. That’s where I should be playing my football. I’ll make sure to call my agent when the game is over. He’ll take care of it. Yeah, Barcelona. Shouldn’t have to do much more than chomp on some lad’s ear, and I’ll be off just like Suarez. It worked for him, and I’m just as crazy.”
Now, I’m not sure I’d like to have to play outdoors in the dead of winter in Liverpool either. And sitting on the bench can be notoriously boring, in the best of times.
The mind wanders.
I recall riding the pine for the Varsity soccer squad, as a freshman. We were playing in Little Egg Harbor, New Jersey, which is smack dab in the middle of the Pinelands. Lots of chicken farms, (hence the town’s name) and trees that go on for miles.
My friends Chris Kelly and Rominder Varma were sitting on either side of me. They too, were bored as hell. So Rominder turned to both of us and said, “If a pack of man-eating, wild dogs descended upon the field, ready to eat everyone here, where would you hide?”
Surprisingly, neither Chris nor I had the slightest qualm at taking his query seriously. We began to scour the horizon, looking for a port of safe harbor from those imaginary, famished beasts. Then, after a moment or two, we burst out laughing. Because that shit was hilarious.
Rominder was a funny guy. And he did not fit the stereotype of an Indian-American. He drank and partied, and cracked people up on a regular basis. He was the kind of funny you felt good about laughing at.
As opposed to the clichés about Indians and Indian-Americans that seem to be floating about in popular culture, sadly, to this day.
Recently, my young son got hooked on the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” trilogy. They go for easy laughs, for the most part, and of course they have an Indian character named Shirag Gupta. He’s shrimpy, and you’re meant to laugh at his thick accent, because, you know, foreigners are different.
(Sample dialogue, “I am Shirag Gupta. And I am single,” he says to the pretty, 7th-grade-blonde-girl who would never, ever, go for a guy like him.)
Then, just the other day, I heard Hank Azaria interviewed on NPR. Something to do with a Simpsons marathon they were hyping. He launched into his Apu accent, because everyone loves the Quickimart guy. This time, though, I didn’t crack a smile. It seemed so 20th Century, and a bit sad. White man making fun of brown people. You laugh, white man. Laugh.
Now, I’m well aware that you don’t know who I am, nor why I’m rambling on like this. I’ve done it every week for 3 years at my regular gig, for the photo industry blog, A Photo Editor, so please, bear with me. I’ll get to the point.
Which is, I loved the photo sent in to me by Navin Sharma, from across the river from my home state of New Jersey. Look at that picture. He’s standing on one side of a garish trophy, resplendent in a home Gunners jersey, and his strapping young son Nikolas stands on the other. (Wearing last year’s away kit, if I’m correct.)
They look happy. Confident. Their shoulders are square. Navin’s taken off his hat, all class, but young Nikolas has his on backwards. Like kids are wont to do.
Maybe it’s their best day of the year so far?
They were in the Red Bulls soccer stadium in the industrial wasteland that is Northern Jersey, just up the train tracks from Newark Airport. But they don’t care. Arsenal came to town. Boo-yah.
And what’s with that trophy anyway? Can you believe they went to that much trouble to smelt and polish some metal to give away at the end of a silly friendly? In which guys like Jon Toral played a vital part for Arsenal?
That’s not a contest. It’s a dress rehearsal for a 4th grade play. That’s how much the results meant.
But tell that to Navin and Nikolas. There they are, standing in front of a perfectly crafted Barclays PR backdrop. The kind they erect out of some cheap scaffolding. It’s theater. But not the kind you laugh at.
Enlarge the photo, and you can see that each gent is warped in the trophy’s glare. Fun house mirror portraits, thrown in for good measure. And you can also see the white sheets perpendicular to the facade. Proof that all around this micro-environment, it looks as fancy as the bowels of a stadium. That’s the point of facades, though. You’re not supposed to see what’s behind them.
Then, in the distance of the trophy’s inner glow, you see bright light in the background. The outdoors, perhaps? The pitch? Where Thierry Henry plies his trade. The god of North London, displaced to North Jersey?
I love this photo. It reminds me why we all get so excited each match day. Why grown men will put on another man’s jersey. And so will teenaged boys too. Wearing Jack Wilshere shirts, while bearing a faint resemblance to our smoking box to box mid-fielder.
Hope the boys had a great day that afternoon, even though the Red Bulls took home the silverware. It’s sitting somewhere inside that miniature stadium, I’m sure. Collecting dust already.
1st Runner up
from Nick Pewter, of the Bermuda contingent, at the Crystal Palace game.
I have no idea what the Club Level means. I live in the mountains of New Mexico. How the f-ck should I know? But it sure does look swanky. In the words of the immortal Liz Lemon, “I want to go to there.”
2nd Runner up
from James Murphy: Twitter handle: @JAlexMurphy
Sure, this looks like a standard panorama shot, from the away seciton of Everton game. But get a look at the dude all the way on the right. How drunk is he? Not exactly a flattering depiction.
Are you going to a game this month? Want to see your photo featured here? Be creative and send your pictures to firstname.lastname@example.org. – Tim