Monday, November 28, 2011
The Blizzard, Issue Two
Dennis J. Seese
Conceived in the bustling matchday warmth of a Sunderland pub by Jonathan Wilson, author of the modern classic Inverting the Pyramid, The Blizzard is a quarterly publication (part book, part magazine) designed to give ambitious football writers all over the globe room to stretch out beyond the parameters prescribed by column inches, pull-out quotes and page views and write about football eloquently, expansively, eclectically (a stated goal) and perhaps most importantly - without editorial control or constraint.
The writers assembled within the pages of The Blizzard Issue 2 take this premise and hit the pitch running, working a glorious tiki-taka masterpiece of cutting-edge writing, cohesively mixing stylistic and topical approaches covering everything from Gabrielle Marcotti's personal remembrances of Italia '90 to a recap of this past summer's Copa America.
There are interesting creative gambits, such as Miguel Delaney's comparison of the trajectory of Arsene Wenger's managerial career at Arsenal to that of doomed, egomaniacal director/auteur Michael Cimino in "Wenger, l'Auteur", a piece heavily influenced by one of my favorite books of all-time, Peter Biskind's Easy Riders and Raging Bulls. This is placed alongside exercises in darkly-comic absurdist fiction, like Iain Macintosh's serial "The Ballad of Bobby Manager: My Autobiography". Dense theoretical ruminations like Rory Smith's "Is Football Still Sport?" peacefully coexist with lovely trips down memory lane such as Rob Smyth's chat with beloved Match of the Day commentator Barry Davies.
Wilson's star turn, Copa America recap "Oscar Bravo", is rife with his trademark tactical observations and analysis while also managing to capture everything - from the mouthwatering smells of the smoky sausage stalls lining the boulevard in front of the stadium in Santa Fe to an interesting riff on the reasons Carlos Tevez is seemingly more beloved in Argentina than Lionel Messi - with a perceptive lyricism that is a pleasure to read.
Surprisingly, the perils of institutional and systemic overemphasis on size and physicality is a thematic thread that connects two disparate articles: James Grossi's "Too Fast, Too Furious", which tries to discern the underlying causes behind the disastrous spate of serious injuries in the MLS this past season, and Matt Spiro's "Font of all Knowledge", which examines the decline of France's legendary Clairefontaine academy and the impact this stagnation has had on the French game internationally and domestically within Ligue 1.
Spiro illuminates the corrosive, limiting effect that the French Football Federation's obsession with size and technique has had on a generation of French footballers, interviewing numerous French coaches and journalists who make a convincing argument that creativity and football intelligence have been marginalized by this short-sighted approach. Spiro's tale of emerging international star Marvin Martin's rejection by Clairefontaine due to the results of a wrist X-ray is particularly telling. Similarly, Grossi cites the United States' collegiate system, still a major source of MLS players, and its onus on athleticism and the production of superior athletes as featuring prominently among the reasons the league has recently suffered from a variety of serious, high-profile injuries. Grossi also looks at the ever-increasing fixture list in the MLS and the often drastic fluctuations in the talent level on any given roster.
Honestly, I've barely scratched the surface of Issue Two's contents. The Blizzard is a stylishly-designed portable football education bursting with comprehensive, compelling literary depth and an innovative, user-friendly pay-what-you-like business model. What's not to love? More please.