The Comma Sutra (Bayern 7-0 Basel)

Clang, clang, clang. Seeking, sicking, a gaping symphony of intersecting lines. Bayern is scoring goals in the way pigeons are cooing on the suspended wire of an electric tramline; everyone is looking for the sideline, curling and twisting before letting the final pass go. It’s like a madcap of movable Linotype characters, or stickers and stamps in the revival of the Sachplakat (Object Poster). Everything is red and erotic, and also spongy and worn out like moss or dew—everything oozes out like the custard inside the venecek in a Czech bar, an angel whose wings bifurcate from the balustrade, or the invisible labia appearing to the exhausted medical student, their sub-electric current rounding the waist, the neck, the head. Every Bayern striker loops—and they loop out of a loop, eventually scoring, and scoring like you root in your pocket for change and you feed an Imperial one-crown coin into the slot of a phone boot.

Like Emily Dickinson constructed a cathedral of commas and dashes, so soccer fans in Munich know best a punctuation made of scars, pauses, and encrypted prosody. If you roll it out as a printed artifact (a German graphic tradition, whose vacillations date back to Albrecht Dürer), this is how Bayern’s design and its protagonists, in a modernist sense, would look like:—

[a] Thomas Müller, or Gebrauchsgraphik.

Characteristically utilitarian and yet influenced by Jugendstil, lofty and yet as proper as to become virtually indistinguishable in appearance from a banker, doctor, or lawyer, Müller’s practical style is to be connected with Germany’s post-Depression commercial fabric (see the Werner Hadank’s examples below). His sane outlook and sense of form reveal the genius of a rare midfielder who is at the service of the right thing, and has the power to influence the nation’s cultural taste.

[b] Frank Ribery, or Fan Times at the Bauhaus.

A hotbed of creative wing innovation and perennially associated with an oddball cast of dissolute night-girls, Ribery looks every bit like a jazz band playing improvised antics or like an art student at Oberlin doing clownish faces while fencing off weed smoke. When he is good shape (like in these days), his energy and inventiveness convey so wonderfully the atmosphere of the Bauhaus. His ideal spectator must be familiar with the distorted effects and the curved surfaces of artifacts such as this Metalltanz (Metal Dance), from 1928, and be able to purr and chuckle as they watch.

[c] Arjen Robben, or The Drum Kit.

As his name explains, this Dutch master is an angular human being, with protruded arms suggesting aerials or antennae—aerials (so it seems to me every time I think of the ‘inverted winger’) such as those that would help rectify the passage of angular objects through outcropping of rocks, by adversely affecting a signal and, perhaps vice versa, causing multi-path interference. Simultaneously entertaining and scary, Robben presents himself like the underground jazz of club in Novotný, born out of a former nuclear shelter; he is the drum kit intercepting the bottom of the images, or the wah-wah amplifiying its melodic spectrum. The air itself can’t see his whole face, while his feet suggest, alternatively, the skeletal spires of a railway track, the gold ceilings of the National Opera, and the grey latticework of Oude Kerk, the oldest parish church in Amsterdam.

[d] Mario Gómez, or Fußball Albatroß.

At times exhausted, empty, trundled by—like ambulances chatting on the cobblestones; and then croaky, tired—the moistness of his sweat hanging in the cold air, gravity-defying. The sense of elevation floating like a spaceship of the Cold War era; if he claps his hands the pitch erupts like an oily river with hundred of seagulls flapping their wings—a chain reaction, expanding outwards, expanding upwards too, like something had woken, had taken off. When he knocks the ball, by foot or head, smoke exhales into cylinders of light. ♦

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  1. Igor Mladenovic says:

    That’s brilliant.

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