Today I want to share a piece that a fellow coach sent me, it’s Radiolab Presents: The Loneliness of the Goalkeeper.
The podcast interviews the great Arsenal ‘keeper, Bob Wilson, which struck a chord with me. I own Bob Wilson’s book, purchased via mail order from England when I was young. It was published in 1970 and sold for £2:
The podcast does a brilliant job capturing the mood of the aspiring ‘keeper, and asks the age-old question, “Why would anyone want to do this?” We all know the margin for error is infinitesimal and the capacity for failure is continual. Many famous people (Albert Camus, Pope John Paul, Itzhak Perlman) have played in goal. Many did so because they were unable to play on the pitch, due to illness or a handicap. It’s a way to be part of the team when you can’t participate otherwise.
The podcast also unearths another reason — the longing of a marginalized individual to contribute, to gain respect, even to be great, in the eyes of his peers.
But trying to become popular or respected by playing in goal is like trying to get rich playing blackjack. You might cheat the odds for a while but don’t ever forget that The House Always Wins. Every attack brings the potential for error, one that will turn the outcome of the game. Each time you escape unscathed, you know you’re only as good as the last play, and sooner or later the ball is going to hop over your foot or under your ribs, or squeeze through your hands or between your legs. And that’s when you know you your true friends are, and that number may be close to zero.
My friend Sean Hoskin said something that made me think of something Unamuno wrote:
«Nuestra vida es un continuado combate entre nuestro espíritu, que quiere adueñarse del mundo, hacerle suyo, hacerle él, y el mundo, que quiere apoderarse de nuestro espíritu y hacerle a su vez suyo. Yo quiero hacer el mundo mío, hacerle yo…, y el mundo trata de hacerme suyo, de hacerme él; yo lucho por personalizarlo, y lucha él por despersonalizarme. Y en ese trágico combate, porque sí, el tal combate es trágico, tengo que valerme de mi enemigo para domeñarle, y mi enemigo tiene que valerse de mí para domeñarme. Cuanto digo, escribo y hago, por medio de él tengo que decirlo, escribirlo y hacerlo; y así al punto me lo despersonaliza y lo hace suyo, y aparezco yo otro que no soy»
Perhaps goalkeeping is just another manifestation of our spirit’s tragic combat. We must enter the world to earn our enemies’ respect. I want to own (adueñarse) the world but the world wants to pwn me. In entering the world, by going in goal, we risk becoming less ourselves. Do we take this fools’ bet and hope to win?