Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Pep Guardiola: football's J.K. Rowling

Pep Guardiola reels into the Catlunya spring sunset punch-drunk, deserving a rest, his job well done. Most agree that he's likely to take a significant break from management – perhaps an eternal one – before moving back to the scrutiny of club control.

To witness the change inhis appearance from appointment to last week's press conference is to see what daily hour-long media sessions will do to a man. He looks exhausted, has lost a considerable amount of weight and what remains of his hair is prematurely grey.

In many ways, I hope he chooses not to manage again. Particularly, I hope not to see him at a different, less stressful club. This may seem odd, given his record of dignified success; however, for him to return would be to risk a legacy which now stands unparalleled. He's won everything there is and leaves the game at his own discretion. To come back would not gamble his reputation; he will always be loved in Catalunya. But neither would – or could – it achieve anything of real substance. Those who suggest he's yet to assemble his own squad, or should attempt management overseas to complete his resume are snidely ungenerous.

He is/was great; he now moves forward. A four year term helming the greatest club side in memory saw him astride the world; to return from this break to boss a different club would subvert his stature as a Catalan deity, achieved the remarkable with his hometown club. His narrative shouldn't need to rely on piffling things like football management for completion. He is regarded at a different level from every other manager; his story becomes infinitely more compelling by refusing to countenance further management jobs.
(c) Balanced Sports

That he represents a standard of Catalunyan success and pride that transcends sport, leads me to remember the legacy of “Rocket” Richard.

The image to the right best exemplifies what Richard means to the Quebecois: this representation is one of a parade of Quebec heroes that stops Montreal, QC every St. John Baptiste Day.

His tale also mimics that of J.K. Rowling, the Omnipresence ruling over the magical (and tremendously marketable) world of Harry Potter. After suffering several high-profile bouts with writers' block and sustaining excellence and interest in teen writing for a decade, it was only fair to expect her to withdraw somewhat to recuperate. Her novels were so comprehensively successful – on every level – that she had achieved all she could.

Rowling announced last year that she was returning to the computer to write a new, adult novel (who features a major character named Barry!) due for release in September this year. Her background, audience and profit margin are nonpareil; to return to a different genre invites criticism. “The Casual Vacancy” will break all sales records, but will never be as well-received as Potter.

A craven viewpoint? Perhaps. But rather than seeing Guardiola (or even Rowling) return, I prefer the romantic narrative of someone leaving, and moving on. For Rowling, the case is exceptional – she feels she has a story to tell. “Artistic integrity”, that most nebulous of concepts, demands producing not what is expected, but representations of what moves one at the time. Guardiola, however tactically and interpersonally adept, is less artisan than mathematician. His integrity shouldn't compel him to return to management but to seek the next steps of a journey of exploration.

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