Hungover Dispatches from Brazil: Rio Edition

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Futfanatico regrets to inform you that, with out modest budget, we were only able to send two correspondents to Brazil for this World Cup. The really smart and educated one totally flaked on us. No response to emails. No phone calls. Nada. Unfortunately, the other one, who we later found out made up most of his references (he even admitted to impersonating one over the phone), sent us this. We have edited it best we can, but, alas, you can only mold a pile of shit into a different shaped pile of shit. Enjoy as best you can. This may be a series. We will be running some guest posts from Tahir Duckett, the handsomer, more athletic, and older brother of Bilal Duckett (of the NE Revs), but purely as a guest writer capacity.

I.

“On assignment.” Is there a sweeter phrase in the entire English language? Getting paid to work to really go on vacation and all I have to do is type some words. Fucking sweet. Oh, I forgot – nice to meet you. I am “GonzoBra”, the correspondent for this tight-fisted soccer site known as Futfanatico. I’ll be slamm’in some keyboards for y’all from Brazil throughout the World Cup, but I do have to issue a disclaimer: this shit is gonna be edited. In fact, this introductory paragraph was entirely redone three times. Here’s a break down of my opening lines that were excised: FIRST: The Bro has landed in Brazil, land of [OMITTED], [OMITTED], and brews. SECOND: The Bro has landed in Brazil, land of [OMITTED], [OMITTED], and brews.

So my editor is kindof an old fucktard who read the first paragraph and said: no misogyny. I was all, there’s none of that in here. Then I Googled the word “misogyny” and realized I’d confused it with “masochism.” Whoops. Then, despite checking out a few definitions, I was still a bit perplexed. I didn’t see how any of the first draft was masogynistic. He basically laid it down: no objectification of women. At first, I thought – why the fuck is anybody going to read this if there’s none of that? But, alas, bros got me by the balls. I need somebody to sign off on these per diems and expenses.

But, like, yeah, my proper introduction: I am GonzoBra. What kind of bullshit name is that? Well, I was told to use a pseudonym because, as you’ll see, I maybe kinda get into some legal problems from time-to-time. I came up with this name because, like, 90% of my bros call me “bra” and my editor told me to read up on some Hunter S. Thompson. He sent me paper books (dinosaur) and even some photocopies of old Rolling Stone (ancient) magazine articles. I chuckled to myself, seeing as I know about copyright laws – who’s Mr. barely legal now, Mr. Anal Editor?

So, short story long but now short again, I didn’t have time to read all that shit. I just Googled Hunter S. Thompson and saw that he did some drugs, stalked some loser politicians, went on an epic mancation to Vegas, and did some more drugs. He also wrote things pretty last minute – a man after my own heart. Thus, I came up with Gonzo not from the name “Gonzalo”, but from the name for the school of “I was there” journalism arguably perfected by Hunter. The “bra” also can mean “Brazil.” Based on my two weeks in Portugal while an undergrad, you say “Brazil” like BRA-Zeal. More on that later. Welcome aboard.

II.

First things first: there’s a bit of a drinking culture among Soccer Journos. It’s very 1980′s English soccer. You work hard, you party harder. Basically, it’s a fraternity – a lot of us get into the press box for games, others not. Immediately after a game, there’s a rush to write some copy and file, and then we go out drinking. There’s just three problems: first, the wifi in press boxes and stadiums by law must invariably suck. Second, the desk space is super small in these boxes and laptop real estate is a premium. Third, I follow my own rhythm – I prefer to watch the game, smoke a few cigarettes immediately after a game, make some phone calls, go out drinking with the guys and then type and file, ideally around 4am.

Within this watch-write-file-drink culture, there are jokers, poindexters, fucktards, and legends. I have been told to change names, which I have done. But not very well. So, like, here’s an example of a legend. Let’s call this bra “J-Wil”. So, like, during your typical soccer game, I’ll pound between 6-8 chelas, eat a few slices of pizza, and down some nachos. Bottom line: immediately post-game, I’m in agony on the shitter. We’re talking 15 minutes of pushing and sweating. However, I shit thee not, no sooner have I flushed thy toilet than J-Wil has probably filed four different 600 word pieces at outlets you’ve never heard of and/or didn’t even know accepted soccer writing. You’ll be on vacation at the Mirage hotel in Vegas, wake up and check out the resort guide, scan the last page for buffet times and, bam, J-Wil’s got a column about “The Evolving Role of the Playmaker and Toni Kroos’ Growth at Bayern Munich under Pep Guardiola.”

Bottom line: J-Wil=’s legend. Is he on 1950′s era East German P.E.D.s? Did he clone himself? Nobody knows. L-E-G-E-N-D.

Here’s an example of a joker. Let’s call this bra “Lander Schaerlackenot.” Lander is a US soccer journo who is actually from Europe and can down beer like water. As some background to this joker anecdote, before coming to Brazil, I had to decide on my telecommunications strategy: burner cell phone or international data plan. I’ve always preferred burners when traveling – you land in the country, you go to a mall, you buy a local cell phone. It’s a cultural experience. However, this time around, the international data plan and minutes for BRA-Zeal were too good.

So, somewhat soccer related and a few days later, I blacked out after the US win over Ghana. It is my duty as an “I was there” journalist to live in the moment, to perceive neglected details, to observe the raw emotions and communicate that experience in deft prose. Instead, I look back on that night and only see blackness. Well, first I see me and Lander pounding chelas like champs, and then the darkness seeps in right after Brooks’ goal. What happened afterward I’ve been forced to reconstruct like an early childhood memory: from hearsay, biased eyewitness accounts, and social media.

First, Lander hijacked my phone as a joke. Then he downloaded some super schwarmy social media “meet up” app. In case you didn’t know it, GonzoBra has been happily married for 8 whole months (longest relationship ever!). I have no need for that shit. More importantly, my wife and I’s iPhones are linked. Thus, when I get an app, even when on an international data plan, so does she. So, strike one. Lander the clown salamander downloads this stupid fucking app and goes ape shit crazy, chatting up lots of folks in his reserved, foreign taught English and totally broken Portuguese.

Of course, nothing comes of it. Lander is also happily married, but he delighted in causing me some serious marital strife. My wife immediately tried to call me when she saw said weird app downloading, and the voice messages ranged from annoyed to angry to furious to Heaven’s wrath to filing divorce papers to murdering me to flying to BRA-zeal to, lastly, doing all of the above. To make matters worse, my little lady is not so into the whole mancation situation of a bunch of journos going out drinking each and every night in BRA-zeal. She kinda sorta monitored my text messages remotely and I had to cover my ass with some bull shit and easily see-throughable lies like “Naw babe, it’s a different Grant Wahl. I swear.”

The afternoon after via Skype, calmer heads prevailed. Sorry Sicarios and divorce attorneys, your services won’t be needed. Of course, why she threatened to do both when a good clean hit would obviate the need for a divorce, I don’t know and may never know. Nevertheless, all is quiet and tranquil on the homefront. For now at least.

And I have to say, I will defend my fellow beer-guzzling journo bras to the death. Why? Well, because things are better. That’s why. Back in 1998, there was still some serious cliquery among scribes. Folks wrote for and associated with ESPN, SI, or FOX. This was  remnant from the days when the UK Press totally dominated the scene and large rivalries existed between the Daily Mail, the Mirror, the Guardian, etc. Seating at press conferences was like a game of musical chairs between the cool kids in high school with no gloves. It was brutal.

Luckily, the neoliberal global economy and collapse of the newspaper industry means we’ve all been fired and hired and freelanced at so many different venues, there’s about as much loyalty in the scene as you’d find in an unpaid mercenary. Still, folks are trying to get a feel for the Grantland posse, a new addition this year.Like, do they drink? Do they party? Judging from the abundance of fedoras in author bio pics, I’d wager they’re into designer drugs or Cognac or something.

I’ve been secretly trying to track down Brian Phillips because his old blog Run of Play had this foreign correspondent named Vandal-prone who was kinda my hero. However, I also owe money to Wright Thompson. Like, a lot of money. So I’m trying to avoid him.

III.

So, the Instagram account. I thought it would behoove the site and my writings to have some social component. Twitter was too social, Tumblr was too complicated (like, a lot of themes to choose from!), so I settled on Instagram. Then, of course, the question arose – what would be the appropriate content? Sadly, the editors disagreed with me and pulled rank. The Instagram account was super popular and featured beers from ten different countries, in addition to body shots and liquor and all that other important soccer sports journalism stuff.

Sadly, because it included “Futfanatico” in the name, they insisted I take it down. I’ll probably start my own one. Assuming I am someday ready to reveal my true alter ego.

IV.

So, the editor asked me to do some big and flowery literary intro paragraph. He even hooked me up with a translator, lodging (at some old lady’s house near Ipanema; cool location, but WTF is this a summer exchange program?), and some contacts to talk with a literary figure here. I am famously blackballed by all literary figures after an interview with Mario Vargas Llosa a few years back went all shades of wrong and got axed by an editor. Llosa had just released La Fiesta del Chivo and, in a posh D.C. steakhouse (not far from K street, hint hint), I refused to ask him any questions other than about his failed 1990 Peruvian presidential campaign. As a true scholar and gentleman, he did pay for the meal.

So, to be honest, this was the least interesting part of my assignment. Even worse, my translator was the only punctual person in all of BRA-Zeal and would call me with appointment times and whatnot. Look, I know that a bra has got to sweat up some business. After all, I get paid per word here. I know bra, I know. But long story short I could only get a half hour with the assistant copy editor for Paolo Coehlo’s most recent novel. His name was Federico, he spoke pretty good English, and he’d never actually met Paolo Coehlo.

V.

In addition to the literary intro, I was supposed to delve into the blurry line between soccer and politics. My interpreter said the “Western media” had only focused on the young 20-somethings who were behind the protest movement, but hadn’t really talked much with the older generation who survived a brutal dictatorship are just kinda happy with a so so democracy and so so economy. Bottom line, he wanted me to interview a bunch of old people (to rack up his rate and hours duuuuhhhh). I said no. My editor suggested I read about this player named Socrates and try to track down Brazilian journos or family members for insight into the dude’s life.

Here’s the problem: I hate it when parents name their kids after somebody famous. They never turn out that way, duh. It’s like, Socrates the kid turned out to be a footballer, not a philosopher. Deal. My first name in real life is John, but I’m not going to run about baptizing saviors or getting my head chopped off. And if I was dead I wouldn’t want some gringo with a deadline hounding down my living family members to shake-down anecdotes already written by local outlets.

VI.

So, yeah, I’m supposed to preview my next entry. I’m flying to Sao Paolo in a few days. Will Futfanatico be covering an actual game for me to watch? No. Will writing for Futfanatico be able to get me press credentials to go to an actual game? Hell no. But, on the bright side, five years ago, while on vacation in Boca Chica, Dominican Republic, I met some cool Brazilians from Sao Paolo. I’m hoping to meet up with them. How? When? Where?

You’ll just have to wait and read to find out…..Until then, don’t bro me if you don’t know me.

IMAGE: GonzoBra

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