I think, therefore I Playstation – Andrea Pirlo’s Unauthorized Gamer Diary

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If you haven’t read Andrea Pirlo’s excellent biography, you must do so. Right now. As Michael Cox pointed out in a review, “footballers’ autobiographies are rarely interesting.” (Except for Zlat) However, Pirlo has released a pearl of a book. I usually skim footballer biographies looking for potshots, but Pirlo’s candor and detail drew me in. Mad credit to Pirlo for being Pirlo, and the ghost/co-writer Alessandro Alciato, and translator Mark Palmer.

However, there is one major flaw in this book: they excised the detailed entries related to his epic PS2 FIFA battles with Alessandro Nesta. Luckily, I used all of my colossal weight in the eBook and soccer writing sphere to get my hands on said excerpts. And here they are, for your reading pleasure.

Entry Date: June 11, 2006 The Night Before Italy’s Game vs. Ghana in the ’06 World Cup

A controller. A piece of plastic. Wires. Copper. Glue. I held the controller in my hand, and then my hands. I absorbed the texture. A rectangle of pleasure. A diamond of circles, one including a green triangle, another a blue x. That I should press those buttons. That I should gyrate the two thumb-sized joysticks, tiny mushrooms to be batted softly, gently.

I am nervous. I sweat because the controller is attached to a cable. And that cable is attached to a larger collection of copper, plastic, and wires. It is the console. In that console spins a lovely circle of FIFAdom. FIFA 2005, to be exact – the greatest invention in the history of the universe since Twisted Metal 2 (and 007 for Nintendo 64 if you are a bit older as I am). The round disk spins to my delight and also the delight of my foe, sitting next to me, also holding a small plastic controller. I speak of Alessandro Nesta.

You are nothing without Gattuso. My longtime friend ribs me, as friends do. His back is injured but he still made the World Cup roster, to my delight. We share a hotel room. He sits on a most unusual contraption, a chair that has no wood but is circular, amorphous, filled perhaps with tiny rocks. The term is “bean bag.” Nesta travels with it to help with his back and for these very occasions: the all night FIFA duels.

I am incredibly nervous. My stomach ties itself in knots. Sweat collects on my brow. The clock reads 10:34am. We have both said goodnight to our significant others via telephone. I have brewed a pot of coffee. We are about to embark on an intimate journey – a Best of 41 FIFA tournament between two. I can imagine nothing more pleasurable. Alley (as I call him) has chosen Barcelona because he is a bandwagoner. I have chosen PSV Eindhoven because I am big fan of Philip Cocu, especially his later work.

The teams selected. The console on. We take our positions. Now only fate and skill will decide our destiny.

Entry Date: June 23, 2006 The Night After Italy’s Game vs. Czech Republic in the ’06 World Cup

I am exhausted. The energy has drained from my body. I can hardly breathe. These last two weeks, I have been a fish swimming too close to the surface. What has drained my soul from within? A leech? A parasite? No. The utter dominance of Alley in FIFA 05. I am mediocre. I am insecure. I ashamed. I am embarrassed. I do not desire to recall nor write this, but I must.

Alley beat me 37 games to 36 in our FIFA 05 “Best of 73 Duel” last night.

I could blame the bad hotel coffee. I could blame the whole playing a soccer tournament and training every day for breaking my concentration. But a champion does not point the finger at anyone other than himself. A champion loses games, but not the war. Yes, Alley has the advantage of only a light 30 minute daily training session and then runs back to the room to practice FIFA 05. While I am doing leg-lifts, he refines his interplay with Deco, E’too and Ronaldinho.

Still, a thought occurred to me. It harmed me. You can no longer be Pirlo. Self-doubt possesses me. Are my thumbs too slow? Must I now squint to see the pixel figures and balls properly? My L1-Triangle-R1 combo was brutally effective early on, but now my timing is not up to par. I sulk. I defer to schoolboy tactics of run-square-circle. Run-square-circle. RUN-square-circle. My eyes bleed.

Yes there are other distractions. I do not like my private or professional life to interfere with my Playstationing, but it does. I have a co-worker, let’s call him Rattuso to be safe, who, on occasion, becomes upset and says less than complimentary things. In fact, he says such things frequently. Perhaps for a half an hour I could hear it and be okay, but 90 minutes plus halftime? Too much. And when I create the key goal in a game, he does not hug me. He smiles half-heartedly. He high fives limply, without sincerity.

There is another disturbance. Others know of the epic Best Of duels between Nesta and I. They also want to play, but they are amateurs. We will sometimes allow them to come to our room and try a few game, utterly demolishing them by high scorelines. However, one of them, let’s call him “Boddi”, is more insistent than the rest. He is also a viper.

The PlayStation is of course the closes man can come to perfection, a gift from God, a taste of Heaven available even for sinners. Who would not seek redemption after tasting such otherworldly treats? Boddi, that is who. For the PlayStation is made by man, and, sadly, has a few minor flaws. Like a snake in a garden, Boddi pounces on such glitches to soil Eden’s Garden.

Boddi plays and wins by scoring the same goal every time: he dribbles to the right corner flag, passes back to the defender, who squares to the center midfielder, who, at the edge of the box, “magically” bends a low shot to the far post EACH AND EVERY TIME. Alley and I tried to work with Boddi – we at first said such goals only counted for a 1/2, then a 1/5, until finally we banned him.

If a man walked into your house, pissed on your rug, and then gloated about it, would you do nothing? Could you still look at yourself in the mirror and call yourself a man? Of course not.

Entry Date: July 9, 2006 The Night Immediately Following Italy’s ’06 World Cup Victory

Elation. Exuberance. Alegria. When joy bursts forth from the spirit within, the body struggle to contain and express it. Italian. English. Spanish. I must learn every word and synonym for “happiness” in all the tongues of the world. I feel so close to the Holy Spirit I could bear-hug it and maybe lift it up depending on its weight.

I am a champion. I have defeated Alley in our epic, post international tournament “Best of 201″ series.

For the record, I won 101 games to Alley’s 83. Granted, we ran neck-and-neck up until genius struck. Alley’s key player is Deco, a stick of dynamite, a ball of energy, a fishing boat-sized motor that somehow powers a starship. I believe that atoms must split inside his legs for him to move that quickly and that consistently. How could I stop such a force of nature?

Well, I respect Hiddink. However, rather than play Park Ji-Sung out wide, I moved him centrally, alongside Cocu. Then, I gave him a very specific assignment: close down and tackle Deco the entire game. The idea worked, but Alley grew frustrated. He called me a cynic. He called me defensive. He said Pirlo, this is below you.

I could only smile. I have heard the words uttered by loser before. They are also bitter, slanted, jaded. If you listen closely, you can always hear the quivering sound of remorse, the self-doubt, the recognition that blame truly lies within. Alley is my friend so I share his frustration, but as a totally competent adversary, should I not delight in my triumph?

Of course not. Today’s Square-Circle combo will be tomorrow’s history. We must live it. Otherwise, if we lose the memory card, we may never remember it happened.

Disclaimer: this post is tagged as “A Lie.” Stop and think about that before emailing me a C & D letter I will ignore/spam/delete/retweet.

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