The Messi-ness of the World

The universe is losing a bit of its enchantment for me. But then there’s Barcelona’s forward. /

British soccer announcer Ray Hudson once called him a “riot in our hearts.” Most soccer fans think of him as the greatest player of his generation and quite possibly the greatest of all time. Opposing defenders try not to think of him. His name is Lionel Messi, and on May 6 he set the world alight with a goal scored in the semifinals of the Champions League against the European giants Bayern Munich.

Here’s what happened: Messi got the ball as he was at a full sprint, running toward the opposition goal. It’s not unusual, of course, for a forward player in soccer to get the ball in this position. It’s not unusual for a forward to score from this position. It’s unusual for one to seem to run in two directions at once.

Charging toward Jerome Boateng, one of the world’s best defenders, Messi initially feinted to the inside. He pushed the ball ever so slightly toward the center of the field, prompting Boateng to shift his body in that direction as he ran. It’s a simple move, really, but it was done with such speed that no one quite knew what was happening.

Then, once Boateng was off balance, Messi pushed the ball back outside. He ran past Boateng as if he wasn't there. And in a moment, Boateng’s body seemed to seize up. It was as if his eyes couldn't relay to his brain what he was seeing, and his brain was thus unable to tell his body what to do. And so he fell to the ground as if Benny Hinn had just slapped him across the forehead.

Twitter’s denizens had a wonderful time with Boateng, immediately posting memes of him falling into a hole, collapsing into bed, and being knocked out by a professional wrestler. But while the Internet laughed, Messi kept running. He pushed ...

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Also in this Issue

Issue 26 / July 9, 2015
  1. Editors’ Note

    Issue 26: The trust molecule, Luther’s forerunner, and the joy of watching a soccer great.

  2. The Shalom of Neurochemistry

    Oxytocin rewards us for human connection. /

  3. The Long Legacy of a Roasted Goose

    Proto-reformer John Hus was burned at the stake 600 years ago this week. We are all Hussites now. /

  4. Cast

    ‘The hobbyist / aims a drum / of fierce / aluminum.’ /

  5. Wonder on the Web

    Issue 26: Links to amazing stuff /

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