The players and rumors are flying around MLS right now. Our beloved Orlando City has announced some player movement, but the view from where I stand, and where I believe many other fans stand, is on the edge of the cliff, waiting for Evel Knievel to come roaring down the runway — throttle wide open, pipes screaming, fireworks blazing — to make that jump across the chasm of mediocrity and bring us that 10-point landing (or to be more accurate, that 56-point landing) we expect in the promised land of the playoffs. It is coming folks, maybe not in the shape of one or two internationally recognized players, but a rebuilding of the team, based on a mentality, for the team, and for the fans.
As I, like you, dig through the myriad of tweets, posts, rumors, and hearsay, arguing with Google Translate about the real definition of what I am reading, or messaging friends to act as my Babelfish, I cannot help but wonder if the club is looking at the right traits in players. I mean, the typical performance criteria is something we can all see plainly with modern information dissemination. EA Sports graciously grades our players for us every year, even releasing updates throughout the season based on actual club and national team-level performances.
These are tangible metrics, ones that can be loaded into spreadsheets, digested by front offices, managers, and GMs on a daily basis. What about the intangibles? Does such a thing exist in modern football? Is there a way to dive in and take the chaotic nature of intangibles and add them to the rather black-and-white world of watching clips, dissecting statistics, and scouting players all over the world? Stick with me here, for I think I may be able to shed some light on some intangibles that absolutely need to be added to the notebook when looking at whether a player is right for Orlando City.
Whoa, whoa, whoa man, what the heck does that have to do with being a good player on the pitch? Just give me a few lines to explain. For those that have them, I think you immediately see where I am going with this, and for those that do not, it may take some convincing. It takes a lot of time, energy, and dedication to get a tattoo. No, I am not talking about the Chinese hanzi character you got on your hip that one drunken night in college to prove how rebellious you are (you thought it meant wisdom but probably means muskrat). I am talking about serious pieces — full sleeves, chest pieces, back pieces, shirts, and those intricate designs you see on those willing to wear them for the rest of their lives that look amazing, and painful.
That type of work takes hours of thought, research, and even more time getting the design just right, not to mention the research required to find just the right artist to help transform the idea into reality. Let’s not forget the hours in the chair having the art applied at 3,000 RPM while sitting still, drowning out the endless pain with focus that is driven and unwavering. Are you starting to understand this yet?
Do you want just any old mop-topped player running around after the ball, or would you prefer a player with a freshly coiffed hairdo that obviously takes time to get just right? I am not talking about man-buns, braids, cornrows, or any other nefarious-type styles of the lower-level manscaper. Take the example below:
Just disregard your personal feelings towards a player from Manchester United for one minute. Again, this takes imagination, it takes gusto, and it takes a flair for the dramatic. Not everyone will understand you or the message you may or may not be trying to communicate, and you may just be a distraction on the pitch, but isn’t this exactly what you wanted? To stand out among a sea of players in similar kits, becoming a focal point of attention to the opposing players, constantly distracting them with your flair for the paradoxical while you survey the pitch, drawing out defensive midfielders with the hypnotic trails your cranial billboard leaves as you make that run across the top of the box. Have I convinced you yet?
I know what you are thinking. Here comes that shameless plug about facial hair and other nonsense regarding beards. Science says beards are extremely beneficial, including acting as a very beneficial protective layer against the harmful radiation of the sun. We are in Florida, and we need all the skin protection we can get, especially considering the MLS schedule is over the summer. There is almost nothing more natural than a beard, and I post the hypothesis that of all the intangibles noted here, it takes the most dedication.
To grow a big beard, a viking beard, one that will immediately let everyone around you know that you are an alpha, takes years. On average, the beard only grows about 5.5 inches a year. To get to the upper echelon of intangible, you are easily looking at three to four years of proper care, watching your diet, researching the right products to wash, treat, and apply to your beard daily to keep it healthy, and patience. Waiting for a beard to grow is tantamount to watching grass grow, trust me on this one. Here is a great example below:
I may reserve this intangible for the defensive third, as one byproduct of glorious beardsmanship is a dramatic increase in wind resistance. What striker in their right mind is going to go charging into the box when they are being stared down by two massive Asgardian warriors holding down the central defensive roles? You immediately worry about being set upon by some viking in a Berserker rage, with no fear for their own safety as they know that Valhalla awaits them and their glories will be sung through the halls forevermore. The intimidation aspect alone easily makes up for the increased friction, and the added bonus of asking these warriors to come forward on set pieces and corner kicks, inviting them onto foreign soil to lay waste to the opposing team’s box is a thing of pure, unadulterated bliss.
There are, of course, exceptions to every rule, and these added intangibles can be misread and misunderstood. As with the chaotic nature of so many things that lead to being a great football player, miscalculations are bound to happen. Miscalculations by players in how to apply these intangibles to boost their game can have some very catastrophic effects.
If applied properly, these ideals can bring the exact type of players we need to fill the gaps we are all patiently waiting to get filled. Jo Inge Berget, whose rumored transfer has gone wildly quiet, is an intangible prospect that needs to be elevated to the top of the recruitment list quickly, as he may be the one forward that has overcome his beard’s physics to be that warrior up top. Antonio Nocerino lost a bit when he trimmed his beard down. Carlos Rivas, who has hit the pitch with some stellar head art, has been hit and miss, so maybe a revisit to the type of doodle is required.
These are serious times, that require serious measures, and hopefully the recruiting squad, manager, GM, and entire front office are looking at more than just stats. Hopefully they are fully engaged in understanding, deciphering, and decoding the intangibles that makes a future Lion great.