Italian Broadcaster Tiziano Crudeli Writhes in Existential Agony as Barcelona Overtakes His Beloved AC Milan

If, as devoted Olympiakos fan Agememnon once said, pain and suffering are the tragical source of knowledge, then Italian TV presenter Tiziano Crudeli must be a very wise man indeed.

Here he is, grappling with the fundamental questions of existence, which have rudely confronted him via Lionel Messi’s opening goal, M’Baye Niang’s shot off the post for Milan, and Messi’s second goal, after which Crudeli’s life has been drained of all meaning:

Yet take note of Crudeli in the last segment, his equilibrium remarkably restored, objectively marking Jordi Alba’s series-clinching goal in his notebook.

That’s hard-won wisdom in action.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Soccer on ESPN’s SportsCenter is analogous to an American player in Europe: he has to be extra special to get his due.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s bicycle-kick goal against England yesterday—his fourth goal of the night—was extra special. Extra-special enough to win the No. 1 spot in ESPN’s Top 10 Plays yesterday. Chances are you’ve seen it already, but it’s definitely worth multiple looks. And if you haven’t, well, enjoy:

Afterward, Ibrahimovic said it wasn’t the best goal he’s ever scored.

Of course he did.

Then again, he may have a point. Check out this one:

You know what? Except for the fact that it came at the end of a 5-1 rout in the Dutch league, and not an international friendly against England, that one actually might’ve been even better. He beat eight players before tucking that away.

We’re Back: And We Got Off Easy from Hurricane Sandy

Many, many people in the Tri-State Area dismissed the dire forecasts about Hurricane Sandy as just so much hype, or gambled that the storm’s course would spare them.

They won’t be doing that again.

Sandy delivered everything the cable-news weathermen said it would, and more—including this incredible explosion at a Con Edison power plant on East 14th Street in Manhattan:

That little conflagration helped knock out power in most of Manhattan below 36th Street (get your South of Power—or SoPa—T-shirts here; proceeds go to Sandy relief), and the storm wreaked all sorts of other damage in the five boroughs, most seriously in Staten Island, and low-lying areas like Breezy Point, Queens, where a hurricane-induced fire burned some 80 homes to the ground.

The subways were out of service (and largely flooded, even Uptown) all week, and gas and water shortages cropped up in the days following the storm.

And New Jersey had it even worse.

Not good times.

We had some massive trees come down in our neighborhood but few other problems. Schools and our office were shut down for a week, but we never lost power at home and we don’t keep a car in the city so we didn’t have to deal with the 15-block-long gas lines in our area this past week.

All in all, we experienced nothing like our friends and colleagues in Lower Manhattan and New Jersey.

If you want to help them but don’t live in the area (or even if you do), why not go here and buy one of these:

All proceeds go to Hurricane Sandy relief via the American Red Cross. Go ahead and make a few clicks to order one—you get a cool shirt and do a good deed; it’s a win-win.

We’ll be back with the soccer stuff shortly.

Terrence Boyd Gets Ready for the New Season with Two Audacious Bicycle Kicks

The U.S. international striker signed with Rapid Vienna during the offseason, and the change appears to have done him good.

Here he is firing not one but two bicycle kicks just seconds apart against Roma (and fellow U.S. international and recent transferee Michael Bradley) in a preseason friendly yesterday:

Well, that was pretty gnarly. (The fact that the two attempts came so close together probably explains Boyd‘s celebration on the goal, which would have been a little excessive if it had been just the one bike in a preseason friendly and all.)

Vienna won the game 2-1.

Let Us Now Praise Leo Messi, Part XLVI

There’s not much left to say about the 24-year-old genius-in-residence at Barcelona, but the goalkeeper’s reaction on Goal No. 3 of yesterday’s five-goal outburst against Bayer Leverkusen does a pretty good job of summing him up.

Take a look at the keeper after he’s beaten by Messi’s casually brilliant chip for his third goal. We’re pretty sure the English translation for that is WTF:

Messi has 48 goals in 42 games this season, and 228 goals, 93 assists, and 18 trophies in his career. And again, he’s only 24.

Is he the best ever?

The current titleholder, Pelé, said the following when Le Monde asked him that question recently:

“When Messi has scored 1,283 goals and won three World Cups, then we will talk.

“People always ask me: ‘When is the new Pelé going to be born?’ Never. My father and mother closed down the factory.”

That is top-notch stuff from the legend. And he has a point. Messi’s heroics are fresh in the public’s mind and eyes, while Pelé’s case was stated decades ago. The public needs a reminder.

The one knock on Messi has been that he hasn’t done it on the international level, and there’s merit to the charge. But he did bag a hat-trick for Argentina on last Wednesday’s international fixture date, and he has at least six more years of his prime left.

Pelé’s title is safe for now, but maybe not for long.

Lionel Messi: Human Gyroscope

Thanks for the feedback on the inaugural, beta edition of Tracking Back, our podcast spinoff. We’re going to produce it every other week for the time being, and if all goes well and schedules allow, we’ll move to a weekly podcast.

One item we discussed in last week’s debut was the great Leo Messi and how he never dives. It’s true, and as we said on Tracking Back, it’s not just on principle that he always tries to stay on his feet after getting kicked, grabbed, hacked and hip-checked by defenders. He does it because his low center of gravity gives him superior balance and enables him to zip past, around and sometimes through opponents’ wild lunges.

Behold:

The game may be overpopulated by divers, floppers, and fakers, but Messi is not one of them. And if you had any lingering doubts that he is the best player on the planet, well, it’s hard to argue against the evidence on display above.