David Hirshey writes regularly for Deadspin about soccer.
If I weren't so filled with the milk — ok, beer — of human kindness, I would loathe Cristiano Ronaldo almost as much as I hate Tom Brady. Here's a guy who after sustaining a small gash on his left eyebrow — oh, the poor baby! — in a Champions League game last year said, "I don't like to look like this, but in four or five days I will be beautiful once again." Here's a guy who in the first sentence of his new book proclaims, "My name is Cristiano Ronaldo ... and I know this name means a lot to those who love football." Yeah, it also means a lot to those who love hair-gel, half-naked Vogue layouts, winking at refs and diving more than Jacques Cousteau.
Is it some sort of cosmic joke that a player who literally prances down the field, albeit fast, can haunt my dreams of Arsenal winning the Prem this season? I mean, it was bad enough that I was busted by Pauline, the longtime Irish bartender/den mother at Kinsale, for brandishing the new Penthouse as soon as I walked in.
"Lots of good articles in there, huh, Dave? " Pauline said to gales of derisive laughter. Tragically, I actually did bring it for the articles; well, one article anyway, in which Leitch's new book is excerpted amid a tsunami of pink. That's the kind of dedicated book editor I am. If one of my authors is published in a skin magazine, I'm man enough to go to the newsstand and buy it (though I think his girl-on-girl pictorial was a little skeevy).
Leitch's issue of Penthouse — when I finally got it back from Relegation Zone Mickey who, as he headed off to the men's room, also claimed to be a book editor — was certainly less troublesome than the copy of "Moments" that I pulled out on the subway later that day. Let me explain. The book was a Chanukah gift from a woman I know in England who, after reading last week's column about my new Arsenal yarmulke, thought it would be funny to send me a tome that featured 150 "sumptuous" photos of Ronaldo, only seven of which appeared to contain any articles of clothing other than a thong. Of course, I didn't know this when I cracked open "Moments" on the no. 6 train and glimpsed an oiled up Ronaldo executing a Triple Lindy.
At least this time he was diving into a pool of water instead of a penalty box. How gay was this book? Let me put it this way: I would have rather had Ricky Martin's photo album of his last beach vacation on my lap than be seen flipping through "Moments." When a passenger across from me gave me a Ronaldo-esque wink, I realized it was time to break out Leitch's Penthouse. Thanks, Will, for keeping me from getting ass-raped.
This episode occurred shortly after I had watched the Portuguese Dancing Queen in his new Bugatti-racing gold boots tear apart Newcastle with his first-ever hat-trick and came to the unhappy conclusion that the Gunners are fucked. To be sure, our weak-ass 1-1 draw against Birmingham didn't help things — will Cesc ever be the world-class player again he was before his injury? — but I'm afraid it's not how pedestrian Arsenal looked Saturday but how scary-good ManU did. You can make the case that Newcastle were a demoralized, rudderless shell of a team after Big Sam was sacked earlier in the week but you can't argue with a 6-0 dick-stomping that could have easily been double digits had it not been for five goalline clearances and any number of heroic saves from Shay Given.
This was a statement game for United, which essentially said "Anything Arsenal can do we can do better." You want sexy football? How about the lightening fast positional interchanges between Rooney and Tevez and the audacious skills of Ronaldo, who somehow cushioned Tevez's hard pass with his first touch, and, in one seamless movement, cooly jinked the on-rushing Given before slotting home to make it 3-0?
There really isn't any way to defend against this kind of improvisational genuis other than to kick Ronaldo up in the air, and even that is useless because he will flop a nanosecond before the tackle can scythe him down. And because he is moving at such warp speed and his legs are such a blur of stepovers and pullbacks, it's well nigh impossible for the human eye to distinguish between him simply kicking the ground and losing his balance and a player barging him over. Far be it from me to feel sorry for pretty boy thug Alan Smith, but the Newcastle forward hardly grazed Ronaldo in the 48th minute, and yet a free kick was awarded at the edge of the penalty area. It's Ronaldo's ability to con referees into giving him the benefit of the doubt that may be the greatest trick in his repertoire. But it's hardly the only one.
On the resulting free kick, everyone in the stadium expected him to unleash one of his surface-to-air screamers, but he cleverly waited for the Newcastle's defensive wall to jump and then hammered the ball underneath their airborne feet into the goal. So effortless was the shot that Ronaldo had a look on his face not of unbridled joy but of smug satisfaction.
It was a look I fear we will see a lot more in the coming months as United prance to another title. The diving little bitch.