Somewhere between talking to the trees in Paint Your Wagon (1969) and talking to a chair at the Republican Convention in 2012, Clint Eastwood made a film called Gran Torino, which my Italian translates as the Granny of Torino? And no, it isn’t another name for Juventus, that’s La Vecchia Signora (The Old Lady). Not to be confused with the Belgian cycling classic “La Doyenne”, which is French and simply means the oldest in this context, but is feminine and can refer to a lady of advanced age.
What’s with this sport and old ladies schtick?
Anyway, Gran Torino is actually an iconic American car and a fairly average film despite, or perhaps because of, the presence of the Eastwood. Some would say his best acting days are behind him. Some would say that acting with an ape seriously undermined any claim to iconic status long ago, even if his Spaghetti work helped bury the “singing to trees” débâcle.
But truth to tell, both in front of and behind the camera Clint has produced some fine moments and he has been ever present through my life. I’ve watched those documentaries where he talks about jazz, blues ‘n’ stuff and been enthralled. I never adored Clint but I liked him, didn’t try too hard to distinguish the man from the mythic figures he often portrayed.
The thing is though, the talking to the chair bit, in an effort to support the oleaginous Mitt Romney, kind of marked a point where I finally let Clint go. I’ll still watch his good films, I appreciate what he’s done, but now I’m dealing with his art and not him.
It’s a grown up thing to do. Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Van Morrison, Bruce Springsteen. They’ve provided the soundtrack to my life. But somewhere along the line, I’ve had to face the fact that a person can’t carry all your hopes, dreams and expectations.
In the realms of sport, music, writing, film; throughout my life I have tended to enact this transference of what I want someone to be, rather than accept them as they are.
By pulling on a Chelsea shirt, a Canadien’s sweater, by just being Tom Boonen, the wearer guarantees a level of man love and all encompassing forgiveness that defies logic or explanation.
And I’ve no right to lay that burden on them (like they give a shit). They, like me are flawed. It is their work, their skills, music, writing that represents them, that speaks for them and should be treated separately from the person.
And the passing of time, too acts upon how I view someone and their work. So while the music or film, for instance remains frozen in the moment, my appreciation of it changes. And it changes with the acquisition of knowledge, of background, of context. Inevitably my view of the the person also changes because when looking back your field of vision is always adjusting. Reflective memory is both a boon and a curse.
I’ll never forget watching Neil Young sing “Helpless” in the film The Last Waltz for the first time back in the summer of ’78. It captures a moment, a whole bucket load of emotions, hopes and expectations that made up my 18 year-old self. The knowledge that Scorsese then spent a fortune editing out a rock of cocaine that was hanging from Neil’s nostril during the performance occludes my efforts to get back to the purity of that moment. A moment that probably wasn’t that pure really, because they rarely are, particularly when you’re in a darkened cinema with a young lady.
And so when I watch Robbie Di Matteo walking up the stairs in Munich to receive the European Cup, fresh from the delicious moment of victory, today has changed how I will experience it from now on. The sensation has moved from sweet to bittersweet. It will now take an effort to imagine that moment untouched by the events that were to follow. And for the same reason, I don’t want Didier to return. That instant, that penalty has to remain unsullied.
As for letting Chelsea go, well it has yet to happen. And I mean by that, Chelsea as the football team, the nebulous concept, which manages to tie up far too much of my time and emotion. I’m still all in for the team, for the football game itself.
But since the departure of Ancelotti, coming on top of the way Ranieri was treated, and the fractious September days at the end of Mourinho’s reign, I’ve been letting go of something.
And now this. Yes, business is business and this constant rotation of managers has not stemmed the flow of trophies, helped it somehow many would say. But I now just don’t feel as if I can be as attached to the personnel as I once was. I’m going to be caring a little less.
There’s a chair over there and someone’s been talking to it.
The Match Report
Chelsea lost 3-0 to Juventus in Turin. That is all.
Thank you Robbie for such wonderful memories as a player and manager. Like your playing career with us, it has all ended too soon. I wish you success and happiness.
Mr Benitez. You’ve said a few things about us in the past. But you’re here now and I hope you take your chance.
Can’t remember the dates but I was at Old Trafford in the Cup when RDM was sent off and we all spent a good part of the second half whistling the Great Escape as Chelsea battled for a draw.
The Guardian, Dominic Fifield: “Chelsea’s fate in this competition has been ripped from their hands and with it will surely go the European Cup. Roberto Di Matteo had demanded a show of strength but in the end his fading champions were merely overwhelmed, battered into submission by a dominant Juventus who can sense their own progress. The London club’s defence, not for the first time, seems in tatters.”
The Daily Telegraph, Henry Winter: “Chelsea’s manager, Roberto Di Matteo, gambled and lost here, taught a painful lesson by hosts who were stronger, sharper and superior. These are chastening times for Chelsea, fighting against the fading of their Champions League light, facing the humiliation of becoming the first holders of the modern-format European Cup not to progress from the group stage. Di Matteo’s side now host Nordsjaellend on Dec 5 while Juventus travel to Shakhtar Donetsk. It is not all over, but it looks ominously like Thursday nights in the Europa League for Chelsea.”
The Independent, Sam Wallace: “It is only six months since Chelsea’s miracle of Munich, but in Turin, Roberto Di Matteo finally had to confront the inadequacies of a club whose luck has run out. The Chelsea manager made the only decision he could be expected to make when he dropped the dismal Fernando Torres for the first time this season but sadly for Di Matteo there was no-one else to replace the great sulking centre-forward. That is the problem when a club places all its faith in a very flawed striker whose confidence has been eroded to nothing and allow the one forward who might rescue the situation to leave.”
The Official Chelsea FC Website: “The Blues will now need to keep one eye firmly on the result in Donetsk when we take on Nordsjaelland in the final group game, having been well beaten in Italy. The manner of the first two Juventus goals may have been a little unfortunate, Petr Cech twice beaten by a deflection, once in each half, but after Eden Hazard had not taken an early chance when the game was scoreless, Chelsea never truly came close to scoring again.”