by Dan Gibson
Slate has a nice tribute to Brazilian soccer player Ronaldo, whose strange career mixing brilliance and disappointment came to an end with his retirement today:
Ronaldo's 1996-97 season with Barcelona was the sort of event in sports that you simply can't count on witnessing. Rather than lamenting that it didn't happen again, we should be marveling that it happened in the first place. Is it worth pointing out, too, that Ronaldo's so-called decline wasn't exactly the stuff of horror? He won a World Cup in 2002, scoring eight goals along the way; won two La Liga titles with Real Madrid; netted hundreds of goals; successfully retooled his game after twice rupturing a tendon in his knee; picked up two more FIFA World Player of the Year awards; and, after moving back to Brazil in the twilight of his career, won two trophies with Corinthians in 2009. I wish more athletes were such comprehensive failures.
Ronaldo was one of the reasons I started watching soccer in the first place, mostly because when he was playing well (and even when he wasn't), it was likely that something amazing could happen at any moment. Then again, with his personal life, the same possibility was still there, from the possibility that he was poisoned before the 1998 World Cup final to a scandal where he picked up a group of transsexual prostitutes, then ended up fighting with them. We all have our bad days, I guess.
Even if he live up to whatever absurd "best ever" expectations that were set for him by an overenthusiastic soccer press, he still was responsible for hundreds of amazing moments on the pitch. Thanks, Ronaldo.