Os grandes campeões usaram estes ténis – e alguns pézinhos descalços também

Não sou um grande fã de corridas. Pelo contrário. Detesto correr. E detesto ainda mais ver correr. E detesto ainda mais ter que saber quando e quanto é que os outros correram. Dito isto, também sou capaz de achar interessante algumas coisas relacionadas com a corrida. Como esta infografia que mostra a evolução do calçado utilizado pelos corredores profissionais (perceberam, escrevi profissionais). Partilho-a por outro motivo: pelo que vejo nas ruas e nos jornais, é cada vez mais provável que entre os leitores deste blogue estejam alguns aficionados da corrida. E O Informador é feito para vocês.

The Evolution of Running Shoes

Explore more visuals like this one on the web’s largest information design community – Visually.

Está na hora de acabar com a maldição. Hoje.

Não acredito em maldições. O máximo a que consigo chegar é à classificação de azar quando uma bola bate na trave e não entra na baliza. Ou à de sorte quando acerta em três jogadores, faz um efeito esquisito e dá três voltas antes de se desviar do guarda-redes e ultrapassar a linha de golo. Maldições? Não. Mas parece que há muita gente que acredita. Há demasiado tempo. 

Isto porque há 50 anos um talentoso treinador húngaro terá dito que nos próximos 100 anos o Benfica não voltaria a ganhar uma competição europeia. No Portugal salazarento da triologia Fado, Futebol e Fátima, a expressão “a maldição de Bélla Guttmann” pegou. E ganhou força à medida que o maior clube do mundo foi perdendo finais à velocidade da luz. Ao todo, em nove presenças no jogo decisivo, o Benfica só ganhou duas. Nenhuma depois da suposta maldição. E está na hora de isso acabar. Hoje. Com talento, garra, competência e ambição.

Mas até para quem acredita em sinais e maldições esta é a altura certa. Vejamos.

  • Primeiro, tal como em todos os jogos este ano, vamos ter 11 Eusébios em campo e mais uns quantos no banco. E quando assim é o adversário não tem hipótese. Nenhum adversário.
  • Segundo, para além de ser conhecido por matar dragões, São Jorge é também padroeiro de Portugal. Não é por acaso que D. Nuno Álvares Pereira acreditava que tinha sido ele, o santo, o responsável pela vitória dos portugueses frente aos espanhóis na batalha de Aljubarrota. Ora, nós temos um treinador que pode não ser santo mas é Jorge e um adversário espanhol. Nem vai ser preciso uma padeira.
  • Terceiro, para acabar com a suposta maldição de um treinador chamado Bélla Guttmann (que raio de nome é esse?) não haverá melhor do que um treinador que além de (S.) Jorge também se chama Jesus. Preocupava-me, sim, uma maldição de alguém com o nome do filho de Deus. Agora de um Guttmann? Não tem hipótese.

Tragam mas é a Taça e não se fala mais nisso. Pelo King. Por vocês. Por nós.

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Vladimir Putin, o colosso do hóquei no gelo

Enquanto a Europa estava preocupada com as consequências dos referendos em Donetsk e em Luhamsk, no leste da Ucrânia, Vladimir Putin acrescentou mais um feito às suas proezas desportivas (que já incluem a prática de judo, mergulho, equitação e muitas outras): hóquei no gelo. O presidente russo passou a noite de sexta-feira, dia 10, a liderar a sua equipa durante um jogo de exibição em Sochi. Ao todo marcou seis golos e fez cinco assistências numa vitória por 21-4. Os pontos altos de um jogo que parecia não ter defesas estão aqui.

Foto: AP

Foto: AP

Leitura para o fim-de-semana: resultados combinados

Charles Farrell era agente musical e desportivo. Mais concretamente, de boxe. Ao longo da sua carreira – para além de representar cinco campeões do mundo – encenou vários resultados. Neste texto escrito para a Deadspin explica porquê.

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Why I Fixed Fights

Charles Farrell

I fixed a lot of fights over the years. In two I didn’t fix but should have, people paid heavily for my carelessness. Even though I set up Mitch “Blood” Green and Leon Spinks cushion-soft in their comeback fights, I managed to get one embarrassed and the other nearly killed. There had been opportunities for them, deals that came undone when they lost. It wasn’t as if the winners benefited in any tangible way either. At best their victories brought them smallish short-term bragging rights. Among boxing insiders they were objects of scorn for having won, as incompetent at their jobs as Green, Spinks, and I were at ours.

Writing about boxing sometimes adopts a heroic perspective on the sport. This seems especially common in a certain kind of popular journalism. When a boxer gets into the ring, he’s seen as entering a magic theatre of virtue and vice cut off from the rest of the world. For the fight’s duration his actions assume a kind of moral transparency, defining him as noble or ignoble. But when it’s over and he steps outside the ring, becoming just a person again, the aura sticks. To participate in fight fixing therefore defines him morally not only as a professional fighter, but as a person. Lost in this vision of things is any awareness of the way boxing actually works as a business, and the racially and economically inflected cultures within which that business is transacted.

Why did I fix fights? I fixed fights because it was the smart thing to do.

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I started managing Mitch Green in late 1991, a little more than a year before his loss to Bruce Johnson. He’d been a high-profile contender—an imposing eccentric who’d famously fought Mike Tyson twice, once in the ring and once on a Harlem street, and who with a little work could be brought back into the title picture. Our first business meeting took place at a gimmicky penthouse restaurant in Cambridge, Mass., that revolved slowly above the city. The first thing Mitch did was rise up from the table, peel down the top of his bright orange jumpsuit, flex his pecs, kiss his biceps, and invite a roomful of sedate diners to “feast your eyes on what a real heavyweight is supposed to look like.”

This bit of underground theater made me optimistic: Mitch Green could still work a room. But no sooner had the ink on our contract dried than he got shot. While idling on the corner of 129th Street and Lenox Avenue in Harlem, Mitch slapped a man who’d been baiting him about his fights with Mike Tyson. The guy bolted into his apartment and came back blasting. I still have the blood-stained sneaker, complete with bullet hole. I keep it as a kind of macabre reminder, though I’m not sure of what.

Mitch limped six blocks to Harlem Hospital. He was X-rayed, told the bullet had passed through his leg, given a clean bill of health, and sent home. The attending doctor missed the bullet lodged behind Green’s knee. By the time Mitch called me a week later, he couldn’t walk. His femur, further traumatized by running and jumping rope, had split like a tree branch. I flew him to Boston, picked him up at Logan Airport, and took him straight to Beth Israel Hospital. The Celtics’ orthopedic surgeon, Frank Bunch, had him on an operating table within two hours. If he’d waited another day, Mitch probably would have lost his leg.

During the six months of rehab that followed, Mitch lived at a house I owned near Boston. He regularly demanded cash; had two girlfriends flown in from different parts of the country for what turned into a non-consensual threesome that ended only when my terrified downstairs tenants called the police; sent the “salary” he was getting home to his mother, who spent it on bingo trips to Atlantic City, and complained incessantly. I didn’t get it: I was knocking myself out for him and he was doing nothing for me, yet he never stopped complaining.

Visions of Don King and Mike Tyson obsessed Mitch Green, along with those of a number of black civic leaders he believed to be in cahoots with them. It was generally assumed he was paranoid, crazy, and dangerous. But consider: When Mitch was a child in Georgia, his father had been shot dead at point-blank range by a man he was simultaneously shooting dead. The men’s funerals were held in the same mortuary on the same afternoon, both families sweating through their Sunday best no more than a few feet apart. Or this: As a gang lord, Mitch presided over New York’s Black Spades, a gig that required him to maintain an aura of menace while fending off anyone insane enough to challenge him. Or this: As a young man who’d won the New York Golden Gloves heavyweight title four times in a row, he’d been given money, cars, and an assortment of flashy presents by some of boxing’s white elite, like Shelly Finkel and Lou Duva.

After sleepwalking in 1986 through a 10-round decision loss to Mike Tyson, held in Madison Square Garden and shown on HBO—for which he received $30,000—Green met his nemesis again on the street. Their brief, violent encounter made headlines. Afterward, Green dropped off the boxing map.

My job was to bring him back. Smarter men than I said it was impossible. Signing up Mitch Green even earned me 1993’s “Sucker of the Year” award in Boxing Illustrated. The only money Green ever made me came from betting Al Braverman, Don King’s director of boxing, that I’d be able to coax him back inside the ring.

I was sure I’d picked the right foil for Green’s comeback match. A gangly, knock-kneed cruiserweight, Bruce Johnson came in with a record of 8-22-1. He’d been knocked out 17 times and had never beaten a credible opponent. Johnson always arrived from out of town prepared to lose. His livelihood depended on his career going nowhere.

In the dressing room, Bruce told me he was afraid of Mitch Green, then held me up for $500 more than the price we’d agreed on. All I would have had to say for Mitch Green to win was: “You want five hundred more dollars? Get knocked out by the third round.”

I didn’t do that. I didn’t think I needed to. Mitch Green was going to kill him.

But in a tiny arena in Woodbridge, Va., on a frigid winter night when a blizzard reduced the house to nearly nothing, Mitch Green, angry that he wasn’t getting paid enough or being properly respected, got into the ring and refused to throw or block punches. Johnson was never on his radar. Mitch ignored his feeble jabs. He also ignored me, my partners Pat and Tony Petronelli, and everything but the private buzzing in his head, gazing stone-faced over Johnson’s shoulder into the middle distance. After several warnings from the referee to start punching or risk having the fight stopped, the plug was pulled in the third round as the handful of spectators hooted. Mitch “Blood” Green had thrown his future away in less than nine minutes.

I wouldn’t talk to Mitch Green after that. I’d lost a year of my life and $80,000 on him.

O artigo completo está aqui. 

Está na hora de matar o borrego

Olá rapazes,

No próximo domingo vocês vão ter o jogo das vossas vidas. Não é contra o Real Madrid. Nem contra o Bayern de Munique. Nem sequer contra o Barcelona. É contra o Olhanense. Sim. Contra a equipa que ocupa o último lugar do campeonato, que tem menos 41 pontos que vocês, mais 28 golos sofridos e menos 36 golos marcados. O Olhanense. Ainda assim, esse é o jogo das vossas vidas.

Não sei o que o Jorge Jesus vos vai dizer antes de entrarem em campo. Não sei se vos vai mostrar algum vídeo. Presumo que vá falar do adversário. Das qualidades e das fraquezas. Dos pontos fortes e das vulnerabilidades. Mas eu gostava mesmo é que ele vos mostrasse algumas imagens em vídeo. Não estou a falar das obras de arte Markovic e do Gaitan. Da técnica superior do Enzo. Dos cortes e golos do Luisão e do Garay. Das arrancadas portentosas do Salvio e do Rodrigo. Da artilharia do Lima e do Cardozo. Das defesas do Oblak e do Artur. Da maravilha do André Gomes.

O que eu gostava mesmo que ele vos mostrasse eram as imagens do golo do Kelvin. Do vosso treinador de joelhos. Da cabeçada do Ivanovic. Das lágrimas do Enzo, do Rodrigo e do Artur. Do desespero do Cardozo. Dos milhares de pessoas que vos seguiram pelos estádios do país e que acabaram lavadas em lágrimas devido à desilusão do ano horrível de 2013. Gostava que revivessem no vosso interior cada um daqueles momentos. Para vos lembrar aquilo por que passaram. Por que nós passámos. E não queremos voltar a passar.

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Gostava que ele vos mostrasse as imagens de Eusébio. O homem que se tornou um mito. Um símbolo do querer, da vontade, do sacrifício e do talento que faz com que essa camisola vermelha só possa ser merecida por alguns. O único homem que teve direito a uma estátua em frente ao estádio e por quem vocês usam essas faixas negras no equipamento. Porque, onde quer que esteja, ele vai estar a olhar para vocês junto a nós. Nós que vamos estar nas bancadas, em frente ao televisor ou com os ouvidos colados à rádio. Sim, no domingo, às 18h, um pouco por todo o mundo, milhões de pessoas vão estar de olhos postos nos ecrãs de cachecóis enrolados ao pescoço e com o coração nas mãos à espera daquele momento em que vamos poder saltar, gritar e chorar de alegria com um ano de atraso.

Mas para isso é preciso que vocês, os nossos soldados, vençam mais uma batalha. Já o fizeram vezes sem conta este ano. No início da época, contra tudo e contra todos, vocês foram capazes de se levantarem das cinzas e voltar a voar até ao lugar que é nosso por direito. Sim, nosso. Dos adeptos. Nós que todos os anos, jogo após jogo, enchemos o estádio. Nós que percorremos quilómetros e guardamos horas da nossa vida para vos ver usar essa camisola vermelha. Nós que nos emocionamos em frente ao televisor com uma jogada, um golo, uma vitória. Nós que passamos noites em claro quando as coisas não correm bem. Nós que passamos horas em filas para comprar bilhete para os grandes jogos. Nós que gastamos parte do nosso salário para pagar quotas. Nós que vos vamos aplaudir à saída do centro de estágio. Nós que vos vamos apoiar durante um treino. Nós que vos pedimos um autógrafo ou uma camisola. Nós. Os adeptos.

Ontem foi mais um exemplo do que acabei de dizer. Quando alguns julgaram que tinham voltado a cair no tapete, vocês deram uma enorme demonstração de talento e alma. E nós, nas bancadas em casa, nos cafés ou nos automóveis, nunca deixámos de vos apoiar. Nunca desistimos. Porque um benfiquista nunca desiste. Mesmo quando está em causa apenas um jogo. Sim, porque ontem não se passou nada de especial. Foi apenas mais uma partida. Ganhámos e isso significa que vocês vão ter mais um jogo pela frente. Para lutar. Por vocês. Por nós.

No domingo é diferente. Tudo aquilo por que, vocês, nós, passámos trouxe-nos aqui. Às 18h do próximo domingo de Páscoa. Durante 90 minutos vocês vão ter a possibilidade de ficar na História deste grande clube. De serem recordados para sempre como parte de um todo. Como os soldados de uma nação. Não percam esta oportunidade. A História está a passar à vossa frente. Vão agarrá-la. Por vocês. Por nós.

Uma história animada do snowboarding

Nasceu há 400 anos na Turquia. Hoje é uma modalidade olímpica. Esta é a história do snowboarding, na altura dos Jogos Olímpicos de Inverno, em Sochi.

“Se Ronaldo curasse a gripe, Messi curaria o cancro.”

Hoje escreveu-se muito sobre a Bola de Ouro ganha ontem por Ronaldo. Mas poucos o fizeram tão bem como Rob Smyth no The Guardian. Sobre a rivalidade com Messi, ele escreve: “Às vezes parecia que Ronaldo não podia ganhar. Se marcasse quatro, Messi marcaria cinco. Se ele curasse a gripe, Messi curaria o cancro.” Percebem-se as lágrimas. Brilhante.

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Ballon d’Or: Ronaldo rewarded for making miraculous mundane

Few believed any player would reclaim the Ballon d’Or from Lionel Messi but one man always did

Cristiano Ronaldo has banged his head against the brick wall for four years; now the brick wall has given way. Ronaldo was apparently doomed to be forever tortured and defined by the achievements of Lionel Messi. By regaining the Ballon d’Or from Messi, and winning the award for the first time since 2008, he has provided emphatic confirmation that he is one of football’s all-time greats.

He almost collected the award as a Manchester United player. After being crowned at an endearingly overblown ceremony in Zurich, Ronaldo confirmed he had considered returning to Old Trafford in the summer. “It is true Rio [Ferdinand] and I spoke a lot,” he said. “Rio is a great friend of mine. We were neighbours when I was in Manchester. He is a fantastic guy and he tried to change my mind and go back to Manchester. I did think about United. They are still in my heart. I love that club.”

It was an emotional night for Ronaldo, who was tearful when he received the trophy. “It means a lot to win this after Eusébio’s passing,” he said. “I dedicate this award to him and my team-mates. He was watching from the skies to see this great moment for a Portuguese player. When I saw my mum crying it made me cry as well. I’m an emotional person. It is very difficult to win this award.”

Ronaldo’s victory is a triumph for strength. The physical part we know about. The cliché that he is a freak of nature has not changed its essential truth. Ronaldo is a cross between Dixie Dean and Usain Bolt. He scores goals in quantities which, since Dean’s era, have only really been seen on bright screens in musty bedrooms, including headers so classically immense that it feels as if they should be shown in black and white. Yet he can also cover 96 metres in 10 seconds while wearing football boots, as he did against Atlético Madrid in 2012.

For all that, Ronaldo’s physical prowess is perhaps dwarfed by his mental strength. He has overcome myriad obstacles to win the Ballon d’Or. The words would invite ridicule if they ever came out of his mouth but it is not always easy being Ronaldo. His career has been conducted against a backdrop of suspicion and sniping. He is often unloved, even by his own fans, and his public perception reached a nadir last year when he was ridiculed by Sepp Blatter, which was like being called hapless by Frank Spencer. Many see him as selfish and self-obsessed to the point of having a messiah complex.

You could certainly understand if he had a Messi complex. He has to endure constant discussion of Messi’s apparent superiority, as a footballer and even as a human being. At times it seemed Ronaldo could not win. If he scored four, Messi would score five. If he cured the common cold, Messi would cure cancer. Ronaldo’s most impressive feat is not to usurp Messi; it is to believe he could do so in the first place. Yet Messi is one of only three apparently unbeatable opponents Ronaldo has had to contend with. He has taken on Messi, Barcelona and Spain, at times single-footedly. Part of that challenge broke even José Mourinho; Ronaldo continues to come back for more. One nemesis down, two to go.

Nor has he escaped football’s vicissitudes since moving to Madrid. He missed a penalty in a Champions League semi-final shootout against Bayern Munich; he didn’t even get to take one against Spain in the semi-final of Euro 2012. His peak years have coincided with football recognising small as beautiful after decades of the opposite view. He could be excused for thinking fate had a sadistic vendetta against him.

It is in that context that we should understand Ronaldo’s achievement. He is a monument of conviction. Any other footballer would have consciously or unconsciously surrendered to an apparently irresistible logic. Anyone else would have relaxed and regressed towards the mean.

Instead, Ronaldo ensured an excess of 50 goals a season became the mean. In 2013 he even progressed away from that, scoring 69 times for club and country. He has turned ‘Oh I say!’ moments into ‘Oh’ moments. Oh, Ronaldo’s scored another hat-trick. Oh, Ronaldo’s scored from over 40 yards in the quarter-finals and semi-finals of the European Cup (as he did in 2009). Oh, Ronaldo’s scored his 50th of the season. He has made the miraculous mundane.

Then again, greatness has always been a fusion of the spectacular and mundane. Ronaldo’s success is as much about his immaculate professionalism as his natural skill. He is a freak of nature but also a freak of nurture, fuelled by an almost demented ambition to achieve everything he possibly can.

He has already achieved so much as to merit inclusion in any discussion of the greatest footballers ever. Yet when World Soccer magazine asked a series of experts to pick their greatest XI last year, Ronaldo was nowhere near the side. He got seven votes: Maradona received 64, Pelé 56, Johan Cruyff 58 and Messi 46. Ronaldo picked up fewer than, among others, Roberto Carlos, Cafu, Garrincha, George Best and the other Ronaldo.

Perhaps his sheer efficiency does not appeal to romantics. Perhaps his remorseless consistency doesn’t stir the soul. Perhaps people just don’t like him. But to paint him as a robotic achiever does not do justice to his his genius. Ronaldo is a footballer like no other. He has a good case for being the most three-dimensional of football’s true greats: almost half his goals in 2013 were scored with either his head or left foot.

While he did not, as some have suggested, patent the wobbling, beach ball free-kick, he is now most commonly associated with a technique he has mastered. He has also obliterated the accepted parameters of the wide forward. The primary reason for that is that he has scored goals in industrial quantities. Of course Ronaldo is a flat-track bully; there has never been a great player who was not. He has also become a rough-track bully, challenging the perception that he doesn’t produce in big games. It was not always so, but now Barcelona and Spain fear him more than he fears them.

That’s not the only perception Ronaldo has changed down the years. It seems ridiculous now, but he was once regularly damned as having no end product. When he started at Manchester United, he was a fantasy footballer but not a Fantasy Footballer. He dizzied defenders with stepovers that left them with twisted blood and brain cells, yet the Fantasy Football currency of goals and assists eluded him. In his first three seasons at Old Trafford he scored just 27 goals; in the final three, 91. Then, at Real Madrid, he went further. In four and a half seasons he has scored 230 goals in 223 games.

As his goalscoring gradient has gone in one direction at Madrid, so his medal haul has gone in the other. In a sense Ronaldo had a disappointing 2013; all he won was the Ballon d’Or. Real Madrid won nothing. In four-and-a-half years in Madrid he has claimed few big prizes: one La Liga title, no Champions Leagues, one Ballon d’Or and no Player of the Year awards in Spain. (The Spanish league effectively had to invent a new award, the MVP, for him to win something, although Messi was the Best Player again.)

There will always be those who feel personal awards are enough to sustain Ronaldo. It is a simplistic perception of a man whose obvious lust for personal glory only exists in the context of an even greater lust for team glory. The two are inextricably linked.

The moments after a goal has been scored are when a footballer is emotionally naked; the celebration never lies. Ronaldo’s reaction when a teammate scores a vital goal is not that of a man in it for himself. When Manchester United won the Champions League in 2008 despite Ronaldo’s penalty miss a few minutes earlier, he burst into tears that were one part relief, 10 parts joy.

That’s not to say he is unselfish. Or that he doubts his worth: last night he thanked his fans on Facebook by posting a video of himself. His arrogance can be preposterous, but then that’s just another reason why he belongs in the company of Cruyff and Maradona among others. If greatness is to be achieved, arrogance is a preference. Ronaldo’s selfishness is also partially born of the logic that he is by far the best equipped to make his team win.

Many of Ronaldo’s goals for Madrid have been scored in the knowledge that they are not going to help win a trophy. Despite that, his output has not diminished. In sport, futile excellence can be the most impressive of all, whether it comes from a surfeit of personal pride, an endless well of professional pride or, more likely, a combination of the two.

Even Ronaldo’s defining achievement of 2013 – a performance for the ages to beat Zlatan Ibrahimovic in international football’s first one-a-side game – was not to win a trophy but to avert the unthinkable of Portugal not qualifying for the World Cup. Even if Ronaldo wins the Ballon d’Or for the next five years, he will not retire happy unless he wins more trophies. The world player of the year award is not enough.

Ronaldo is nearly 29 and may be approaching his last World Cup; by 2018 he will have played for 15 years, with few injury breaks and goodness knows how many miles on the clock. There is also a new superpower, Bayern Munich, to sit alongside Spain and Barcelona. But Ronaldo will keep banging his head against the brick wall until the brick wall gives way, as it did in Zurich on Monday night. In Ronaldo’s mind the Ballon d’Or is not his crowning glory. It is the start of the defining phase of his career.

Cristiano Ronaldo ganhou e chorou. Humanizou-se

Posso estar enganado, mas as lágrimas sinceras de Cristiano Ronaldo serão o melhor antídoto para todos aqueles que acham que Messi é um bom rapaz e ele apenas um pintas “robótico”. Para já é o melhor do mundo. Parabéns.

The King is dead. Long live the King!

Eusébio da Silva Ferreira (1942-2014)

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Leitura para o fim-de-semana: a luta interior de Michael Jordan contra si próprio

O texto fará um ano em Fevereiro. Mas é uma das mais notáveis peças jornalísticas de desporto que li nos últimos anos. A propósito do 50º aniversário de Michael Jordan, o jornalista Wright Thompson escreveu para o site da ESPN a reportagem Michal Jordan Has Not Left The Building. É uma viagem incrível ao círculo mais íntimo do melhor jogador de basquetebol de todos os tempos – e dos demónios competitivos que ainda vivem dentro dele.

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Five weeks before his 50th birthday, Michael Jordan sits behind his desk, overlooking a parking garage in downtown Charlotte. The cell phone in front of him buzzes with potential trades and league proposals about placing ads on jerseys. A rival wants his best players and wants to give him nothing in return. Jordan bristles. He holds a Cuban cigar in his hand. Smoking is allowed.

“Well, s—, being as I own the building,” he says, laughing.

Back in the office after his vacation on a 154-foot rented yacht named Mister Terrible, he feels that relaxation slipping away. He feels pulled inward, toward his own most valuable and destructive traits. Slights roll through his mind, eating at him: worst record ever, can’t build a team, absentee landlord. Jordan reads the things written about him, the fuel arriving in a packet of clips his staff prepares. He knows what people say. He needs to know, a needle for a hungry vein. There’s a palpable simmering whenever you’re around Jordan, as if Air Jordan is still in there, churning, trying to escape. It must be strange to be locked in combat with the ghost of your former self.

Smoke curls off the cigar. He wears slacks and a plain white dress shirt, monogrammed on the sleeve in white, understated. An ID badge hangs from one of those zip line cords on his belt, with his name on the bottom: Michael Jordan, just in case anyone didn’t recognize the owner of a struggling franchise who in another life was the touchstone for a generation. There’s a shudder in every child of the ’80s and ’90s who does the math and realizes that Michael Jordan is turning 50. Where did the years go? Jordan has trouble believing it, difficulty admitting it to himself. But he’s in the mood for admissions today, and there’s a look on his face, a half-smile, as he considers how far to go.

“I … I always thought I would die young,” he says, leaning up to rap his knuckles on the rich, dark wood of his desk.

He has kept this fact a secret from most people. A fatalist obsession didn’t go with his public image and, well, it’s sort of strange. His mother would get angry with him when he’d talk to her about it. He just could never imagine being old. He seemed too powerful, too young, and death was more likely than a slow decline. The universe might take him, but it would not permit him to suffer the graceless loss and failure of aging. A tragic flaw could undo him but never anything as common as bad knees or failing eyesight.

Later that night, standing in his kitchen, he squints across his loft at the television. His friend Quinn Buckner catches him.

“You gonna need to get some glasses,” Buckner says.

“I can see,” Jordan says.

“Don’t be bulls—-ing me,” Buckner says. “I can see you struggling.”

“I can see,” Jordan insists.

The television is built into the modern stone fireplace in his sprawling downtown condo, the windows around them overlooking Tryon Street. An open bottle of Pahlmeyer merlot sits on an end table. Buckner, a former NBA guard from near Chicago and a Pacers broadcaster, is in town for an upcoming game. They’ve been talking, about Jordan’s birthday and about the changes in his life, all seeming to happen at once. Jordan feels in transition. He moved out of his house in Chicago and is moving into a new one in Florida in three weeks. He’s engaged. Inside he’s dealing, finally, with the cost of his own competitive urges, asking himself difficult questions. To what must he say goodbye? What is there to look forward to? Catching an introspective Jordan is like finding a spotted owl, but here he is, considering himself. His fiancée, Yvette Prieto, and her friend Laura laugh over near the kitchen island. Jordan relights his cigar. It keeps going out.

“Listen,” Buckner says, “Father Time ain’t lost yet.”

The idea hangs in the air.

“Damn,” Buckner continues. “Fifty.”

He shakes his head.

“Can you believe it?” Jordan says quietly, and it sounds like he’s talking to himself.

A DAY BEFORE, Jordan had flown to Charlotte from Chicago, a trip he’s made many times. This flight was different from all the others. When his Gulfstream IV, which is painted to look like a sneaker, took off and turned south, he no longer lived in the city where he had moved in 1984. The past months had been consumed with a final flurry of packing, putting the first half of his life in boxes. He has felt many emotions in his 50 years: hope and anger, disappointment, joy and despair. But lately there’s been a feeling that would have disgusted the 30-year-old version of himself: nostalgia.

The packing and cataloging started several years ago, after his divorce. One night at his suburban Chicago mansion, he sat on the floor of his closet with Estee Portnoy. She manages his business enterprises and, since the divorce, much of his personal life — his consigliere. It was 1 in the morning. They were flummoxed by a safe. Jordan hadn’t opened it in years, and he couldn’t remember the combination. Everything else stopped as this consumed him. After 10 failed attempts, the safe would go into a security shutdown and need to be blown open. None of the usual numbers worked. Nine different combinations failed; they had one try left. Jordan focused. He decided it had to be a combination of his birthday, Feb. 17, and old basketball numbers. He typed in six digits: 9, 2, 1, 7, 4, 5. Click. The door swung open and he reached in, rediscovering his gold medal from the 1984 Olympics. It wasn’t really gold anymore. It looked tarnished, changed — a duller version of itself.

The memories came to him, how he felt then. “It was very pure, if I can say it right,” he’d explain later. “It was pure in 1984 … I was still dreaming.” During the Olympics, he was deep in negotiations with Nike for his first shoe contract. He traded pins with other athletes. Eight years later, when he was the most famous person in the world and the Dream Team was forced to stay outside the Olympic Village, he’d be disappointed when that separation kept him from swapping pins again.

Jordan saw an old pair of shorts that didn’t fit anymore. He found first-edition Air Jordans. In his cavernous Nike closet, he counted nearly 5,000 boxes of shoes, some of which he marked to keep, others to give to friends. There was his uniform for the Dream Team. An employee found letters he’d written his parents as a college student at North Carolina, and what struck her as she flipped through the pages was how normal he seemed. Despite all the things that had been gained in the years since, that person had been lost. The kid in the letters hadn’t yet been hardened by wealth and fame and pressure. He told his parents about grades, and practice, and the food in the dining hall. He always needed money. One letter ended: P.S. Please send stamps.

For a rage-filled day and a half, he thought he’d lost two of his Bulls championship rings, No. 3 and No. 5. He tore the house apart screaming, “Who stole my rings? Who stole No. 5?”

“You talk about a mad f—ing panic,” he says.

Following the final title, the Bulls presented him a case with room for all six rings, but Jordan had never put them together. Now as he found them spread around the house, he slipped each one into its slot. He began plotting amendments to his will that if the missing rings emerged for sale after his death, they should be returned immediately to his estate. Buying a duplicate wouldn’t be worth it, because even if he didn’t tell anyone, he’d know. Finally the missing rings were found in a memorabilia room, and the set of six was complete. He could exhale and continue packing.

He discovered old home movies, seeing his young kids. They’re all in or out of college now. Warmups had collected dust alongside his baseball cleats and a collection of bats and gloves. The astonishing thing to him was how much he enjoyed this. “At 30 I was moving so fast,” he says. “I never had time to think about all the things I was encountering, all the things I was touching. Now when I go back and find these things, it triggers so many different thoughts: God, I forgot about that. That’s how fast we were moving. Now I can slow it down and hopefully remember what that meant. That’s when I know I’m getting old.”

He laughs, knowing how this sounds, like a man in a midlife crisis, looking fondly at something that’s never coming back.

“I value that,” he says. “I like reminiscing. I do it more now watching basketball than anything. Man, I wish I was playing right now. I would give up everything now to go back and play the game of basketball.”

“How do you replace it?” he’s asked.

“You don’t. You learn to live with it.”

“How?”

“It’s a process,” he says.”

O artigo completo está aqui.

O momento “eu estou aqui” do ano desportivo

Hat trick de Cristiano Ronaldo frente à Suécia. O melhor comentário à exibição do avançado português foi feito por Zlatan Ibrahimovic logo após o segundo golo: um aplauso. Reparem. Ao minuto 1:35.

O rei da maratona

A 29 de Setembro de 2013, Wilson Kipsang correu a maratona de Berlim em 2h03m23s e tirou 15 segundos ao anterior recorde do mundo. Ele é o Cristiano Ronaldo das maratonas.

O melhor do mundo…

… vai ao mundial do Brasil. Cristiano Ronaldo. Como tinha que ser. Aqui, aqui e aqui.

Foto: MARIO CRUZ (EFE)

Foto: MARIO CRUZ (EFE)

A nova revolução do boxe cubano

Apesar de ter produzido o maior número de campeões olímpicos de boxe do mundo, os pugilistas cubanos não podem ganhar dinheiro com o desporto. Motivo: há 52 anos Fidel Castro baniu os desportos profissionais com o argumento de que os atletas estavam a ser explorados por parasitas. Os lutadores só podem entrar em competição para defender o orgulho nacional – e ganham 20 dólares como os outros funcionários públicos. Agora que esse impedimento começa a ser levantado, há uma nova geração de pugilistas e muitos outros que sonham com o estrelato, apesar das condições em que treinam.

Os segredos da Volta a França em bicicleta

Começou a 27 de Junho e acaba a 21 de Julho. O Tour – ou a Volta a França em bicicleta para os leigos como eu – é considerado um dos maiores espectáculos desportivos do mundo. A primeira corrida foi em 1903 com 68 corredores a pedalar de dia e noite contra os perigos da estrada e as sabotagens ocasionais. Talvez por isso, só 21 a terminaram. Mas desde então cresceu para números impressionante. Tudo o que precisam de saber está nesta infografia animada de 10 minutos.

O MVP dos MVP’s

A discussão será eterna: quem é o melhor jogador? Da minha parte não tenho dúvidas. Mas nada melhor do que fazer uma comparação estatística, de dados concretos, entre os três mais dominadores basquetebolistas dos últimos 30 anos. Detalhe: as primeiras 10 épocas de Michael Jordan são na realidade oito. Nos restantes dois anos ele esteve ocupado a jogar…basebol.

Ontem a Michelle gritou tanto que alguém a ouviu…

A Bola é o único dos três jornais diários desportivos que não faz manchete com o jogo da bola no pé. Só por isso, merece uma referência positiva. Porque o o feito de Michelle Brito é realmente de primeira página.

Bola

A eficácia contra o espectáculo

Esta noite os Miami Heat e os San António Spurs disputam o segundo jogo da final da NBA. Fica aqui a comparação entre as duas equipas.

Sim, aconteceu. Agora é hora de nos levantarmos

Não. Isto não está a acontecer. Estávamos destinados à glória. Chegámos a Amesterdão para assumir o papel de David contra o Golias dos milhões russos, campeão europeu em título. E ao contrário do que se esperava, parecia que estávamos a jogar em casa. Desde o primeiro momento que aquela onda vermelha prenunciava algo de bom. Algo de histórico. Tinha sido uma caminhada imaculada. Sim, é verdade, os franceses do Bordéus não representaram grande desafio. Mas nesse percurso tínhamos feito história e ganho na Alemanha ao Leverkussen. Demos uma lição aos ingleses do Newcastle. E frente ao Fenerbahçe mostrámos todo o poder do nosso futebol. O rolo compressor que nos últimos anos ganhou corpo no Estádio da Luz atingiu o máximo expoente contra os turcos nos golos de Gaitán e Cardozo. Ontem parecia que estávamos de volta a esse jogo. Fomos dominadores. Autoritários. Encostámos os azuis às cordas. As bolas divididas eram nossas. Os sprints eram ganhos com surpreendente facilidade. Os dribles saiam a uma velocidade tal que alguns ingleses ainda devem estar à procura dos rapazes de vermelho. Sim, a certa altura parecia que os papéis se tinham invertido. Que nós éramos o Golias e os outros o David. Só faltava o toque final. Aquele que nos permitiu marcar 74 golos em 29 jogos no campeonato. Sim, 74. Por várias vezes esse toque esteve ao nosso alcance. Nos pés do Sálvio. Do Rodrigo. Do Gaitán. Do Cardozo. Da armada sul-americana que apoiada por um tanque sérvio destruiu um conjunto de porta-aviões construído com petrodólares de uma província russa. Nas bancadas, as caras dos adeptos vestidos de azul reflectiam o que se passava em campo. Ao mesmo tempo, as vozes portuguesas entoavam cânticos tantas vezes ouvidos em Portugal que davam asas aos nossos jogadores. Mesmo quando sofremos o primeiro golo parecia que o jogo era nosso. O empate estava destinado a ser apenas o primeiro passo rumo a um destino manifesto. Quando aconteceu, foi com naturalidade. Era uma questão de minutos. Em breve estaríamos a rir-nos na cara da maldição do húngaro. Até que uma queda sem bola atirou ao fundo um dos nossos pilares. E nós abanámos. As lágrimas do Garay sentado junto à linha lateral por sentir que não poderia continuar em campo diziam tudo. Ainda assim, continuámos por cima. Estávamos a preparar-nos para o prolongamento quando aquele golo nos gelou da cabeça aos pés. O ritmo acelerado a que o coração tinha batido na última hora e meia abrandou para um estado de quase suspensão  O último lance quase nos reanimou. Só que não havia mais tempo. O apito final do árbitro soltou as lágrimas que nunca esperámos derramar. De derrota. Tristeza. Injustiça. Caímos. De pé, mas caímos. É verdade. Isto está mesmo a acontecer. Agora, é hora de nos voltarmos a levantar.

Francois Lenoir/Reuters

Francois Lenoir/Reuters