We arrive at our official terminus. No further posts will ever appear on this blog. After today, your "friendly bookie" no longer exists in this narrative from. At long last we move on.
Friendship remains on offer to all those who need it. The bookmaking business nevertheless lies closed forever. No more football chronicling in the "auspicious" green text, so selected as it is the official color of the Deutscher Fußball-Bund.
Admittedly, when announcing this sportsbook's final chapter a little over a year ago, your friendly bookie had other topics in mind for the traditionally sentimental and unapologetically meta farewell address. Last year we spoke of weathering the challenges of life as an experienced adult whilst still paying attention to the passions spurned by one's inner child; all in the service of following the path to one's dreams.
As we all reconnected around the beautiful game in our usual fashion following the most unwelcome COVID hiatus, I had every expectation that this year's closing address would feature some positive news on both that proclamation and its associated path. Regrettably, it doesn't. Life is not linear. The random, chaotic, and oftentimes brutal nature of existence cares not a whit for one's hopes, dreams, and plans.
It cannot as it is not sentient or caring.
If the devastating loss of the past year has taught me anything, it's that life's bookends remain especially gruesome. One enters this world in excruciating pain. One exits it in precisely the same fashion. The entrance at least brings some temporary joy to others. While not every exit is the same, some are characterized by horrible suffering and pain. The stress and frustration of the afflicted even leads to hateful invectives being hurled at the heartbroken, horrified, and ultimately helpless ones who attempt to dispense care.
The afflicted, too, are victims of random chaos.
In between the beginning and the end of life, there exist a seemingly infinite amount of horrors to endure. Each of us finds a means of coping with that which haunts us. Our evolutionary pre-programming cries out for meaning amid all of the suffering. Small wonder that the primitive myths we as a species conjured up eons ago still persist. So long as there resides a need for order and purpose within our semi-evolved Simian brains, the old fairy tales lie in wait for those in desperate need of comfort and solace.
As has been the case in every farewell address preceding this one, your friendly bookie must affirm his unequivocal rejection of such archaic delusions. I remain happy, even envious at times, of those for whom they work. What a privilege it must be for those of faith in a higher reason. I fully understand the relief some find when they take the burdensome onus of finding meaning in life of off their own shoulders and choose to believe that something out there has ready-made answers prepared for them.
The trouble with such ill-logic remains the tactic assumption that answers arrive without hard work. Those who purport to have "the answers" frequently don't make for the most useful friends. In contrast, those who listen supportively, try to disperse useful advice based on this listening, yet still trust you to find your own solutions can potentially help you navigate through life's darkest hours. I have found meaning and purpose in the fellowship accompanying these pages. For that, I thank you all sincerely and kindly.
The pages may be coming to an end, but the fellowship endures.
We'll now shift gears a bit.
A few final words from the bookie on a general theme of "regret".
The fact that some of you kept checking in meant that the bookie had to keep going. The passion and the glory of international football--a contemporary religion on which one absolutely can rely--still had to be shared. We all needed relief of the "great global unifier"; the language which binds us across the Nation States; one's passport out of oneself and into the greatest collective experience that we human beings share.
When this Winter's World Cup rolls around, I'm sometimes fearful of what it will feel like not to be actively covering a major international tournament for the first time in 20 years. I then remind myself that the many of friendships cultivated and sustained over the years of this project still survive. We still have each other. That means everything. There are no regrets about keeping the blog going; not when people still needed it.
I also absolutely don't regret ending it with the girls. Doubtful that I'll miss the duel feelings of agony and ecstasy that come with the time constraints of being a tournament writer. Okay. I'll miss that a little I suppose. The more eccentric among us can't get enough of deadline pressure. It's nuts. That notwithstanding, it's unlikely that it shall leave a huge void in my soul.
Something that I definitely will miss madly involves covering women's football. It was an honor to finalize the syndicate with a female tournament. Over ten years of advocating this sport came from a very special place in my heart. The five women's tourneys that I covered have brought us all such joy. Don't forget the humble request of this year's "mission statement" post.
Try to attend at least one women's club match this year.
You definitely won't regret that.
I suppose that I am somewhat rueful that we end on a tragedy rather than a triumph. Perhaps that's something I will always regret. I do wish I could report that your friendly bookie happily swims along with the tide rather than furiously paddling to keep his head barely above water.
Alas, such is life. Challenges arise indiscriminately in the "Random-Verse". The most one can do is not take them personally, and thereby avoid internalizing them. Though that doesn't guarantee that one won't drown, it at least gives one a fighting chance of battling the vicious currents.
Honesty reigns in these pages. It always has. About as much as the bookie can offer you in terms of positives during this time is to encourage you to keep going and keep trying. Never give up. Do not quit. Heed the advice that we always close these chapters with.
After briefly discussing the last match, the bookie has one last additional request of you. Those unable to comply can always call me. As is ever the case, I'll be very happy to hear from you.
Supreme Champion of the Women's European Footballing Universe:
Deutschland vs. England
Our dream Final awaits. Bookie couldn't conceive of a more perfect match for us to all take in under the old "you'll never watch alone" motto. No more syndicate coverage. No more bets. Everyone simply gets together and takes in this blockbuster.
The two best teams. The two best scores (Beth Mead and Alexandra Popp) in this competition. All of it taking place in Wembley Stadium, which should be packed to the brim. It doesn't get any more halcyon than this. Whatever the result, soak in all the sublime grandeur that football has to offer.
Naturally, your friendly bookie needn't even tell you which side his tipping to take the crown. Do let me note that I'm picking with my head as opposed to my heart here. I think the German Mädels are slightly better. They're more experienced and tactically sounder.
I've covered every last match in this competition. The eyes and the head say Deutschland. While the heart does too, I can confidently tell you that the eyes, head, and heart will be just fine on Sunday no matter what transpires. We've a fabulous football match to take in together regardless.
Long Live Football, gentlemen.
That phrase gets uttered irrespective of who lifts the trophy.
LONG LIVE FOOTBALL!
THE PICK: Deutschland +1 Goal
Enjoy living your life. Enjoy it for its own sake. Dance to the music. Appreciate the painting. Delve deeper into that novel. Make laughter and love as often as you can. Live lionhearted or don’t bother living at all.
Don't forget after it's all said and done with to do two things:
1) Go kick a ball with a stranger
2) And, if you're still lucky enough to be able to do so:
Go call your mother.
Seriously....go call your mother.