I listened to a podcast recently – a soccer podcast – where the hosts picked a soccer team from characters from the television show “Parks and Rec.” In the standard 4-4-2 formation, a soccer team is comprised, on the field, of a goalkeeper, four defenders, four midfielders and 2 forwards: 11 players.
An example from theirs was Ron Swanson, a stoic, government-hating libertarian that works for the government, as their goalkeeper because of certain reliable, honest and unflashy qualities.
So I decided to pick a team out of writers I’ve read recently or just like. Because why not?
In goal for my team will be Thomas Wolfe. I don’t know that much about Thomas Wolfe’s work as he was prominent in the 1930’s and 40’s, but he is 6’ 6” and I like size in a goalkeeper.
Next I’ll go to my left fullback, a position I have chosen to fill with Haruki Murakami and at right back I have chosen Chuck Palahniuk.
The full backs, at least in my team, will be doing the most running out of anyone on the pitch. They are equally responsible for getting up into the attack as they are recovering back and defending.
I picked these two because they are, in real life, very physically fit, disciplined people and also exhibit vast diversity in their work, leading me to believe they would enjoy the diversity of the role.
Now to my center backs. Center backs are often captain figures with a strong ability to read the game, both because of the position they take on the field (behind everyone) and because of soccer smarts.
You want intelligent players here but also players with big, commandeering stature and personality.
I chose John Steinbeck and Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
Both of these writers exhibit wisdom beyond what is expected of straightforward stories.
There is a level of depth to their thought that is both magical and in a certain sense sincere and uncomplicated.
I think they’d really pair well at those positions.
Onto the midfield. I chose only creative midfield players. There are midfield players that play as defenders in front of the back line, and there is a place for those types of players, but not in my team.
My wingers, or left and right midfielders, will have little defensive responsibility other than to maintain a defensive shape and a lot of freedom to be creative in trying to create chances. On the left I have Tom Robbins and on the right I have William Carlos Williams.
I chose Robbins because his prose exhibits a type of lyrical fluttery that just makes me think of a ballet dancer tiptoeing around. I think he would have a lot of fun on the wing if given the space to run at defenders and trick them. I chose Williams because his free verse poetry knows no limits or structural limitations.
His brain already operates by the freedom that the role grants the player and is therefore a perfect pick. My central midfielders are Ernest Hemingway and Thomas McGuane. Hemingway would be the more defensive midfielder because he would just intimidate the other team with wild challenges and horrific war stories.
McGuane is considered a master of language. He would be the player that my team revolved around. Everything, theoretically, would build through him.
He would be equal parts technically brilliant, meaning reliable in the center of the field, which is a volatile spot, and creative to set up chances for other players and himself.
Now to my two frontrunners, the last to be picked.
For my second striker I picked C.H. Hooks and for my striker I picked Hunter S. Thompson.
For the second striker, Hooks’ position, I like someone that seems a little scrappy, willing to do a little dirty work. Hooks is wily like that. It doesn’t seem like he would take no for an answer. From what I’ve read of him, he has multiple storylines occurring at once, all kind of intertwining throughout the narrative, but they all link up well. And that is an important aspect of his role: to link the midfield and front line and work well in link up play with the highest man, Thompson.
Thompson is big in stature, 6’ 3” I believe, which is the perfect height for hold up play. Hold up play is when the ball comes into that player and, usually with their back turned to goal, holds the ball, often shielding it from defenders, allowing other players to get involved in the play.
This player has to have tenacity, wit and a knack for being in the right place at the right time. It’s a dirty job, but the ones who are best at it get the glory of scoring loads of goals. I think Thompson is perfect for this role not only due to his prominent stature but also because he was crazy. Players in this position tend to be enigmatic, hard to define players.
It can be such a specific skill set, and I think Thompson unique perspective on things (see his famed story “The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved”) would lead him naturally to that role.
Oh, and I’d have David Sedaris and Charles Bukowski as waterboys to keep everyone hydrated and entertained.