(Ed note: We're pleased to bring you the Los Angeles Review of Books coverage of the 2012 Olympics. To read the complete series, click here.)
for CM, KT, and the rest
El Loco. El Gato. Fatty. The Panther. The Bullet. The Loner. Odd-woman-out. Safe-as-houses. Shot-stopper. Calamity. Golden Gloves. The Black Octopus. Butterfingers. The Oaf. Green Giant. The Outsider. El Chopo. De Muur. The Guardian. Die Katze. The Lighthouse. The Bear. Tiny. Little. Flash Lightning. Stretch Armstrong. Kamikaze. The Magician. Lone Wolf. Last Man Standing. The Stranger. Last Line of Defence. Numero Uno.
You are called any or all these names. Some are a mark of respect, some a sign of your opponents’ fears. Others are badges of shame, past errors carried into the present.
You are never simply the goalkeeper.
You don’t have to be mad to play here, so they say.
Here is a line: a point that stretches visibly across space.
Some cross themselves before beginning, some look to the heavens. For my part, I like to feel the line’s width, to tread its distance. I sidestep 12 yards right until I can touch the goalpost, jump to touch the crossbar. Turn, sidestep, repeat on the other side, so I am centered in the goal-frame. There’s safety in the line.
A line: a point that becomes visible by its edges, by what happens at each terminus. Even the prose poem is written with a sense of how the line breaks, of the white space that borders each edge. A turning, returning.
The goalkeeper has been exiled from the rest of the pitch for a forbidden desire: to play football with her hands.
She spends her days at the line-edges of being. Her existence is a study in lines, a life in rectangles not of her making: the six-yard box, where her word is nine-tenths of possession, lies inside the penalty box, where her hands conjure the course of events.
Transgress the lines of the box if you must. ’Keepers have done so and turned goal-scoring heroes. Or they have become dispossessed. To stray beyond the lines is to imply you are through with your visions, that you wish to join the mêlée.
It is all a matter of voice. You will need to throw your words as much as the ball. No one else sees where you are, what you do. Your worldview is architectonic, it superintends. You are tasked with communicating your vision to the rest of the team.
Yours is the barbarous yawp and also gentle talk, the thunderous roar and the whisper in the ear.
As Team USA beat North Korea by a goal to nil, we see little of Hope Solo (named at birth a goalkeeper). Her teammates hear from her constantly. The goalkeeper is a mynah bird. Her power lies in what she can do to others with language.