Ronaldo Listens

What you or I think, it doesn’t matter. What others say or write, it doesn’t matter. Ronaldo doesn’t care. He isn’t listening to us talk. He already has a lot of voices in his head. And they all say he’s the best. He listens to them. He believes them. Every morning, when he wakes up, he knows he’s the best. He makes his coffee, reads his newspaper, knows he’s the best. The day goes by, the sun goes down, he knows. He knows. And he doesn’t need to know any other thing.

Ronaldo wants to make everything about himself. You do that in life, you’re an asshole. You do that in football, you’re Ronaldo. Traits that would be considered as weaknesses in normal people, become Ronaldo’s strength. His arrogance infuses him with an indomitable will to do things most consider impossible. His vanity drives him to be better. His delusions of grandeur aren’t delusions at all. He is every bit as good as he thinks he is. When he touches the ball, he’s begging you to look at him. And when you do, you can’t look away. Even when he loses the ball, the camera stays with him, you stay with him; jaw clenched in theatrical frustration, protesting wildly the injustice of taking the ball away from him. “It’s mine. Mine alone.” He knows people are watching. He knows people are talking. And he puts on a show. He wants to entertain. He wants you to watch. He wants you to talk. The bigger the audience, the better the show. He has never known stage fright. He hijacks the occasion to become the occasion himself, and now everyone is playing Ronaldo’s game. His ground. His rules. You can’t bend them. He can bend them. You can’t hit a half-volley and score from 25 yards out. If you do, he will score from a freekick from 30 yards out. If you chip the goalkeeper, he will hit a bicycle. He will show you. And you will watch. He will run to toward the corner flag and you will run after him. He will wave his hand like he’s holding a wand. You can’t see the wand, but you’ve just seen the magic. He’ll jump, no, he’ll fly, twist his body around in mid air to face you and land like a superhero; arms outstretched like he’s football Jesus. And you’ll bask in his light, you’ll pray at his altar and you’ll be thankful.

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Ronaldo doesn’t dwell. Missed a chance? He’s forgotten about it before you can tweet. Scuffed a shot? He’s already thinking about how hard he’s going to hit the next one. In his head, he never has a bad game. Even if he does, he will tell himself that he was great. It wasn’t his fault. He’ll have a reason. And if you listen to him, he’ll probably convince you too. Ronaldo doesn’t make unnecessary movements. That was him in the past. Back when he was a kid. Back when he played like a strobe light. Now he’s more like laser. Targeted. Precise. Piercing. He doesn’t need to dance or even dribble. Let the others do it. He’ll conserve his kinetic energy and then let it all out in one devastating burst at the perfect point in three-dimensional Euclidean space where he knows the ball will meet his foot or his head. He is solving mathematical equations out there. He’s writing theorems. He’s reinventing efficiency. That’s why playing with him is easy for his teammates, no matter what team he’s in. You just send the ball in his general direction. He’ll compute the adjustments and course correct accordingly with satellite precision.

Next time Ronaldo takes the pitch, you’ll be watching again. You’ll be thinking if he’s going to make the difference. And then he’ll be the difference. He’ll calculate space and contort time and be at the end of a cross. He’ll stand on the ball, fists clenched like superman trying to turn coal into diamond, legs anchored to the ground like he’s just about to turn Super Saiyan, chest heaving like a dragon getting ready to breathe fire. And just before he moves, just before he kicks the ball with all his might, his eyes will light up. If you look closely you can see it. And in his eyes, you’ll glimpse the future, you’ll know what’s going to happen and you’ll know that right then, a voice went off inside his head. Ronaldo’s going to listen to it.

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