I spent much of my 38th birthday rather unspectacularly: waiting in a Toyota dealership, light rain outside, getting Twitter updates on the Fernando Torres saga while waiting for a few hundred bucks worth of work to get done on my car (and then finding out that a few hundred more will be necessary, just for kicks).
The Torres watch was a grim thing -- he was likely Liverpool's most valuable player, and unquestionably my favorite. But watching the fan reaction as the story played out over a week was instructive. When the rumblings first began in late January, anyone who recounted a rumor was savaged -- Fernando's a True Red, he'll never leave, etc. Writers were abused on Twitter for saying it was a possibility that he would go to Chelsea.
The rumors didn't go away, and eventually, obviously, they became fact. And then the fury turned on Fernando: he's not a true Liverpool player. He's a prima donna, he's lazy, he's petulant. He told us he was one of us and he wasn't. And now it's turned to a grim sort of satisfaction: he's going to fail miserably at Chelsea, he'll regret this eternally. Strange to watch, hero to pariah in the space of a week.
I'm obviously upset -- my two Torres jerseys are poignantly gathering dust now -- but this all highlighted just how bizarre sports fandom can be. Torres wants to win titles and wants to play in the Champions League. At least for the moment, Chelsea offers a much better shot at that. I wouldn't want Fernando to stand in the way of any career advancement on my end; who am I to tell him he shouldn't pursue what he wants?
Tapeleg had a good post a few weeks back about Evgeni Nabokov and the vitriol that came his way when he refused to go to the Islanders. Fans want the players to go out, perform well, and win. We don't want them to have any desires more complicated than that, and when they do, we shower them with abuse. We take it personally: it's not just the club he's rejecting. It's the city, it's us.
Life goes on (I'd say the sun came up today, but at least here in Atlanta it's been pouring like mad). As a Thrashers fan, I've survived Heatley then Hossa then Kovalchuk wanting their way out of town; as a Liverpool fan, I'll survive Fernando. Hell, I've already got my eye on a Raul Meireles shirt.
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#4 -- "Albania: From Anarchy to a Modern Balkan Identity" by Miranda Vickers and James Pettifer
And this is #2 for the book challenge. Whew. I've been trying to get through this for a long while now; it's perhaps the most scholarly book I've read in a decade. It tracks Albania's emergence from Hoxha's dictatorship, and does it exhaustively.
It's very thorough, but anyone's interest in this will vary by need. If you're a hardcore Albania nerd (Albanerd?), like me, then it's must reading. If you want a primer on Albania's history, Vickers' excellent "The Albanians" is the place to go. If you don't want to read about Albania at all, why are you looking to me for recommendations?