If you somehow haven't heard, France's Zinedine Zidane completely lost his shit yesterday and rammed his iconic, widow's-peaked dome into Italian defender Marco Materazzi's chest. This happened during extra time of the World Cup final, with the score level at 1-1.
Part of me is saddened by the sudden (though not at all unprecedented) flash of violence from Zizou. He's probably the best player of his generation, the consummate playmaker and a true artist on the ball. And while he hasn't been at his best for some years now, he somehow found his old, magnificent form in the knock-out stages of this year's Cup to lead his team to an unlikely spot in the final. I can't tell you how much I wanted France to win, just to see Zidane's career get the fairytale ending it deserved. (I also despise Mauro Camoranesi.)
Materazzi, a ruthless, studs-up-tackling prick also known as "The Matrix," must have said something pretty awful to provoke that sort of reaction, and my initial reaction was the he probably deserved what he got, if only for the innumerable reckless challenges he's made in his heavily tattooed career. But as Zidane walked past that ugly little trophy and out of the stadium, I found I no longer cared who won the match. Seriously, was there anyone else on the pitch for les bleus worth rooting for? Thierry Henry is a remarkable talent, but his diving and shameless face-clutching earlier in the tournament were just too much for me. Gallas and Makelele carry about them the unmistakable stink of Chelsea. Barthez ... okay, I like Barthez, if only because he's absolutely out of his mind.
And so I found myself happy-ish for the azzurri, particularly Cannavaro, a 5'9" colossus and my player of the tournament. Walking through Brooklyn after the match was over, I even raised a hand to a car full of flag-waving Italy supporters honking their way up Clinton Street. It was more an offering of congratulations than a celebration, though, as some part of me still wished Materazzi's heart had exploded right there on the pitch.
Like I said, I'm still kind of conflicted about the whole thing. One thing I am sure of, though, is that we should not only remember Zidane's career for a moment of madness at the whistle. That's only part of the story (and what a story it is).
The video up there will grab the headlines for now, but this is what the world will remember forever. (Feel free to mute the video, though - the music is more offensive than any head-butt I've ever seen.)