Mike Petke has his feet up on his desk at the New York Red Bulls' training ground in Hanover, New Jersey. He catches me eyeing the actual-size replica of a Gears of War weapon sitting in the corner of his office and then me looking warily back at his shoes in my face, and he laughs.
“This is not me being big time. My feet are killing me."
On Monday night, FIFA 14 dropped with a big party in New York, DJed by Swizz Beatz and featuring Drake playing Tim Cahill in a rap-soccer-thumb-dexterity mash-up. But at the end of the night, as the last reveler exited the building clutching their free game, the true technological exhibition was about to get under way, for a select few at least.
Keen-eyed observers at the FIFA event would have noted that as the New York Red Bulls squad posed giddily for photos with the victorious Cahill, one of their number was noticeably absent. As Grantland edged toward a door at the back of the venue, where we saw a disappointed Drake and his crew being turned away, it became clear why: The highly secret demo feed of Thierry Henry’s Inner Monologue was back and launching at the FIFA after-party.
Not for the first or last time in his life, Machael David was approaching a fork in the road. Seventeen years old and carrying a UK passport bearing someone else’s picture, the young Nigerian found himself confronted by two lines in the JFK Airport immigration hall. Tired and hungry (he hadn’t known the food on the trans-Atlantic flight was free), and speaking only rudimentary English, the young man now faced a moment of uncertainty as to which line to join and, looking for a sign, slowed to a halt. Irritated by the sudden blockage, a family group pushed impatiently past him and headed for the shorter “U.S. Citizens” line. David smiled and followed them gratefully, thinking: “This must be where the black people go ... ”
Seven years later, I’m standing with Machael David beside a soccer field in Florida, and he’s telling me, “I’m glad that I was caught. It enabled me to go through everything that has happened since.” The route from a harsh fluorescent-lit interview room at JFK to speaking with reporters at the MLS Combine has not been a straightforward one, but then neither was the path that brought him to America in the first place. For David, it has become the norm for the lucky breaks in his life to first appear as crushing disappointments.
It’s perhaps why he’s so upbeat and positive when we talk, despite what has been a disappointing Combine for him on the field. When we first speak, he’s just come off the field after his final trial game, playing in his favored holding midfield role, after he had been positioned in an unfamiliar right-back role for his previous games. His performance has been tidy (David’s favorite player is Claude Makelele, that most reliable of cogs in flashy teams’ engine rooms), but despite his constant talking and organizing, and vividly colored boots, it possibly hasn’t been as eye-catching as it needs to be for a game played in audition mode. At every turn, David chose the neat pass, the simple interception, the teammate in space. For all his wider spiritual belief, founded in personal experience and his Christian faith, that the right opportunities in life will reveal themselves, part of me finds myself wishing that just for today he’d been more selfish in forcing the issue and grabbing the coaches’ attentions on the field.
Owing to the short-sightedness of the American publishing industry, I am now free to share the four-word pitch for my children’s book: Snoop Lion does things.
Snoop Lion is brushing his teeth.
Snoop Lion is watching a man pump gas.
Snoop Lion is looking at the app icons vibrate on his iPhone screen because he’s had his finger in the same position for the last three hours.
Snoop Lion is sketching Frank Yallop.
Snoop Lion is eating an apple.
Anything Snoop Lion does is interesting. This is a universal truth.
Let me backtrack a moment. I’m at the launch event for FIFA 13 in New York, at SPiN, the Susan Sarandon–affiliated table tennis venue/nightclub that may or may not be fashionable (like I’d know). Snoop Lion, as one of the stars of the promotional video for FIFA 13, is guest of honor at the launch. He has shown up late and is now “doing things.” One of the things Snoop Lion was already doing was being a big FIFA fan, or at least as demonstrably big a fan of FIFA as he is of, say, Post-it Notes, neoliberal critiques, or Magnolia (Snoop Lion does many things — demonstrable shows of enthusiasm he does not do). But we have reliable evidence that Snoop plays the EA Sports FIFA series a lot, follows the teams in real life, and, as we learned this week, he likes Ronaldo’s hair.