Hello there, welcome to another issue of Morning Coffee.
This week I want to take a look at the final game of the UEFA Champions League, which was contested by Real Madrid and Atlético de Madrid yesterday in Milano. For the second time in just three years, these two teams from the same city competed for the most prestigious title in European football — wait, I mean soccer.
Issue #42: The UEFA Champions League trophy goes back to Madrid
What a game. Not that we haven’t seen it before, though.
Two years ago, Real Madrid won the title in heroic fashion, after Sergio Ramos scored a goal in the nick of time to tie the scoreboard at 1-1 and send the game into the overtime, saving his team from certain defeat. In the overtime, Real Madrid were just fresher and capitalized on the shift in momentum, taking the game 4-1. It was a cruel defeat for Atlético’s fans, who saw the trophy slip right through their fingers, despite almost touching it for the better part of 90 minutes.
This time around, it was once again Real Madrid that took the trophy home, and it was an even tougher defeat for Atlético, if that’s even possible. An early goal by Sergio Ramos — again — put Real Madrid in the lead, and Atlético were forced to adjust their strategy, playing in a way that does not come naturally to them.
Much to their credit, they did an excellent job and managed to create a few clear goal chances, only to see them foiled at the last second. They even missed a penalty kick in the beginning of the second half, something that is extremely difficult to put behind when the stakes are this high.
But if Atlético have one character trait as team, it is their absolute refusal to give up. They kept pressing on and eventually, Yannick Carrasco somehow found the perfect way to finish a tremendous offensive play and put the scoreboard back on level terms. It was back to square one.
By that point there were only 15 minutes left and both teams were understandably cautious, so there weren’t any more serious chances for either team before the referee signaled the end of the 90-minute game. Just like in Lisbon two years ago, the final was headed into the overtime.
However, this year there would be no glorious victory in the overtime, no epic goals and, frankly, not much to speak of at all. Both teams were exhausted due to the extreme physicality of the game, and most players were just trying to make it to the end, fighting the cramps and the pain in order to remain in play. Some, like Filipe Luis, didn’t make it and had to be replaced. Others, like Gareth Bale, managed to hold on through sheer force of will.
It was time for the penalties.
Whenever a game of this magnitude has to be decided by a penalty shootout, there’s always drama. Some people say penalty shootouts are cruel, and unfair. I disagree. I believe in sports, you need to make your own luck.
Losing by the narrowest of margins always stings, but such is the way of the game. And so, when Juanfran missed the penalty that would ultimately bring down Atlético, the look on his face was heartbreaking, but he shouldn’t be the one to blame. After all, both teams had 120 minutes to earn the trophy and the simple truth is, both failed to do so. Just like victories are team efforts, defeats too must be endured collectively.
I have no doubt Atlético will recover. Another admirable character trait they share is their utter belief in hard work as the only valid path to greatness. They believe soccer is a meritocracy, and that the best team is the one that wins. That sounds like a simple enough philosophy, but Atlético have proven time and time again that they actually live by it, which is a lot harder than it seems, especially on nights like this.
For Real Madrid, last night was one for the history books: 11 Champions League titles, and counting. No other team comes even close to those numbers, and it’s time for a well-deserved celebration. For Atlético, on the other hand, it’s time to get back to work.
Fortunately, nobody does it better than them.
Top Five: Uncharted 4, a missing parrot, Google’s CEO, and the perils of losing our free will
This week’s selection comes to you fresh off the presses. Enjoy.
This was a really great interview with Uncharted 4’s creative director Neil Druckmann for Rolling Stone. I love how straightforward and down-to-earth this guy is. It’s kind of crazy when you realize he’s been responsible for several of the greatest video games of all time, some of which have budgets comparable to Hollywood blockbuster movies.
Another Uncharted 4 link for you, this time from Allen Chou, one of the developers who worked on the game. I love these behind-the-scenes pieces, and it’s always interesting to learn just how much work it takes to create a game like Uncharted 4. really impressive stuff.
This is priceless. A parrot that used to belong to a New Orleans crime boss has disappeared, and people are looking for him because, get this, they want to put him in a witness protection program.
Apparently, the parrot was saying things he really shouldn’t be saying, and some people think he could provide critical testimony that could help put his owner away. I know how ridiculous that sounds, but it looks like it’s not all BS:
Certain species in particular, can be spot-on imitators of the sounds around them—from the mundane cell phone conversation of their owners to calling the family dog by name and then bark just like them. They can mimic the beep of a microwave or a cell-phone ring so closely that it’s confusing. Sometimes they mimic other things people do too.
I know this is a serious matter, but it’s hard not to laugh at that last one.
This was an interesting profile on Google’s CEO. Come to think of it, I knew almost nothing about the man, which seems kind of crazy considering how huge a company Google is, and how much media attention it garners.
And here’s your existential piece of the week. There are lots of troubling ideas to consider here:
Determinism not only undermines blame, Smilansky argues; it also undermines praise. Imagine I do risk my life by jumping into enemy territory to perform a daring mission. Afterward, people will say that I had no choice, that my feats were merely, in Smilansky’s phrase, “an unfolding of the given,” and therefore hardly praiseworthy. And just as undermining blame would remove an obstacle to acting wickedly, so undermining praise would remove an incentive to do good. Our heroes would seem less inspiring, he argues, our achievements less noteworthy, and soon we would sink into decadence and despondency.
So basically, the day we stop believing in free will, we become total assholes. Food for thought.
How’s your week been? Mine has been interesting. I’m now working on a review of Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, after thoroughly enjoying the heck out of that game. It’s been a truly impressive experience, and definitely the prettiest game I’ve ever seen. If I had to rank it, it would place a close second to The Last of Us in my all-time list, but that’s only because The Last of Us is so emotional and character-driven that it really transcends the medium.
Other than that, things seem a bit quieter than usual on the Internet, although the calm is definitely not going to last. With WWDC just around the corner, we’re about to go from 0 to 60 in the blink of an eye, so I’ll happily take the down time now.
Thank you for reading, and have a great Sunday.