Barthes/Barthez: Goalies and Poetry Competitions

How should one judge soccer goalies? Maybe give them 10 penalties to save? But you can't depend just on objective tests, you need to see them in action. Don't be fooled by all the spectacular dives - Gordon Banks said that a lot of those were the result of bad positioning. One needs to check if they do the routine things well - after all, each mistake could cost the game. Gifted strikers on the other hand might fluff the odd scissor kick hopelessly, but there's always the hope that they'll make a goal out of nothing. There are some things you just can't learn.

It seems to me that poetry judges too often think they're judging goalies rather than strikers. Poems are judged by their worst rather than best lines. As bullies know, it's easy to pick on weaknesses. What's harder is comparing strengths - not the flashy, unnecessary dives or even the goals, but moments of quality. Pele was recently given a Best Ever Player award. On TV they showed his shot from the half-way line, and the way he ran over a through ball then behind the goalie to retrieve it. Neither piece of action resulted in a goal. Poets are advised to finish competition entries with a good final line - judges look at them as an equivalent to a penalty shoot-out - but the lead-up play might be more memorable, making something out of nothing the way that real poets do.

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Updated in February, 2001