As I have commented before when it comes to my dreams, one of my foremost patterns within dreams is the inability to find people or arrive at places. Perhaps because finding and looking for things is such a poignant and meaningful aspect of my life, its absence is something that tends to linger on in my sleep as a characteristic frustrating that makes my sleeping life in many ways a minor key variation of the problems of my waking life. Such a thing happened to me while I was resting this morning, lingering in a dream that managed to involve looking for some sort of food that could simply not be found, which is by no means an unusual problem in my life. It struck me, though, as I was pondering today, that this is by no means a problem that is dealt with by people who cannot find what they are looking for.
Among my many interests is a fondness in national level soccer. One of the elements that fascinates me about it is that there is no offseason, really. If one is a successful soccer player, one has months spent playing in club level competition, and then those clubs compete for various national and international cups, and then one gets caps to play for one’s national team in World Cup qualifying or any other number of national cups. And one’s team never arrives, but is always having to prove itself in the moment. Immediately after one season of the UEFA Europa League or Champion’s League finishes, for example, as recently happened when Chelsea and Villareal won European glory, the preliminary round of the next season begins. And the same is true in other sorts of competitions. Just a few days ago, for example, the United States won the inaugural version of the CONCACAF Nations League championship to get a bit of hardware, but while the United States was narrowly beating the likes of Honduras and Mexico en route to that hardware, other teams were playing World Cup qualifying, where six teams now play for the last three spots of the Octagonal to play alongside Mexico, the United States, Costa Rica, Honduras, and Jamaica for the possibility of being one of 3.5 slots into the World Cup next year in Qatar. And while all of that is going on, the Gold Cup, another opportunity to gain hardware, is only about a month away, and teams that have been eliminated from one competition or relegated in another have yet another chance to gain some sort of glory and prove that they are at least a regional soccer power.
The point is that the continual hustle and bustle of games and the absence of a chance to rest on one’s laurels but always be in a position where it is necessary for players and coaches and teams to prove themselves is a fascinating position to be in and to watch. As soon as one piece of hardware is won for a club team, then there is more hardware to win for a national squad. As soon as one wins a World Cup there is qualifying or playing for a continental or regional cup going on where one can slip up and end up having to prove one’s self all over again. It is hard to build momentum and to keep it up, as age and complacency get the best of most teams all too quickly on the international level.
It is interesting that soccer is not the only place where this particular phenomenon can be noted. We also see it, for example, in pop music. While artists who succeed in particular genre charts can, to a certain extent, rest on their laurels as a legacy act and can tour happily without the need to constantly put out new hits, someone who wants to be viewed as a pop star must continually prove that they are popular, and this can be a difficult thing for some people to do. Let us consider, for example, the case of Madonna. Although it is hard to imagine someone who is a better example of a popular musician who preserved her popularity on the charts for a long time, in order to keep up being a pop star she has continued to chase trends and produce music for a long while even after she has really not needed to prove herself except to prove that she is still popular and relevant. And it is a sad thing to see someone have to work that hard to stay relevant long after they should be able to rest on their laurels. It is too much work to try to be a cool kid long after one is no longer a kid, and it can be somewhat embarrassing to see as well.
It is little surprise that pop cycles are similar to soccer cycles in that there is no true offseason. One can only rest on one’s laurels when cycles are not close together. In American football, there is an offseason because there are months between the Super Bowl and the draft and the start of training camp before the season. A team has months to celebrate being the best before they have to go out and prove it all over again. This is not the case in pop music, where by the time one has gotten a #1 one is already in the middle of another charting week where there is streaming and radio data to see if one is a flash in the pan or continuing to dominate. With new artists and new music coming all the time, like with new soccer hardware to win, one never has a chance to stop. There is always comparison and competition going on, and that means that one cannot get the chance to rest without conceding one is no longer in the top flight. And few are willing to do that if they have a chance to compete, all of which make such things exciting to watch but exhausting to be a part of.