August 24, 2011 § Leave a comment

“There were no assigned seats, and Besiktas fans made it a mission to keep their rivals out of the covered stands, which were considered to have the best views and the best acoustics. In what became known as the Inonu War, as many as two hundred Besiktas supporters would sleep in or around the stadium before a match, in order to defend their seats. They used fists, sticks, and rocks, and as hostilities escalated, switchblades, meat cleavers, and the razor-sharp, sword-size knives used to slice doner kebap. … By the mid-eighties, people were using Molotov cocktails and guns.

“There are stories of Carsi members striking up friendships with players by first slashing their tires and then giving them a ride home; of trashing the players’ facilities, and then turning up the next day with baklava and flowers.”

From Elif Batuman’s article on Besiktas fans. So sardonic without ever being explicitly so. I keep getting emanations of this vibe from New Yorker articles; perhaps it is the famed house style? The last one I remember reading where this also happened was Ariel Levy’s piece on Silvio Berlusconi, where she, very adroitly and without a hint of anything you could detect in the text, lays out all the foibles and absurdities that have accumuluated around the life of Italian television’s ruling media mogul cum prime minister, he who is besotted with underaged prostitutes, and does so in a completely condemning way, while never raising the stylistic pitch of her voice to a level above reasoned neutrality. It’s quite effective! This equivalent of saying something incredible while keeping a completely straight face. All the feelings of horror and disgust lie within the reader, and nowhere on the page.

I like the stories about the schizophrenia-prone Carsi members, I’m plotting things for it already. The ground down working class fan whose whole life is his team, and Cesar the rising young star, with his careless blonde hair and the apple shine of promise on him. If only he weren’t so volatile, so fearsomely bad-tempered, his mother always laments…. The background: a massive strike that has nixed all economic activity and thrown the whole city into disarray. Railways idle and trash goes uncollected. Shops shutter. At night, power lines cut out without warning, and important neighborhoods, not just poor ones, are plunged into darkness. In meeting rooms and at negotiation tables, tensions rise after a power outage results in a spate of robberies and several deaths; suited men confer, speak to each other in increasingly shrill voices, storm off. Hostility edges every exchange. The cashier at the market is surly, tosses your peaches into the bag without a regard for if they’ll bruise. Even Cesar in his remove feels it. One game is canceled. The crowd’s chanting gets nastier. A broken-necked glass bottle, craftily aimed, sidelines one of his teammates for he doesn’t know how long it’ll be. And he keeps seeing the same fan: at games, during training, standing back from the hubbub, gazing at him. At the same time that he is annoyed he feels pity and curiosity; he is at that age where both come to him easily. Why does the man look so sad?

That was before he left practice the day after a bad loss and found his car’s windshields smashed in, of course.


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