Reconsidering trophies, aka “Every one is sacred when seeking perfection”

“I didn’t come here to become part of history, just to do the best I can, like everyone does in his job.”

I don’t mind saying that I have been pretty silly over these past few years, something that knocked me over the head in two parts, if you will:

The first was someone Tweeting to me that he believed Guardiola’s record is diminished when people count the lesser trophies among his haul, that really only the Liga and Champions Leagues are the ones that Matter.

The second was the quote, from Guardiola, above.

What’s made me silly is realizing, only now, that when you are striving for perfection, to be the absolute best all the time, every trophy is one of the ones that Matter.

There has never before, irrespective of Guardiola’s assertion about not wanting to make history, been a Barca club such as this one, and I don’t think, no matter what Tito Vilanova does, that there will be another one like it.

Recall Guardiola in the above picture, weeping uncontrollably in the aftermath of the World Club championship, and people wondering, “Why the hell is this the trophy that’s gotten him going?” It’s only now that we realize that it wasn’t the trophy, but what it represented: something approaching perfection. His club had won every competition that it entered, every trophy.

And this might strike some as naive, but I don’t really know that Guardiola parsed trophies the way we armchair pundits did. “Oh, piffle …. it’s just the Copa.” But in many ways, I now wonder, it wasn’t about major or minor to Pep Guardiola and our amazing team. It was, simply put, about that relentless quest for perfection. Each and every match, to be the absolute best that the unit could be.

We’d always wonder, with a 4 or 5 goal lead, why Guardiola would be prowling the sideline like a crazy man, shouting, gesticulating, displaying vexation as though his players were down by 4 goals. But his quote makes it all clear: He wanted the best, all the time, every time, from his players.

One of my favorite Buddhist sayings is “Whatever you did, you did your best.” The notion is to teach acceptance, to make you realize, also, the notion of Now. What you did was your best, as a simple reality, devoid of context. Messi hits the post with a penalty kick. That was his best. Yes, he buries that shot 9 of 10 times, 99 of 100, or any multiplier that you choose. But at that time, that was his best.

Guardiola’s version of “best” was malleable. His team could do its best in a loss, as long as it strove for that rarity, perfection.

Yes, perfection is impossible to achieve. There are always stray passes, players in the wrong spot, defenders not reading a match as they should. Never, ever has there been a perfect match, something that never, ever stopped Guardiola from striving for one, losing hair, aging almost overnight in an effort to wring that one, magical 90 minutes in which everything worked, and the club was perfect.

So when the club won trophies, I would wager that to Guardiola, as he sought to always be the absolute best, the competition, the trophy didn’t matter as much as the affirmation that, once again, he and his players had achieved what they were striving for: To do their best, and here’s the piece of silver to prove it.

Back in the day, the nickname for the great bicycle racer Eddy Merckx was “The Cannibal,” because he wanted to win everything. Tour de France, Tour of Italy, local criterium, track race in which he was a guest competitor — it didn’t matter. To him, it was all about winning, whenever you could, wherever you could, in a single-minded determination to be his best. And one of the ways that history calculates “best” is victories.

I have already prattled on about the rare, wonderful state of grace that is winning. What I have only of late come to realize is that maybe for Pep Guardiola and our beloved club, winning is winning, silver is silver and when a club is striving for perfection, to be the absolute best that it can, silver is a mark, an acknowledgement that for that time period in that particular competition, that club did its job — to be the best. And for that club, there can be no such thing as meaningless, or diminished silver.

I know some will say that this is easy for me to say, now that second-tier silver is all that club has going for it this season. And hey, I can’t tell people what to think about thoughts and motives. Maybe this realization wouldn’t have smacked me upside the head had the club won Liga and Champions League, had Guardiola decided to stay, had everything worked the way that it was supposed to.

Maybe. All I know is that I will be watching the Copa del Reig final through new eyes.