Q: How did you become attached to Norman Einstein’s and did it have any impact to your writing?
Cian got in touch with me some time in the autumn of 2009. I didn’t know him, but I had been an Einstein’s subscriber for a couple of months and liked what I’d seen.
Plus, as I recall, he came bearing the gift of a good Beatles-related hyperlink, which always earns a credit. So it was lovely to be asked to contribute.
I’d had the idea for a while to write something inspired by Hans van der Meer, who took these marvelous photographs of non-league soccer pitches around the Netherlands and Europe.
Cian’s invitation seemed like the perfect excuse to actually make something of it, and it turned out pretty well.
And it went from there. That was still fairly early days, and it was great to see the whole thing coalesce month by month as all these great writers came on board.
There was a buzz about seeing a piece that you’d worked hard at, and that you took a degree of pride in, sitting alongside such a lot of quality work. It made a change from the usual squeak-in-the-wilderness deal that is the lot of the bloggy chancer; it was nice to be a part of something bigger, where a bunch of people had a common yet pleasingly approximate aim (to write good shit).
Which all started with Cian, of course: his enthusiasm was already apparent from the fact that he created this hellaciously hard work for himself for no reason other than that he loved it and believed in what he was doing.
And he did it with good humor and a gentle but firm editorial touch. It was a very pleasant (virtual) environment to write in: you knew that an idea you had would be tended to with care and attention, because Cian basically gave a shit, which is a quality you can’t take for granted.
How did it change the way I wrote? Not much, probably. My method is much the same as it was before and during my time writing for Norman Einstein’s: lots of note-taking, followed by panic as to how I can organize it all, a mad dash to the line, and a promise never to do it again.
Q: What’s your favorite piece you contributed and why?
Mainly, it’s because it wasn’t my idea in the first place.
Cian asked me to do a soccer Long Player, and as Barcelona were in a particularly hot run of form at the time (December 2010 — this was shortly after their 5-0 win over Real Madrid, for example), it was hard to look past them for inspiration.
I had intended to compile two parallel playlists: one for Barca and their army of admirers, another for their opponents and the then-budding backlash against their “més que un club” comportment.
But then I thought of all those players who had played against Barcelona and spoken in awed terms about the way they played, and it seemed that to play against them must provoke a hell of a mixture of feelings sometimes. So the two nascent playlists merged.
From a writer’s point of view, it was exciting because, as I say, the initial idea wasn’t mine, so the whole thing went from nothing to something nice and cohesive (I hope) in a short space of time, having gone through this “creative process”, as I believe it’s called.
Basically, I got lucky! But ultimately it was a satisfying piece to write. Besides which, there are some good tunes in there.
Q: And if you had to pitch Norman Einstein’s, how would you describe it?
A website that published lots of good sports writing monthly?