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Saturday, May 5

The Extra Time: Stress, Obama and Guardiola

Considering but not attempting to answer Grantland's question: which would be more stressful, being President of the United States or being manager of Barcelona or Real Madrid?

From Brian Phillips' wonderful Grantland piece, "Homage to Guardiola: How Barcelona's Manager Built a Quiet Storm":
A question that I often waste time thinking about is which would be more stressful, being President of the United States or being manager of Barcelona or Real Madrid. That's only a facetious question if you think stress is a function of your decisions' objective importance, which it isn't; stress is a function of how important you perceive your decisions to be.  Barack Obama's decisions are, objectively, many orders of magnitude more important than Pep Guardiola's. But the presidency also comes with a great many buffers designed to insulate the president from directly perceiving, or at least from being utterly overwhelmed by, the stakes of his actions: a vast and protective bureaucratic staff, a 24/7 security detail, enforced professional etiquette, limited public appearances. Inevitably, a lot of the rage that greets everything a president does gets filtered out.
The manager of FC Barcelona, whose every action is furiously scrutinized by roughly, say, two United States' worth of fans, is infinitely more exposed. He has a (much) smaller staff. All of his big moments — not just his State of the Unions, but his treaty negotiations, his backroom deals, his meetings with world leaders — take place on TV, in front of thousands of screaming people. Televisions are blaring opinions about him everywhere he goes; it's barely a stretch to say that the entire news-disseminating industry in Spain is organized around the Barcelona/Madrid rivalry. There's no massaging the numbers to disguise or spin results; he either wins or he loses. And if he rests Xavi at the wrong moment, or plays Messi too deep, or sells Eto'o when he shouldn't, or buys Ibrahimović at the wrong time, or lines Iniesta up on the left when he would have been more effective in the middle, then it becomes a major topic of angry deliberation, not just in Barcelona, but on the planet Earth. Imagine if, every time you opened your mouth to speak, millions of lights lit up all over the globe, and the lights were either green or red, and the difference had massive implications for how you were seen by everyone you met, and everybody knew. After a while, how would you ever say anything?
Presented, without commentary, before and after shots of both President Obama taking office and Pep Guardiola taking the reigns of Barcelona:

Liked this?  Then for blog updates and banter limited to 140 characters.  Also, you might enjoy this essay comparing Pep Guardiola to Don Draper from Mad Men.

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