Everton’s 8-bit Fork in the Road

In a life full of things I can point to that I’m absolute garbage at, one that’s always stuck with me is just how stank-awful I was at The Legend of Zelda.  In the golden age of the Nintendo Entertainment System of the mid to late eighties, there were few games I was unable to slay or—as is the case with many of my generation—cheat code and/or warp my way through.  Maybe it was something about the way my brain is configured.  Give me five straightforward levels and I’ll eventually Kung-Fu the soul out of Mr. X.  Give me enough time and I’ll shred the pathway to a final confrontation with Bowser and slap him around and win the Princess.  But if Super Mario Bros was checkers, The Legend of Zelda was 3-D chess—a gigantic, non-linear 8-bit world of meandering and collecting items and killing indecipherable things with a lame sword and having very little clue as to when or even if you’d “get” anywhere worth getting to.  Even with the aid of the old Nintendo Power magazine and the giant centerfold map of the land of Hyrule (literally the WORST ever centerfold I’ve ever unfurled, by the way), the psychological intimidation of wrapping my brain around this stupid quest in this ambitiously designed world usually had me tossing the cartridge aside and looking to beat Rad Racer again. 

Because really, endeavors requiring a heightened level of planning, navigation, bigger picture forethought—not to mention the skill and the stamina to conquer such a nuanced quest—simply isn’t for everyone.  I literally peaked with the NES. I gave up video games after Goldeneye because that was as complicated as I ever wanted a game to be.  I’m super unambitious about gaming so your Red Dead Redemption hunting stories mean literally nothing to me.  I know. The horse changed your life. I hear you. Anyway, a relatively elite few types of brains excel at this sort of thing while most average players—even the ones with a tremendous amount of endurance—simply fumble around in the wilderness fighting random creatures, picking up the odd bauble, all while hoping (usually in vain) to stumble upon a route toward an actual step forward in the greater quest.

Now don’t get me wrong, it’s JUST a video game and all Everton are doing is playing football, but much like a player wandering around in an 8-bit wilderness for ages before finally finding the way forward, Everton find themselves suddenly—after a seeming eternity—staring at a genuine fork in the road. The first big one in a while. Their window is short, and their path is narrow, but it’s hard to deny that it’s staring them in the face and there to be had.

I’m IN on Silva and Brands.  I’m well aware of Everton’s flaws and incomplete maturity as a squad. Yet I’ve seen enough evidence on balance of both a plan and a performance ceiling that has Everton winning more and doing so CONVINCINGLY (if not always consistently) as the season has gone on—most notably in the recent run of consecutive results against the Top 6—the kind of run that we haven’t seen as a club in several years.  This team and this manager took time to fully gel— too long for many—but it appears that Marco Silva and his mostly settled lineup are peaking in unison as their first season together comes to a close.

Don’t let your joyous gaze be distracted by the frustratingly predictable narratives from a national perspective. Keep your eyes and your hearts focused on what we’re seeing on the pitch right now.  We’ve had some decent runs over the years.  But did any of them include this level of pure—albeit at times raw—TALENT and level of play? And this tier of skill and athleticism? And the way you see what we’re seeing now will inform your response to the following question:

Is this a moment or an opportunity for Everton?

Is this another quick flash in time that we’ll be watching highlights of every few years when the club Twitter account posts more of that moth to a flame nostalgia YouTube candy of our players bossing a match here or there or scoring pretty goals once in a while?

OR

Is this the chance?  Not “a chance”. But THE chance?  The kind that only comes around once in a gut-wrenchingly royal blue moon?  Is this the chance that requires a sudden confluence of resources, forward-thinking management from the top down, a new stadium on the horizon and a collection of players that are simply more talented than previous iterations of this thing? A group figuring it out? 

And yet of course, these developments all teeter on the legendarily erratic scale of fortune we call Everton. So it’s all about what happens next.  If the right pieces are added and the squad continues to build real familiarity and we get fortunate with fitness and the manager continues to implement his system, etc. etc. etc.  All these “ifs”.  So many. And yet “ifs” are a reality of this sport. No getting around them, but sports without “ifs” is like skipping to Mike Tyson before you’ve passed the test against the second Piston Honda.  Especially if you’re in it to win it instead of just being in it to be in it.

Everton have got a chance to get in the game now.  Like for real.  It’s fleeting, but it’s there and what happens over the next twelve months will be incredibly telling.  Will we meander around this loud and shiny world for eternity or will we find the illusive path forward? All while being bold and smart enough to navigate it when we do?

So many questions. But I’ve got the sneaking suspicion that we’ll have fun learning the answers.  At least that’s the feeling that the last several weeks have evoked in me.  And it’s not just because I’d watch Andre Gomes do anything.  Something is afoot. But like in a good way. I think? Yeah. I DO think.

Though for the sake of full transparency, I thought Sandro was going to be our Sergio Aguero.

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