The substitute bench

Years ago, while I was still doing my warm-up at one of the smaller teams, I was convinced that once I’d get into the 1st Division, things were sure to change. More so, I lived under the impression that our little “game of ideas” could give birth to brilliant players and visionary managers. Much to my surprise, advertising’s unpredictable championship followed a different scheme.

From debut to the inevitable retirement, advertising is a game you play on an expensive lawn, but under street rules. The backups know it better than we do.

Getting selected by a large club is always a strenuous battle. When you do get in, it’s always on the junior team. Once here, it won’t really matter that you’re playing the goalkeeper, although you’ve always been a striker. The important thing is that you’re playing. You can already see yourself on the front line, as a fine candidate for the Golden Ball or at least for a lion of the same colour. After a few months, you’ve finally started to understand the team’s strategy. You know who to pass and when. Your first 10 minutes in an official game have already turned you into a different man.

After several played matches, a few lucky goals and dozens of missed opportunities, you feel it’s time to change the club. Is it the performance? Is it the cash? You don’t know for sure,  but you’re convinced this time things will actually change. You’re convinced the new team will appreciate your ability of running across the whole field and your long volley shots which were always “so close”. And you start again with more sleepless nights and days of cramming your sneakers. A new team, different matches, the same stake…

The years bring you a new sensation, the odd feeling that “the game is not the same anymore”. You know that after a few years, the senior player is looked upon strangely by its team. It’s only then you truly feel the need to do “something more”. You pack your experience and your well-earned name into a bag and you jump on the first train to the Little League. You’re a coach now, the manager of your own team. You will change something, bring fresh names and revolutionize the game. For you, the rules will work differently.

As time passes by, militant interviews, great promises and veiled threats pile up under your belt. Strange enough, the grass isn’t greener on the other side. You’ve gradually started to turn into your former manager. You know him very well. He’s the guy you’ve always wanted to teach a lesson to. And now, you’re using the same dated tactics he did and your team is playing the same thrilless, lingering matches. It’s a sacrifice you’ve willingly accepted for the sponsors. How could you not? The sponsors keep the team alive. They should have the last word, shouldn’t they?

And the fact that nobody sees the backstage work is killing you. The fact that the outside world only sees the salaries, the radlers, the colourful scarfs and the seas of hipster fan girls is killing you. They can’t see anything from the outside, but they’re convinced they know the game. How hard could it be? You aim the idea, you hit it and you score! If they were you, they’d show you how to do it. It’s quite clear for anyone outside the field that professionals aren’t worth their money, isn’t it?

Wanderlust strikes again. This time is final. You’re leaving! You haven’t given much thought to the destination. You might even open a farm, plant some chickens or something like that… You remember reading something about ecoagriculture and you’re thinking: hey, this might be it! Your old high school friends kept away from the matches, galleries and the limelight and they’ve gotten pretty far. If they could do it, so can you!

After a short half-time break and 4 poor harvests, you feel it again. Struck with dismay, you realise that, no matter how hard you’d try to escape, you’re not the one who chose the game. The game chose you. As discretely as possible, you submissively return to your first love. You have to play, not matter where. And let’s face it, advertising is a great place for former glories…

P.S: I’m no soccer fan, but I’ve decided that a parallel with the fascinating world of ping-pong could wait.

Vlad Stoiculescu

Vlad works in advertising and is part of G2 Romania’s team. You can find out more about him on his LinkedIn profile or on his blog (in Romanian).

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