The Communicator


If you didn't see it, you surely have heard about it at this point; Inter-Sampdoria on Saturday night. Samuel and Cordoba sent off for Inter before half time, the crowd at San Siro acting out all the torment that their indignant spirits were experiencing, and Mourinho was mocking the referee throughout. Sometimes by showing his hands to be cuffed, by which he was cutting a sad figure since the irony is that none of the decisions were particularly noteworthy. Samuel earned two yellow cards, as did Cordoba and the only peculiarity was that Inter reacted as you would expect someone grown accustomed to getting away with a lot would. If anything, Tagliavento was too lenient: Eto'o, just having received a yellow card, grabbed the referee and screamed in his face, while Milito had perhaps the most violent challenge out of anyone on the night when he hit a Doriano on the shin, studs up. Cambiasso also tried to punch a Sampdoria player believed to be Pozzi in the tunnel in half time.

On Monday they were called on it. Mourinho is suspended for three games and will be fined the maximum amount of €40.000; Cambiasso will serve two games for his attempted assault, as will Muntari for insulting the referee; Samuel and Cordoba will both sit out one game each. Inter has reacted with incredulity, opting for the part of victim in this play called serie A. Moratti can't believe it, and Mourinho has hired a spokesperson to deliver his daily opinion of what's what and who's who, which we could apparently not do without for even a day.

I find it amusing that in 2010, more than half a decade since Mourinho first gained notoriety, the fascination still hasn't worn out for some. There still exists ardent Mourinho apologists who will relay to you, completely unfiltered and unaltered, Mourinho's own opinion of himself as a massively skilled communicator who is outsmarting everyone on a daily basis. This is an irritating phenomenon which I struggle to be at peace with, because to me Mourinho is nothing of what his supporters (of whom he is himself the foremost member) claim him to be, and all that they deny. I look at his outbursts and I do not see an intellect that is constantly outwitting precisely everyone around him; I see a petty and petulant egomaniac who responds with remarkable consistency and predictability to all slights on his image, be they real or figments of imagination. I do not see the savvy media strategies he still gets credit for; on the contrary I see a man whose ego can't be kept in check, which only renders his media strategy all the more ad hoc and ineffective. The suggestion that he deflects pressure from his players is also a fallacy, as anyone who's seen Inter lately can attest to. Does Inter seem like a team that are playing with the calm Mourinho's grabbing of the spotlight creates, or do they seem a team that's shook and reacting to the nervousness their coach projects, causing them to lash out? I believe it to be the latter, as was evident against Sampdoria.

About a year ago, he conducted a press conference a day after an Inter-Roma game in which Balotelli blatantly simulated for a penalty, and informed the press he would be holding it "medieval style". Everyone was puzzled, what would it mean? As it turned out, little more than sitting in a questionable sweat shirt, unshaved, and getting so upset that his Italianated Portuguese was rendered near intelligible. The press and fans, he said, were guilty of "intellectual prostitution" for wanting to talk about the Balotelli penalty, and the term has since become a buzz word for Mourinho apologists everywhere. Of course, the great irony is that that entire press conference was in itself the textbook definition (as authored by Mourinho) of intellectual prostitution as the only purpose it served was to deflect from Inter needing an invented penalty to gain a point at home to the Roma Mourinho himself had been ridiculing. For me, everything about Mourinho and his apologists can be reduced to that singular event: he himself was making little to no sense, and his fans claimed it as a great triumph of his over the system. Or consider his first day at Inter, when he managed to work the Milanese word "pirla" (crazy) into his sound bite. Many treated it as a spontaneous reflection of his urbane nature; I saw it as him getting an alley-oop pass from a journalist, and him still managing to make it feel unnatural, unconvincing and out of context. It was pandering to the press, and it was remarkably contrived. These are things that annoy me no end.

So as the press has long since abandoned his follies, and he manages to antagonize anything and everything that moves, when can we finally lay the myth of Mourinho being a highly skilled communicator to rest? When can we let go of the notion that to create group unity, you need to make enemies out of everyone? I've always preferred the mannerisms and poised personalities of coaches like Spalletti, Guardiola and Prandelli, and now I add Ranieri to that list. They aren't men who need to mock the referee for having sent off their players; I would be genuinely interested in seeing Mourinho's reaction to being on the receiving end of a real theft as Prandelli was last week in Germany vs. Bayern. Why can't his behavior be the norm to which we ascribe a desirable communication style, instead?