Silly sketch | Building from the back, with Leibniz in goal

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Confucius to Nietzsche: Name go in book. Link to home page of Monty Python's Personal Best.London | Some might object that Monty Python’s Personal Best, airing in six installments in February and March on the Public Broadcasting Service, merely provides another money-making rehash for the famed comedy troupe. But the installment hosted by Eric Idle at least offers the classic Python Olympiad, featuring the second-leg football final in Munich between German and Greek philosophers. The two sides, kitted out in period gear with squad numbers, ruminate for much of the 90 minutes before a breakthrough by the Greeks in stoppage: the “odd goal,” according to announcer Michael Palin. Numerous transcripts exist on the Internet, but for those who need a reminder, here are the squad lists:

Deutschland
1 Leibniz
2 I. Kant
3 Hegel
4 Schopenhauer
5 Schelling
6 Beckenbauer (“obviously a bit of a surprise there”)
7 Jaspers
8 Schlegel
9 Wittgenstein
10 Nietzsche
11 Heidegger

Griechenland
1 Plato
2 Epictetus
3 Aristotle (“very much the man in form”)
4 Sophocles
5 Empedocles of Acragas
6 Plotinus
7 Epicurus
8 Heraclitus
9 Democritus
10 Socrates
11 Archimedes

Substitutes are not specified, although Karl Marx does come on late for the Germans—for Ludwig Wittgenstein—and has little influence.

The sketch manages several parodies simultaneously: of over-excitable commentators, of intellectuals incapable of understanding the rudiments of a simple game and of football itself, sometimes portrayed by comics in non-football cultures as slow and without purpose.

Turning philosophers into footballers has become something of a cottage industry for Mark Perryman, who has written a book, Philosophy Football, featuring profiles of 11 writers and thinkers and their playing tendencies, and helped launch a start-up featuring team shirts with philosophers’ names and tangentially football-related sayings. Witness Wittgenstein, from Philosophical Investigations:

Imagine people amusing themselves in a field by playing with a ball. Throwing the ball aimlessly into the air, chasing one another with the ball. The whole time they are playing and following definite rules. Is there not also the case where we play and make up the rules as we go along?

About the Author

John Turnbull founded The Global Game in 2003. He was lead editor for The Global Game: Writers on Soccer (University of Nebraska Press, 2008) and has also written on soccer for Afriche e Orienti (Bologna, Italy), the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the New York Times Goal blog, Soccer and Society, So Foot (Paris) and When Saturday Comes. His essay "Alone in the Woods: The Literary Landscape of Soccer's 'Last Defender' " in World Literature Today was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Also for World Literature Today he edited a special section on women's soccer, "World Cup/World Lit 2011," before the Women's World Cup in Germany. The section appeared in the May-June issue. His next project is a book on soccer and faith.

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