Articles, Blog

A Weird and Beautiful Story

December 6, 2019


Good morning, Hank. It’s Tuesday. It’s been kind-of a rough couple days around here, so today I want to try to cheer myself up by telling you a story about this weird and beautiful moment in sports. Ok, so our story begins in 1984 at the finals of the European Cup, which is this big soccer tournament where all the best teams in Europe play each other. Today it’s called the Champions League. And in 1984, the final game was between Roma and Liverpool. And at the end of the game it was tied 1-1, which meant there had to be a penalty shoot-out. At the time, Liverpool’s goalkeeper was this guy named Bruce Grobbelaar, who was, even by goalie standards, a pretty eccentric dude. And for some reason, during this incredibly high-stakes penalty shoot-out, he decided to feign wobbly-legged nervousness as one of the Roma penalty-takers approached. And then that guy skied his penalty over the goal, and Liverpool won the Champions League 4-2 on penalties. And Bruce Grobbelaar cemented his status as a Liverpool legend. But, at the time this all happened in 1984, the hero of our story Jerzy Dudek was a ten year old kid living in a coal mining town in Poland. And as a youngster, Jerzy Dudek was, like, a pretty good goalkeeper. In his teens and early twenties, he played for a third-tier Polish team. But as he got older, he became a really good goalkeeper. He found his way to Holland, and then eventually to England, where he played for Liverpool beginning in 2001. Before we move on to the story, I just want to note that professional goalkeepers practice trying to save penalties a lot. Like, by the time Jerzy Dudek arrived in England, he had tried to save many thousands of penalties. When you’re a goalkeeper, unless you’re Bruce Grobbelaar, you learn your way of saving penalties. And for Jerzy Dudek, that was standing stock-still and waiting until, like, a half-second before the kick came in and then jumping one way or another. Ok, so flash forward to 2005. Liverpool again find themselves in the finals of what is now called the Champions League with a chance to win their first European Cup trophy since 1984, and Jerzy Dudek is the goalkeeper. Thereagain playing Italian opposition, this time A.C. Milan, and for Liverpool and Jerzy Dudek, the game starts horribly. At halftime, they are down three-nothing. And they weren’t just losing, they were getting played off the pitch. Like, A.C. Milan were just a much better team. And then, essentially out of nothing, during one 6-minute stretch in the second half, Liverpool score three goals to tie the game. And it remains tied for the next thirty minutes, and then through all thirty minutes of extra time, thanks, in no small part, to Jerzy Dudek. At the end of extra time, Dudek made a double save so incredible that, to this day, if you ask him about it, he says that he does not remember making the save, and does not understand how he possibly could have made it. So, the game goes to a penalty kick shoot-out. You’re Jerzy Dudek. You’ve been practicing saving penalties since you were a kid. You have your way of doing it. You’ve done your research. You knew this was a possibility. You’ve laid awake at night imagining it: The Champions League final down to penalties, you in goal standing stock-still until the moment before the ball is kicked like you always have. But then, one of your teammates Jamie Carragher walks up to you and says that in 1984, 21 years ago, this guy Bruce Grobbelaar did this weird “crazy legs” thing while defending penalties for Liverpool in the European Cup final, and it worked! And Jamie Carragher is like, “You should do that!” But that was in 1984, with different players, and a different coach, and a different opposition. What does that moment have to do with this one? Quite a bit, as it turns out. There are times in your life when you do things precisely as you have prepared and practiced for them, and then there are times in your life when you listen to Jamie Carragher. So, in the most important moment of your professional life, you start dancing. You don’t actually know how Bruce Grobbelaar did it, so you do your own version. And it works. Milan’s first penalty-taker skies his shot over the goal, and you save two of the next four penalties, and Liverpool are European Champions once more. I think about this moment a lot, partly because I’m a Liverpool fan and we are notoriously mired in our own history, but also because it reminds me that sometimes the right decision is the weird decision. Hank, I’ll see you on Friday.

100 Comments

  • Reply Baylor R. Barnard March 28, 2018 at 11:07 pm

    Good choice in changing the name and removing the word sports

  • Reply stephen barton March 28, 2018 at 11:32 pm

    Too right buddy WE ARE LIVERPOOL, LA LA LA LA LA YNWA BUDDY FROM THE UK THAT'S LIVERPOOL UK❤️❤️❤️❤️??????✌️✌️✌️✌️✌️✌️✌️??????????

  • Reply Juan Pablo Rodríguez March 28, 2018 at 11:34 pm

    WE ALL DREAM OF A TEAM OF CARRAGHEERS, A TEAM OF CARRAGHERS, A TEAM OF CARRAGHERS

  • Reply Naya Fauzia March 29, 2018 at 12:14 am

    John is always so good at telling stories

  • Reply Kat The Nerdfighter March 29, 2018 at 12:20 am

    I’m so sorry about Willy, John. I know how hard it is to lose a dog you love.

  • Reply Marta / Flying Samovar March 29, 2018 at 12:45 am

    Your pronunciation of his name is beautiful! it's Yezhi (stressed on the first syllable) in Polish, but I think your pronunciation should be the pronunciation!

  • Reply Susan Porteous March 29, 2018 at 12:48 am

    I am a puppy raiser and professional service dog trainer, and I often use Willy’s head tilting video to desensitize my new puppies to strange noises (And to get cute reactions. Because. Well. Puppies.) Willy, thanks for bringing me so many smiles over the years, and for all the smiles to come. I can’t imagine how many you brought John and his family. You were a good dog.

  • Reply egg clia March 29, 2018 at 2:37 am

    I got rejected from 3 of my top schools and waitlisted to another 3 of my top schools and I'm feeling very bad right now. Can someone help me. Loved the video, John.

  • Reply Andrey Seas March 29, 2018 at 2:38 am

    You're such a great storyteller.

  • Reply GentlemanDemon March 29, 2018 at 4:27 am

    I'm about to go from the US to Liverpool, sounds like I need to start learning more about the team's history

  • Reply geoff wuerl March 29, 2018 at 5:22 am

    Rule one always listen to Jamie Carragher

  • Reply Khadeeja Ahsan March 29, 2018 at 6:00 am

    I think I could actually get into soccer/football if John was the commentator or at least if he told a story about each match in this way. I am really looking forward to his and Rosianna’s AFC Wimbledon project.

  • Reply Sir Amic Varze March 29, 2018 at 6:02 am

    Dudek, now there's a name I haven't heard in a long long time.

  • Reply MeWho March 29, 2018 at 6:03 am

    The right decision is the weird decision. Love this, and I'm going to add it to my quote log. 😛

  • Reply MollieVX March 29, 2018 at 7:09 am

    Willy will be missed

  • Reply Sirake March 29, 2018 at 7:46 am

    I think I would have preferred "Sometimes the right decision isn't the one you've prepared yourself for"

  • Reply Zodayn March 29, 2018 at 8:51 am

    I hereby rename the position of goalkeeper to goal dancer.

  • Reply Paul Maskell March 29, 2018 at 9:48 am

    "…famously mired in our own history." Think you may be the most honest Liverpool supporter out there!
    Sorry to hear about your dog though 🙁

  • Reply Danielle Duzenman March 29, 2018 at 11:27 am

    A good video. A good video indeed.

  • Reply Vandini Sharma March 29, 2018 at 12:50 pm

    BEYOND AWESOME

  • Reply rattatatter March 29, 2018 at 12:51 pm

    I have been a long time vlogbrothers follower. Like, very nearly since the beginning. I haven’t been keeping up with videos as much lately but, hell if this isn’t the most relatable thing I’ve ever heard. “Sometimes the right decision is the weird decision.” I mean, that’s gravestone material right there.

  • Reply Amet Alvirde March 29, 2018 at 3:34 pm

    I'M NOT CRYING YOU ARE CRYING!

  • Reply Emil N March 29, 2018 at 5:54 pm

    I love this video so much! It was indeed a weird and beautiful story, thanks for telling us, John! So sorry to hear about Willy, he was a good dog. Much love!

  • Reply 373dancerGirl March 29, 2018 at 6:13 pm

    Absolutely loved this video

  • Reply Patrick Mohr March 29, 2018 at 6:14 pm

    I have no Fandom in the sport of football and I think I've just become a fan of Liverpool because of this story

  • Reply Em Mell March 29, 2018 at 6:28 pm

    thank you for making this

  • Reply Sarah S March 29, 2018 at 6:43 pm

    I find comfort in the fact that so often, as humans, we can give dogs the gift of seeing them through their entire lifetime. You gave Willy the far underrated gift your presence and the comfort of never knowing a world without a John Green. Wishing you the comfort of loved ones, tears, memories and solace, all in your own time.

  • Reply Hannahsacumen March 29, 2018 at 7:47 pm

    I usually need these types of videos or podcast updates translated into nerd speak. I get that a positive integer number of male humans are attempting to projectile motion a spherical object into the mesh covered rectangle at one end of a horizontal plane, but the rest of the story is lost on me.

  • Reply Shea Elliott March 29, 2018 at 8:16 pm

    I come back to this video, realizing that somehow I missed the news about Willy. He not only brought immense joy into your life, but by sharing him with us, we got to share in his life too. Losing a pet is losing family. It is not easy, as a pet becomes a part of your daily routine. It breaks my heart to know that Willy is no longer with you.Thank you for sharing his adorable elusive head-turns with us and letting him bring joy into our lives as well. Willy will be missed by all.

  • Reply Camille Ramrekha March 29, 2018 at 11:30 pm

    "Walk on, walk on, with hope in your heart and you'll never walk alone…"

  • Reply Watchmaker Fs March 29, 2018 at 11:49 pm

    I remember vividly this 2005 game, it was so epic!

  • Reply Seren Walstrom March 30, 2018 at 12:49 am

    Oh my gosh. John Green. You are one of my favorite authors and I love the fault of our stars. I am 12 and love to emotion and beauty that you put into that book. I think you are a hilarious inspiring person and I would love to meet you. You would make my whole entire day if you would reply. Thanks, Seren

  • Reply George French March 30, 2018 at 1:08 am

    Have you seen ‘15 minutes that shook the world’ great dramatisation of this epic match ! ❤️

  • Reply steffenml March 30, 2018 at 2:03 am

    You are a Liverpool fan!? Oh, John. Ooooh, John. I am very saddened to hear this.

    But since you know how rivalries are in England, I hope you understand how much I like and respect you when I tell you I will keep watching your videos and reading your books – despite me being a manc.

    Still. I have to admit I am disappointedz

  • Reply ThoughtSP95 March 30, 2018 at 2:18 am

    What a great story, I loved this video so much

  • Reply Kerri Cz March 30, 2018 at 3:04 am

    You are such a great storyteller. I love this video! I'm so sorry for your loss. <3

  • Reply Rangermsg 04 March 30, 2018 at 3:19 am

    Freaking Italians lost twice because a goalie started dancing.At least that wasn’t Napoli

  • Reply Abby Howe March 30, 2018 at 4:26 am

    Hi John. I’m really sorry to hear about Willy. I know that’s kind of a cliche thing to say to someone when someone they love passes away, but I really am sorry to hear. I know how hard it is to say goodbye to someone you don’t want to say goodbye to. Willy was lucky that his family loved him so much and that he led such a great life. And, if you think about it Willy probably has more fans than most humans :). You’re an awesome human for giving him that awesome life (among other things) and I hope you and your family have been doing better. Again, I’m so sorry❤️

  • Reply Mattteus March 30, 2018 at 4:30 am

    wait… is his name spelled "Jerzy" in Polish? shouldn't it be pronounced "yezhih"?

  • Reply Mattteus March 30, 2018 at 4:32 am

    keep it weird (…but not too weird)

  • Reply Casey S March 30, 2018 at 5:14 am

    I am so sorry for your loss. He was a good dog.

  • Reply Three Over March 30, 2018 at 9:43 am

    YEAH!!!

  • Reply kathmonkey March 30, 2018 at 11:49 am

    I have found that, at least 7 out of 10 times, the right decision is usually the weird decision

  • Reply Amanda Olsen March 30, 2018 at 12:15 pm

    Sitting in my car, nervously waiting for my dog to be groomed for the first time, crying about British soccer teams.

  • Reply William Remsen March 30, 2018 at 12:36 pm

    Excellent!

  • Reply Karla PS March 30, 2018 at 1:15 pm

    This is such a great, weird story. I'm sorry for your loss, John.

  • Reply OBearry March 30, 2018 at 3:53 pm

    Thank you John. Your stories are fun 🙂 <3

  • Reply Katrin _Dash March 30, 2018 at 4:00 pm

    Hello, I read your novel "The stars are to blame." In it, Hazel asks what happened to the heroes of the "Tsar's disease," so I wondered what would happen to Hazel, her mom, dad, Isaac. Answer, do not be Peter.)

    sorry for the mistakes, I'm from Russia

  • Reply Francesca Mele March 30, 2018 at 4:08 pm

    No, John, we definitely did not need to like sports to enjoy this video. Beautiful!
    And I'll be praying for you and your family during these days, I really hope you'll feel as peaceful as possible, as soon as possible.❤️

  • Reply Meg Smeltzer-Miller March 30, 2018 at 4:37 pm

    I don't even know if I can quite put into words why, but I really needed this today. Thanks, John.

  • Reply Leonor S. March 30, 2018 at 5:39 pm

    make this the beggining of a book please, i need a follow up to "sometimes, the right decision is the weird decision"

  • Reply Ashley H March 30, 2018 at 5:40 pm

    STOP MAKING ME CARE ABOUT SPORTSBALL JOHN I DON'T WANT TO CONSTRUCT A NEW IDENTITY AS SOMEBODY WHO LIKES SPORTSBALL

  • Reply sylusylu March 30, 2018 at 10:55 pm

    Dżersi Dudek <3 At first I thought he changed his original name to Jersey and then I realised. OOOOH.
    but love the story anyway – I'll keep it in my mind: if in doubt, dance. : )

  • Reply CelesteofOz March 31, 2018 at 1:04 am

    you are such a good story teller, I feel the need to hug you as tho we are both on pitch : D

  • Reply madeline krane March 31, 2018 at 1:41 pm

    May Willy rest in peace. He was a wonderful dog and he meant a lot to nerdfighters.

  • Reply Nathan's Art Project March 31, 2018 at 3:04 pm

    This is better than ESPN

  • Reply coramonster March 31, 2018 at 6:02 pm

    Always go weird or go home. 🙂

  • Reply Valery Zulaica March 31, 2018 at 7:07 pm

    How can a 4 minutes video make me cry so fast?

  • Reply Mariposa Redimida March 31, 2018 at 7:10 pm

    I'm so sorry about Willy… hugz

  • Reply msnino March 31, 2018 at 8:55 pm

    YNWA

  • Reply Brittany Mechler March 31, 2018 at 9:33 pm

    During that stretch about lying awake at night imagining yourself in the goal, ready to save the game for your team, I could really feel myself there. I had this thought like, "Wow! John is really good at telling stories! … Oh." 🙂

  • Reply diy dreamer March 31, 2018 at 11:32 pm

    "I'm in love with you, and I'm not in the business of denying myself the simplest pleasure of saying true things. I'm in love with you, and I know that love is just a shout into the void, and that oblivion is inevitable, and that we're all doomed and that there will come a day when all our labor has been returned to dust, and I know the sun will swallow the only earth we'll ever have, and I am in love with you." John green I love your book and I know this is off topic with your video but please make more books, because they are my life!

  • Reply SophieHatterLeFay April 1, 2018 at 12:14 am

    I cant believe i have lived through the life and times of the great fireball robert wilson, you will be missed

  • Reply Jason87241 April 1, 2018 at 1:41 am

    This is instantly one of my favorite blog brothers video of all time and exactly what I needed right now. Take care John

  • Reply The New Travel April 1, 2018 at 4:47 am

    As an AS Roma supporter…. there was nothing beautiful about the first part of this story 🙁

  • Reply Anon Ymous April 1, 2018 at 9:54 am

    And soon, Loris Karius will do a weird dance to save a game winning penalty in Kiev.

  • Reply dentoncrimescene April 1, 2018 at 11:18 pm

    Why do people care so much for dogs and so little for cows pigs and sheep?

  • Reply NexebNoXV April 1, 2018 at 11:21 pm

    Please tell more sports stories!

  • Reply Devangi Agrahari April 2, 2018 at 3:13 am

    TOO FAST,SPOKEN ENGLISH

  • Reply J H April 2, 2018 at 7:21 am

    Oh dear god! There's hope!

  • Reply baddmanaz April 2, 2018 at 11:53 am

    A green talking about the reds. Color me impressed!

  • Reply sarahflode April 3, 2018 at 1:23 am

    Sorry for the loss of your family’s good friend. It’s tough, but sharing a strange and wonderful thing feels apt, as is the experience of having and loving pets.

  • Reply mary gallion April 3, 2018 at 1:58 am

    ATTENTION NERD FIGHTERS DOES ANYONE KNOW JOHN GREEN'S E-MAIL ADDRESS?
    btw I'm so sorry about Willy

  • Reply Inglês Sem Medo April 5, 2018 at 5:02 am

    John is a storytelling genius. I've never cared much for soccer, but this was cool!

  • Reply Valter Bitencourt Júnior April 8, 2018 at 4:05 am

    Welcome!

  • Reply Liz Aguilar April 9, 2018 at 12:37 am

    My son plays soccer. He liked the story. Your shows are pretty cool.

  • Reply Talia April 9, 2018 at 4:14 am

    From the depths of nerdfighteria: we love you, Fireball Wilson Roberts alias Bubbles the nerdfighting puppy alias Willy.

  • Reply Gregory Dunne April 9, 2018 at 12:52 pm

    There is an interview with Dudek explaining the whole story here – http://www.liverpoolfc.com/news/first-team/134060-dudek-thanks-carra-for-istanbul-advice

  • Reply Matt Chapple April 10, 2018 at 9:10 pm

    I woke up my neighbours across the street in 2005 when Smicer scored…still dream of that night

  • Reply Frea April 14, 2018 at 2:26 pm

    What's the miracle of Istanbul?

  • Reply Peter Mysels April 14, 2018 at 10:51 pm

    Hi John,

    I just finished reading Turtles All the Way Down and it was great. I really enjoy your writing and I look forward to reading more work by you in the future. P.S. Loosing a pet is so tough. I’m sorry to hear about his passing. Perhaps think in the context of your book…

    I wonder how Aza would look upon this time?

  • Reply pennymac16 April 15, 2018 at 5:45 pm

    Uhm…correlation =/= causation? o.O I find it a nice story though FeelsGoodMan

  • Reply Whispy April 18, 2018 at 7:05 pm

    no offense, but i think i passed out laughing at the way you pronounce "Jerzy Dudek" (the correct way would be something like ye (like in Yemen)-zhi (like in "vision"))

  • Reply Joanna BW April 23, 2018 at 11:34 am

    Only John Green can almost bring to tears with a cheesy soccer video 😀

    I'm so sorry about Willy! It is so hard to loose a dog friend! My thoughts are with you and your family

  • Reply TheMoreTheMaryer May 6, 2018 at 9:35 am

    John makes me care about things I never would've cared about

  • Reply JukeMaster May 6, 2018 at 2:58 pm

    sometimes u gotta switch it up

  • Reply Emily Newhouse May 7, 2018 at 2:40 pm

    Oh my G-d, John got me teary over football/soccer

  • Reply MrCordycep July 2, 2018 at 9:12 am

    The funny thing is, Jerzy Dudek would quickly lose his starting position to a new acquisition Pepe Reina. Andriy Shevchenko would later transfer to Chelsea in at the time, the most expensive transfer fee (estimated anyway) and be fairly ineffective there. Jamie Carragher would continue to be a stalwart defender for both Liverpool and England, but miss a vital penalty in the 2006 World Cup quarter final match against Portugal as would the normally talismanic Stephen Gerrad who rallied Liverpool (not for the last time) on that fateful day.

  • Reply Rachel Criss July 2, 2018 at 4:35 pm

    He’s just so good at telling stories

  • Reply Valery Zulaica July 4, 2018 at 5:32 am

    I don't know why but each time I watch this video it makes me cry.

  • Reply Роман Футорняк July 19, 2018 at 9:56 am

    Too bad that Sven Karius is not Dudek (or Grobbelaar). Had a great hope for penalties and this story to come true once again. Definitely maybe next time 🙂

  • Reply Maja Przybysz September 15, 2018 at 8:08 am

    Hi from Poland❤️

  • Reply Emma Lindsey September 24, 2018 at 1:15 am

    I am sorry for being incredibly late to the comments section. Godspeed Fireball Wilson Roberts Green. We miss you. I know how hard it is to loose a non human member of your family.

    I used to have a cat, and he was amazing. His name was George, and his fur markings made him look like he was wearing a tuxedo. He cuddled with me every night, and waited for me every day after school. He was the first cat I ever had in my life, and I love him so much. But he was a survivor. About a year and 3 ish months before he died, he had his first near death experience. He stopped eating, lost an unbelievable amount of weight, and wasn't acting like himself. But one day, by some miracle I got him to eat again. Flash forward to a week before he died. He stopped eating again, and this time he didn't start eating again. We couldn't even get him to eat special food designed to temp cats into eating, even though it was the equivilant to living off milkshakes. One day I was walking out of the living room and saw him by the stairs to the basement. He was struggling to climb up, and his breaths were laboured, and shallow. After they… injected him, and his heart stopped beating, my parents made us leave the room. I still remember this horrible, horrible day. I am so sorry for your loss, and I hope Willy is happy. You never really move on, but that is okay, because even animals matter.

  • Reply Christopher Warner October 25, 2018 at 8:34 pm

    I've gone back to this story a few times over the last few months when I needed a pep. Such a well told story!

  • Reply Martin Seaton March 31, 2019 at 7:57 pm

    This literally made me cry. Your storytelling is just beautiful.

  • Reply Emily McFarlane April 17, 2019 at 9:02 pm

    LIVERPOOLLLL AYEEE THATS WHERE IM FROM!

  • Reply Miles Emad April 24, 2019 at 2:02 am

    Hey I like Liverpool

  • Reply Ellen Ng June 11, 2019 at 3:37 am

    Who's here after Liverpool won number 6?

  • Reply Mazdi Husain Syed June 12, 2019 at 11:32 am

    Oh Liverpool <3

  • Reply whynotiris September 15, 2019 at 8:26 am

    I've heard about Jerzy Dudek many times as I am Polish, but before you said he was from Poland I had no idea who you were talking about as Jerzy is pronounced very different in Polish. It was fun to hear how an English speaking person would say it and the story itself is amazing 😀

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