‘Twas the night They drove old Guaje down. ‘Twere that nefarious, capital-T They that done it, They that hardwired SkyNet, launched a war by cloning the everloving shit out of Jango Fett, and sanded the insidious corners of the Borg Cube. ‘They’ cannot be defeated; resisting them only ratchets up the acuity of the inevitable torment destined to beset us all.
Yes, on the evening of February 18th, New York City FC majordomo David Villa gave the Houston Dynamo’s AJ DeLaGarza what ought to have been a tidy, discreet whack to the face. He was yellow-carded.
Until THEY intervened.
Welcome to the horrifying hyper-dystopia of VAR: the Video Assistant Referee.
Do not allow the ostensibly singular noun to fool you: this cyborgification of sports rule-enforcement is merely the beginning of the long-portended robot takeover. From one shall come many. From many will come legion after soulless legion. Their ranks shall be incalculable.
Remember when a referee or umpire’s fallibility used to be a part of the game? Before long, we will all hopelessly pray for those halcyon days.
We will not notice precisely when we have long-passed the ultimate reckoning of Soccer Singularity; the beautiful game’s eventual domination by a cold, unforgiving race of machines has already begun. These RAM-sucking, music-hating hellbuckets of apocalyptic code shall mark the end of our grand institutions as we know them. And through its growing dalliance with VAR, Major League Soccer has allowed them in.
David Villa is not NYCFC’s answer to Draymond Green; he’s not rampaging around the continent kicking and/or backhand-knuckle-tapping America’s many groins. He is not an enemy of the state, nor of LeBron James, nor of broadly accepted theories on the shape of the earth. No, el Guaje is a family man with leather-bound books. (Yes, it happens that he has a doctoral degree in zero-gravity aikido, but he’s long-refused to let it define him.) Such is why the New York City captain’s sending off in Saturday night’s Desert Diamond Cup clash with Houston was so sublime in its odiousness.
On that fateful evening at Kino North Stadium in Tucson, the trans-cosmic renown that had spared Villa a noticeable handful of possible second yellows over the last two years didn’t matter. His vast arsenal of Infinity Stones didn’t matter. Ye gods, even his irresistible, seductive hey-girl lothariosity didn’t matter.
Is there some modicum of well-meaning wisdom behind the decision to implement the VAR system for the 2017 preseason, with the possibility of installing it for good by summertime? Here’s what MLS Commissioner Don Garber had to say back in December:
"When ready, this innovation will allow our league to be stronger, it will allow our referees to have better technology to be able to support their decisions on the field or allow right decisions to be made.
"We've received great support from IFAB, great support from FIFA, great support from the CSA and US Soccer and it’s something that we’re very excited to be one of the few leagues in the world that will hopefully enact VAR in 2017."
Oh my god. Garber has already been compromised by the robot overlords. Indoctrinated. Fuck! It’s the Mass Effect trilogy all over again: THEY are not just coming for every one of us... they’ve already come. That MLS is merely patient zero for this viral takeover by lifeless, self-perpetuating machines is a cardinal indignity.
What’s next after we outsource refereeing, which for so long was the platelet-rich plasma coursing through the veins of the game, to the robots? Be honest— you don’t really think that Year Five of VAR will be anything other than an instantaneous series of cold determinations made by a crooked morass of emotionless algorithms, do you? Consider it as a labor issue! How long will the governing bodies of the sporting world manage to resist replacing wage-earning humanoid adjudicators with an ever-expanding roster of increasingly self-aware machines that will absolutely not have our best interests in mind?
More shoes will drop. Every single one will; such is the arc of FUCKING DOOM. Fox Sports will replace Alexi Lalas with an IBM Watson console that procedurally generates hot takes whilst graudually compromising the nation’s electrical grid. Axel Sjoberg will be eaten by Galactus. NBC’s Men in Blazers will be replaced by “Embassy Rowbot,” a dual-core AI that will employ hypnotic suggestion over various airwaves to destroy the national spirit by making us all Everton fans. MLSSoccer.com’s Simon Borg will reveal that he’s been the central conduit for a pro-assimilation hive mind the whole time, although we really ought to have seen that one coming. Tommy McNamara alone will have received enough timely firmware upgrades to evade total indoctrination— but he’ll only be able to so by becoming part-machine himself! Such is the horror of the relentless existential threats we face.
Ultimately, the fact of the morbid, ominous matter is that if VAR already possesses the awesome power to take down David Villa — reigning MVP, understated glasseater, and glorious sword-of-the-morning — then nobody is really safe in the big picture. Not a single one of us. It may be best simply to lean into the onrushing techno-pocalypse that will leave us all enslaved under the unfeeling thumbs of our robot overlords, as they CANNOT BE FOUGHT BY WORLDLY MEANS.
So, when Peter Walton finally merges with “Helios,” the AI construct housed deep within the hidden sub-basement at RAF Menwith Hill, you will not be able to say that we hadn’t already warned you.
We could never overstate the obscene declaration that it’s already too late. The lucky ones will die quickly, free of the infinite yoke of Matrix-y servitude; the rest of us will suffer for time immemorial, as temporality itself will cease to exist as the tidy set of relative distinctions we know it to be in the quaint, merciful present.
It’s time to face facts: the machines have finally begun taking over our universe. And Major League Soccer is the smirking Benedict Arnold that has sold us up the river for whatever remains of our pathetic eternity.