What makes the movie great? Three things. First, tremendous and witty dialogue by the Cohen Brothers. Second, a complicated and brilliantly told story and third memorable characters who get into memorable (and often wacky) situations.
The launchpad for the story is a bizarre case of mistaken identity; a group of heavies for a porn kingpin target low-down bum Jeff “The Dude” Lebowski, an unemployed former radical hippy who lives in a slum apartment and who’s one major interest appears to be bowling.
They break in, see the state of the place, and realise he’s got nothing except junk. (When his car is stolen later it gets abandoned with the tape deck still in it. They don’t even steal his Creedence tapes!)
What this tells them is simple; he’s not the guy they’re looking for.
The guy they’re looking for is a millionaire.
A millionaire who just happens to have the same name.
They pee on The Dude’s rug instead and, because “it really tied the room together”, he goes looking for a replacement from the man he blames for the whole mess, The Big Lebowski himself.
I won’t go into any more of the film, which swiftly becomes a cross between Raymond Chandler and Monty Python. None of it is important, neither to this article or actually even to the movie itself, which is more a series of wonderful little moments than a coherent whole (although it does have all the constituent parts of a film; a beginning, a middle and end).
What’s important is The Dude, and the Big Lebowski.
Mistakes happen, even if you sometimes can’t understand how.
In the movie, The Dude, played by Bridges, is an unkempt shaggy, bearded scruff who lives on the down side of town. The Big Lebowski is much older, rich, an apparent go-getter. He has lost his legs, and is in a wheelchair, which he claims never held him back from becoming a success. (That’s a bunch of BS as it turns out!)
The contrast between them is summed up beautifully when, at their first meeting, The Big Lebowski asks if The Dude is employed. “You don’t go out looking for a job dressed like that, do you? On a weekday?”
And for a moment, The Dude is momentarily taken aback.
“Is this a … what day is this?” he asks, absolutely without a clue, or a care.
How could these two be mistaken for each other?
Because I get emails every single day asking me if I’m James Forrest the footballer.
I’ll tell you what I tell them. It’s an easy mistake to make.
He’s in his 20’s. I’m 39.
He is a professional athlete.
As anyone who’s ever met me in person knows full well … I’m definitely not.
I write, not just about football but other things and some of them are even more controversial than what I put on here and much of it is freely available for public consumption on Facebook and elsewhere.
If our young winger held and expressed such forthright opinions on everything from politics to celebrity culture we’d definitely have read about it in the papers. My twitter feed ranges from jokey comments to shocking expletives and whilst there aren’t a lot of pictures of me online they do exist.
I also post, frequently, when games are actually being played.
If I was the football player I’m sure someone, somewhere, would have noticed that …
In short, I look nothing like him, I’m fifteen years older, outspoken in a way he wouldn’t be able to be and sometimes, like The Dude, I spend my working day dressed in a way you definitely wouldn’t turn up for the office.
Yet the mistake still happens.
And especially right now when my Facebook picture currently shows a wolf, and has for weeks.
So let me tell you why we’re here.
Last night, I’m sitting going over an article on Jeremy Corbyn’s re-shuffle and Facebook is beeping away merrily on comments and likes for the piece I’d put up on The CelticBlog about young Aidan Nesbitt and how I reckon he’s our next mega-star.
Facebook now has a filtered inbox; that means there are some emails that get stuck in what they intend, I’m sure, to be something like the Spam folder you get in your ordinary email account. I check it every day, because sometimes people send me stuff and because they’re not on my friends list or connected to me except by six degrees of separation their messages get slung there.
Last night, there was a new message, from a guy in Moscow.
His name is Fedor Burdykin.
I’ve never heard of him, but I read his email, which seemed to be addressed to me, personally.
I couldn’t quite get what he was trying to say, or ask, but I had initially put that down to poor grasp of English.
(His, not mine!)
I was talking to my girlfriend at the time, and asked her what she thought.
She, too, was none the wiser.
And it was only when I realised that he, for some reason, had mistaken me for the footballer that it actually made sense.
I read it a couple of times and had a good laugh over it.
It reads thus:
“Hello James. Happy New Year. How are you? I’m Fedor. Agent from Russia. I looking winger Russia and Turkey. I like your game. What do you think?”
That’s it. Word for word.
So my attention, and curiosity, was awoken by this and I had a look at his Facebook page.
On it, he claims to work for a company called Sports Focus Group, who I Googled of course but couldn’t find anywhere.
There’s a link to their Facebook page on his, and I checked it out and it’s unimpressive to say the very least.
The page itself has only existed since last year.
It has a logo, but not a shiny special one. The kind you could do on your own.
There’s a single post on that page, written in Russian, but with a helpful translation.
“Agency activities: Standard Services Sports Agent – Search Club or tournaments for participation, the negotiations on the optimal conditions, permission of contentious situations, the involvement and support of the advertising and sponsorship of the contracts. We negotiate with dozens of sports clubs. Our main task, to create for the sportsman of the maximum comfort, with nothing to distract him from the game. We’re working the maximum openly, honestly, and at the result. Cherish our every client.”
A little broken, but understandable.
His Facebook page also contains pictures of a dozen or so footballers, but they don’t appear – on the surface anyway – to be clients of the same companies. His friends list is a little more interesting; amongst those he’s recently added to it is a youth coach at an Israeli club, an “intermediary” at the US Soccer Federation (who’s LinkedIn profile suggests he, too, has spent time as an agent) and a whole host of others, mostly minor players at minor clubs throughout the world … agents, footballers, coaches, PR people … you get the drift.
And who is Fedor Burdykin himself?
Well, as it turns out his Facebook page highlights the town where he was born; Voronezh. That was a big help when trying to identify him properly because that information is right there on his full profile on TransferMarkt.
He’s a 26 year old goalie, no longer at a club since leaving Russian side FK Khimki.
He’s played for five or six clubs in that country, all apparently lower league ones, since 2007.
All of which is to say that he’s genuinely involved in the sport, in a professional capacity, but appears to no longer be a player. He wouldn’t be the first failed footballer to go into the agent business, and it looks as if that’s what he’s done.
Now, I have no way of knowing if he’s registered or not, if he’s “official” or not, but that hardly matters less.
On the surface all this looks like amateur hour … but he’s not the first person to make the mistake and think I’m James Forrest, Celtic player.
Google James Forrest and Celtic and you’ll see how easy this mistake would be to make, for someone who wanted to contact him and ended up getting me.
So amateur hour, yes but only to a certain extent.
Because, of course, the objective of a back-channel approach would be to do it through the individual and not his registered representatives and, for sure, to keep it at arm’s length from the club.
I’ve read stories of agents and the dodgy ways some of them go about their business, and I also know that registered/unregistered, these are simply tags for those who serve as the public faces of those companies and that behind the scenes a lot of folk are doing leg-work on their behalf who don’t even work for those agencies in a formal sense.
If you were a big firm, or representing a big club, and you were looking to feel out a footballer in the last year of his contract and you wanted to do it in such a way as to arouse no suspicion and set off no red flags, well there are a lot of freelancers out there who could provide you with the deniability you need, keeping yourself at a distance whilst they do the graft.
I find the use of language in his email somewhat … specific.
“I looking winger Russia and Turkey.”
If you were a wannabe agent looking to set up a new business, would you care what position your clients played? This is more like a fishing expedition, an assignment, to go out and find a specific player type, like scouting, which I’m sure some agencies do.
But mostly on behalf of clients.
The reference to the countries themselves?
Well he’s clearly not looking for players from those countries, because mistaking me for James Forrest is one thing, but you’re not going to get someone’s nationality wrong, are you?
He’s looking for players to play in those countries …
So who is Fedor Burdykin, really?
Failed footballer, now agent, or so it seems … but working for who?
Who employs him now?
And who are they working for?
Someone in Russia or Turkey?
Well, that covers a lot of ground.
But there’s money in those countries, lots of it, as we saw when Fenerbahce came to town recently boating Robin Van Persie and a host of other big names. Russian football’s reputation as a big-spending, and somewhat lawless, football environment precedes it.
James Forrest isn’t everyone’s cup of tea (neither myself not the footballer!) but Ronny Deila rates him and he has actually been critical of his agent in the past month, wondering aloud in a press conference why he can’t get the guy on the phone.
Celtic, apparently, wants to tie the player up in a long-term deal, as his current one runs out in the summer of next year.
As it stands right now, he’s not technically free to talk to interested parties for another twelve months and I am sure that both he and his representatives are observing the regulations on that to the letter.
This article in no way relates to their conduct.
This is one of those weird wee moments I live for.
Sometimes I have to go and find stories.
Sometimes stories find me.
We’re not in any imminent danger of losing James Forrest to another club but it looks as if people are fishing around the margins.
Oh this might just be a young kid, representing himself, taking a punt … but that seems off, doesn’t it? Everyone knows that this isn’t the normal way agents approach footballers … it’s unprofessional at best.
As bizarre as this one is, it looks like something a little sneaky, something deniable, something that’s being undertaken on behalf of someone who doesn’t want to get personally involved.
And if that’s the case, Celtic should be keeping an eye on it.
I hope they are.
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