If you’re a product of the early 2000s like me, then I don’t need to tell you what this article is about. You automatically recognized the lovable cast of characters that from the Backyard Sports franchise, a series of PC games including Backyard Baseball, Backyard Football, and Backyard Soccer. This gang of quirky kids regularly took the field and bested child versions of professional MLB, NFL, and NBA players. My personal favorite was always Backyard Baseball, which I had both on PC and on GameBoy Advance.
For the uncultured plebeians among you who never had the fortune to play one of the Backyard Sports games, I’ll post a YouTube clip to show you what you missed:
To many, these blocky graphics and static dialogue may represent an archaic age of PC gaming that has since moved on to bigger and better things, but to me they represent a simpler time, back when it was socially acceptable to dance to “Rock and Roll Pt. 2”, the idea of the Red Sox winning the World Series seemed laughable, and Iraq still had WMDs.
I’m riding high off of 2000’s nostalgia, so I thought I’d have a go at comparing BVB’s players to different backyard sports characters. Without further ado, here are Borussia Dortmund’s players as Backyard Sports characters:
Roman Bürki: Tony Delvecchio
Tony Delvecchio is who your Italian Grandfather was back when he was playing stickball in Brooklyn in the 1940s. While he walks down the street, a gang of sycophants follows him around in matching jackets, praising his every move and laughing at all his jokes. His school’s theatre director pencils him in as Danny Zuko from Grease even before tryouts are held. He’s the prototypical cool kid, but despite his hardened exterior, Tony actually has a heart of gold, and all it will take is a well-adjusted blonde from Australia for him to realize this.
If I were to choose one BVB player who could win a fight outside a 1950s diner and then perform a well-choreographed musical number about it, it’s definitely Roman Bürki. He has that tough guy look, but he’s also a teddy bear on the inside. He’s more than willing to open up about his personal struggles. If you watch the Borussia Dortmund Amazon Prime documentary, you’ll see the natural leadership role that Bürki assumes.
He’s the “1” that I want! Haha, see what I did there?
Mats Hummels: Achmed Khan
Look, I don’t have a problem with Achmed Khan. He seems like a nice enough guy, but does anyone else get the feeling that this “cool guy” aesthetic that he’s clearly going for is manufactured? I get it, he’s into music, and he likes to wear headphones, but while he’s playing in a game? How exactly do those things fit under a batting helmet, anyway? How can we expect him to go for a header when doing so will surely break a $300 pair of beats?
There isn’t really a clear connection between Achmed Khan and Mats Hummels outside of their general auras. Mats Hummels has probably been Dortmund’s best defender this season, but can anyone deny the fact that he’s clearly trying to push the cool guy aesthetic a little too hard? Just look at this poser:
“Look at me, I read to schoolchildren in my spare time, aren’t I awesome, everyone?” Achmed Khan was a kid in a simpler time when Instagram didn’t exist, but if it did, you have to know that he’d constantly be posting selfies of himself listening to music or volunteering at animal shelters, like a virtue-signaling piece of shit.
Manuel Akanji: Dmitri Petrovich
Dmitri Petrovich is what peak performance looks like. The prototypical “alpha male”, Dmitri defeats his opponents with raw charisma and physical prowess, before he even needs to fire up that big brain of his... and when he does, you’d better watch out. He’s at his best as a catcher. He’s built an algorithm in his mind that perfectly determines which pitch to call and where to place it, and can decide in real time how to defeat every batter he faces. Pair him with a great pitcher like Angela Delvecchio or Jacob DeGrom, and you’ve got a combo that can take down any lineup in the world. He’s also the definition of a two-for-one deal, because when he’s not playing as catcher behind home plate, he doubles as the head of his team’s Sabermetrics department.
Manuel Akanji clearly isn’t the chick magnet that Petrovich is, but he’s definitely the brainiac of Borussia Dortmund. He can do mental maths insanely quickly, and uses his intelligence as a football player to position himself properly on Dortmund’s back line. Yes, he’s had his struggles recently, but he still has lots of promise.
Lukasz Piszczek: Stephanie Morgan
Stephanie Morgan doesn’t have the speed of Pete Wheeler or the power of Keisha Phillips, but if you want a veteran presence who can keep a level head in a clutch situation, look no further than Stephanie Morgan. Need a shortstop to handle a hard grounder and turn two in a bases-loaded situation in the bottom of the eight inning? Morgan is your girl. Need someone to slog through a nine pitch at-bat before legging out a single off of a slow-roller to third base to jumpstart a ninth-inning comeback? Morgan is your girl. Need someone to smash a chair over the head of some drunk, oversized Schalke hooligan who you decided to pick a fight with? Morgan is your girl.
Just like Stephanie Morgan, when the clock strikes noon, Lukasz Piszczek will be there in a heartbeat with ice in his veins, and he won’t put a foot wrong. Even though he’s almost 34 years old, and has the pace to show it, he’s still proven himself a valuable player throughout the season, most notably when he kept Neymar in his back pocket in the first leg of the Champions League Round of 16. The fact that Piszczek may have played his last game for Borussia Dortmund because of the COVID pandemic makes me very sad.
Emre Can: Keisha Phillips
Keisha Phillips is a decent baseball player, don’t get me wrong, but where she really shines is in Backyard Football. She’s got the size and skill to play any position well, but she’s best as a pass-rusher. If you’re a quarterback playing against her, you’d better remember to take a peek over your shoulder towards your blind side, because if she catches you with your head down, you’re gonna be in an ice bath for the rest of the day.
If any BVB player embodies the mentality of an NFL pass rusher, it would be Emre Can. The minute he arrived at Borussia Dortmund he established himself as a leader on and off the pitch, and like the best leaders, he leads by example. He was a one-man wrecking ball against PSG in the first leg. Just like Kiesha Phillips, he’s ridiculously strong: just look at how easily he pushes Neymar off his feet in this clip. Neymar went down so easily, it’s almost like he fell over on purpose to draw a red card.
What am I saying, that’s ridiculous.
Dan-Axel Zagadou: Ernie Steele.
I’ll keep this one short and sweet. Ernie Steele is a an absolute f$&king unit with the skills to match, and so is Dan-Axel Zagadou. If there’s one Backyard Sports character who could do this to Diego Costa, it’s Ernie Steele.
Axel Witsel: Dante Robinson
Holy moly, look at that hair. My god. It’s so dense, that he can rest his hat on top of his afro, and it doesn’t even compress an inch. Plenty of people have afros, but how many people have afros that are sturdy enough to support a baseball cap? The answer is one: Dante Robinson.
Dante Robinson is that guy your girlfriend tells you not to worry about. When you’re laying in bed next to her, staring at her in awe at how perfect she is, just know that Dante Robinson’s hair is what she’s thinking about, and that there’s nothing that your pathetic bowl cut that your mom gave you can do about it. Right now you’re probably thinking: hey, at least I’m probably a better athlete than Dante Robinson. Wrong. You think a man with such great hair is content with mediocrity in any other area of his life? Think again. Dante Robinson is a work horse. He’s not the quickest horse in the barn, but he kicks like a mule and hits like a bull, and when he’s on the ball in midfield, he’s as smooth with his feet as he is with a comb.
Do I even need to say why Axel Witsel is BVB’s Dante Robinson? Are you gonna make me say it? Really? You can’t put it together? Are you that dense? Do you need your vision checked? Do you need me to hold your hand through this?
Fine. It’s the afro.
Raphael Guerreiro: Amir Khan
Due to the legacy of his brother, Amir Khan will never get the recognition that he deserves. Is he the best player in the world? No. Is he a perfectly serviceable player who pays dividends upon dividends come playoff time? Yes. He’ll hit a reliable .260 during the regular season while batting seventh in the lineup, before breaking out and becoming a guaranteed baserunner during the playoffs. As you go back and watch the compilations of Pablo Sanchez’s 60 home runs per season, you’ll notice that on an awful lot of them, it was Amir Khan who was rounding the bases in front of him.
Raphael Guerreiro isn’t Dortmund’s flashiest player. He doesn’t rack up the goals or assists. He doesn’t score highlight-reel goals. He’s not very active on social media. But when you go back and watch those compilations of Håland and Sancho highlights, you’ll often notice that it was Raphael Guerreiro who made a key pass or tackle in the backfield, without which the play never would have developed in the first place.
Julian Brandt: Jocinda Smith
Pablo Sanchez gets all the recognition as the GOAT of the Backyard Sports kids, and rightfully so. Unfortunately, Pablo’s position at #1 means that Jocinda Smith often doesn’t get the recognition that she deserves. She’s a dynamic and versatile athlete. She’s an all-star Quarterback in Backyard Football, can hit for power and contact in Backyard Baseball, and would make an excellent dynamic attacking midfielder if she were to play soccer. Perhaps the best thing about her is that she doesn’t care that she’s not #1 in the neighborhood: she’s just in it for the love of the game.
Like Jocinda Smith, Julian Brandt is gifted in many aspects of the game. While he’s sometimes outshone by BVB’s high-scoring forwards like Håland and Sancho, it’s his dominance in midfield that provides the service that those forwards need to succeed. Brandt also seems to have a positive attitude on and off the pitch, something he shares with Jocinda.
Thorgan Hazard: Angela Delvecchio
Angela Delvecchio might not be as flashy or as charismatic as Tony, but pound-for-pound, I’d choose her any day over her greasy-haired brother. She’s indisputably the best pitcher in the game. She’s a Cy Young-caliber starter that can anchor any five-man rotation, but is perhaps best used as a closer. It’s a little-known fact that when Metallica wrote Enter Sandman, they were actually writing about Angela Delvecchio, because she’s where ninth-inning comebacks go to be put to sleep.
Thorgan Hazard is just like Angela because, while he doesn’t get the recognition that his older sibling does, he’s arguably the better player. Eden Hazard has been downright pitiful in his time at Real Madrid, whereas Thorgan Hazard has thrived with Borussia Dortmund. He has five goals and ten assists in the Bundesliga this season, whereas Eden has one goal and one assist in La Liga.
Thomas Delaney: Jorge Garcia
Jorge Garcia is mediocrity incarnate. He’s a career .240 hitter who leeches off his more talented friends, and cashes in on a six-year, $130 million contract from the Yankees after one season in which he hits .265 with 18 home runs. He’s an absolute drain on the team, but also has some useless skill, like being able to sac bunt or something, that somehow convinces half of the fanbase that he’s completely irreplaceable. Then, when he makes 140 starts in a season and the team is sitting at fourth in the division, everyone wonders what the heck happened
There are plenty of players who can accomplish everything that Jorge can. He brings nothing new to the table. You might even say he’s...
Marco Reus: Kenny Kawaguchi
Kenny Kawaguchi is a straight-up baller. In backyard baseball he can hit, he can pitch, and he can wheel his away around the bases like his wheelchair was a goddamn Rolls Royce. He’s got a positive attitude and is an all-around likable guy.
Marco Reus may not be in a wheelchair, but it definitely isn’t for the lack of trying. He’s suffered hairline fractures, torn muscles, ripped tendons, broken bones, sprained ankles, and even the Flu, and he’s somehow still running. Despite all those injuries, he’s still put together a very respectable career for Borussia Dortmund.
Achraf Hakimi: Pete Wheeler
To say that Pete Wheeler is as dumb as a brick is an insult to the brick. Bricks lack sentience, and are therefore incapable of being as stupid as Pete Wheeler. Pete Wheeler holding a baseball bat would be an immediate physical threat to anybody within his general vicinity, and would be generally ill-advised were it not for his ridiculous, torrid pace. This dude could reach the warning track from first base (the only trouble would be getting him to stop before he smashes into the wall). He can leg out a triple off of a bunt. He’s so fast that making him your running back in football is banned by the Geneva Convention for being “unsporting”. He’s the type of guy you want on your team, as long as you keep him away from any sharp objects.
Only one BVB player can hold a candle to Pete Wheeler’s incredible pace: Achraf Hakimi. He won’t beat Pete in a foot race, but he would put up a decent fight. In Hakimi’s defense, though, he’s not half the nitwit that Pete is. He’s made his fair share of boneheaded defensive errors, but at least I would trust him with a kitchen knife.
Erling Håland: Lisa Crockett
Lisa Crockett is the Daria of Backyard Sports. She doesn’t have time for your bull$&@t. She won’t laugh at your unfunny jokes, and she definitely thinks your half-baked attempts at comedic soccer articles are overly-contrived and a waste of everybody’s time. She’s quiet, but on the field she’ll surprise you. She’s aggressive on the base path, and if you’re not careful, she’ll catch you sleeping on a breaking ball and steal second, and then tag up to third on a shallow fly-ball to right field. She can strike without warning, with ruthless efficiency.
Like Lisa Crockett, Erling Håland doesn’t have time for small talk. He constantly ignores or downplays stupid questions from annoying journalists. He’s a no-nonsense guy who makes you work for his respect. He’s just as ruthless on the pitch. He scores goals in buckets. Despite his height, he doesn’t score a lot with his head. Instead, he finds open space with his predatory instincts, and is a natural finisher.
Jadon Sancho: Pablo Sanchez
I had to save the best for last, and Pablo Sanchez is indeed, unquestionably, the best. Without a doubt the single greatest athlete of all time, Pablo Sanchez is proof that size doesn’t matter. His legendary intro music has signaled the demise of countless impotent opponents, whose futile resistance was brushed aside by Pablo’s athletic prowess. His overall talent is so great that it transcends traditional statistics. For instance, in Baseball, his WAR is so high that it can’t be represented by a real number, and is instead represented by the mathematical concept of the right-hand limit of 1/x as x approaches zero, or the “Pablo Constant” (see the graph below).
If you were to somehow clone Pablo Sanchez and have him play against himself, the result would be a positive feedback loop of energy increasing at a geometric rate. As the game approaches its climax, the inability of either Pablo Sanchez to lose would cause energy levels to approach the constant of the speed of light and thus cause spacetime to slow down infinitely such that the remaining time would be represented by the limit of 1/X as X approaches positive infinity: a number that approaches infinitely close to but does not reach zero. The final score in such a scenario would be represented simply by 1/0, or undefined. Such an event can only be simulated in a computer, for if it were to take place in reality, it would cause a ripple in spacetime that would destroy the observable universe.
Obviously, to compare Jadon Sancho to Pablo Sanchez is an outrageous insult to Pablo Sanchez and, as I understand, legally punishable as blasphemy in 18 countries. That being said, if there were one player on BVB who would even approach the level of Pablo Sanchez, it’s Jadon Sancho. The young Englishman is probably BVB’s most talented offensive player right now. He can score, provide assists, and help out in the buildup of play. There’s a reason BVB are demanding such a hefty price tag for his eventual sale.
Manchester United Whichever club eventually buys him will have quite a player on their hands.
He’s still no Pablo, though.
Thanks for reading.