The Devil Went Down to Jeonju

Oh, right, I do paint things, not just write up travel diaries, right?


I’ve wanted to do this one since 2007, since his hat trick vs Ecuador. Back then, it was just kinda arrogant. But when USSF announced the 10/10/14 friendly with Ecuador in East Hartford would be Landon Donovan’s last time for the red, white, and blue, I knew this was the time. And now, more than boastful, the slogan veered right into “mean.”

The challenge with this one: Hide “bitch” without making it look cutesy and corny. I can’t stand it when people do that; it ends up calling more attention to the swear word than just outright saying it. But I also know full well stadium and TV rules, so an uncensored banner wasn’t going to work. Instead, I angled the text so all of it runs behind him, like he’s sliding in front of an ad board on the sidelines.


Which he was, in the source material–I wanted to use a shot where his eyes are open, to emphasize the fury in the text. That shot’s from what’s now his last national team goal, the capper on the 2013 dos-a-cero Columbus qualifier.

Back to that text. “Mean,” “fury,” “fast,” “sloppy,” “intense,” “immediate” was what I was after. Hard to find a font that accomplishes all that and has the right height, width, and spacing to work with the placement. Tried a few, but settled on using my own handwriting, which is why the letters look a little inconsistent. That was the idea all along. I wanted a visual “mic drop.”

courtesy grant

Bundled it and last year’s O Redentor into a shopping bag I brought back from São Paulo and hauled it to Rentschler Field. Brian Hexel from AO had the great idea to set O Redentor at the end, near the player entrance and where corners would be taken, and then hang this one, officially titled “The Devil Went Down to Jeonju” from the capo stand. When Grant Wahl’s preview tweet of the banner blew up my timeline, I knew I had a hit.


Unlike last year in Columbus, Donovan didn’t score in front of himself. Came close, but it was not to be. And then at 40′ he walked off the field and that was it…until the game ended and he climbed the capo stand to chant with the crowd.


(Both source goal celebrations used in these two banners–plus the O Redentor itself–showed up in the highlight reel USSF ran postgame, which is cool)

I’d planned on going home with both banners, keeping O Redentor and sending an uncensored version of Devil to Landon c/o the Galaxy. But when I shoved over to collect O Redentor, someone from US Soccer (I think) asked if I was willing to part with it. Landon’s girlfriend and family had asked for it, he said. Well, this is kind of an expens–hell yes he can have it. On one condition: That he sign the piles of World Cup detritus I have from Germany and South Africa, which I’d be happy to send to LA. It was a deal.

Donovan finished his interview with Univision and came back over. Of all the nights to have forgotten my goddamned business cards, one of which HAS THE REDENTOR BANNER ON IT. And then, with the crowd crushing me from behind, scrambling for autographs and hi-fives, he just stood there and chatted with me for a few minutes as though we were the only two people in the park. As a 2002 convert I can scarcely imagine American soccer without the guy, but up to that point, I’d never actually met him, in all my years of dumb name-droppy stalker antics. And here he was listening to the story of the banners and how I was in the third row for US-Algeria and and and. I have no idea how I was able to be that coherent at that point, but it’s just about all on camera from ESPN3 (about the 24′ mark).

courtesy matt in philly

The last thing I said was he had an MLS Cup ring I’d really rather Taylor have had.

courtesy chris thomas

So thanks, Landon, for all the dos a ceros, for the Mexican lottery ads, for the water fountain, for the online chats where you took the stupid questions instead of the real ones, for calling for depression to be treated as a sports illness, for breaking the US men’s scoring record at a game I took my mom to, for Algeria, for Korea, Germany, South Africa, for the road to Brazil, for the last second labor deal to save the 2010 qualifiers, for a couple Gold Cups, for all the trouble, panic, adventures, heartbreak, and joy you’ve gotten me into over the past twelve years, and for one last crazy game story. Thank you.

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