“A horrible, cyclical and prophetic hell that never ends”

“A horrible, cyclical and prophetic hell that never ends”

Wrexham co-owners Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney before a match. (Photo: Reuters/Andrew Boyers)

First, and perhaps most important, is that Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney seem sincere. Of course, it is not easy to be completely sure: after all, both are actors and at the end, a 45-minute Zoom meeting maybe not the ideal format to measure someone’s soul.

However, if his enthusiasm and affection for Wrexham, the neglected Welsh football team they bought two years ago – along with the town he calls home – is an act, so it’s very convincing. These days, McElhenney watches Wrexham matches as he walks “back and forth, unable to sit still,” he said.. “There is nothing like the anxiety produced by football”.

In any case, compared to Reynolds, he did well. McElhenney has been a lifelong Philadelphia Eagles fan, which has been both a blessing and a curse and served to leave him. immune – up to a point – to the ravages of the amateureven after “falling deeply and madly in love” with Wrexham.

Reynolds, on the other hand, I had a pure and immaculate impotence. He had fostered a soft spot for the Canucks and Whitecaps, the hockey and soccer teams in his hometown of Vancouver, but admitted it would be overkill to identify as a fan.

At first, she wondered if maybe she was resisting the sensation. yesolo took a sideways look at some of Wrexham’s first games after they were acquired (by him and McElhenney) in February 2021. In his own words, it was “rather passive”. it didn’t last long. When he felt it, he felt it strong.

It’s a horrible, cyclical, prophetic hell that never ceases or disintegrates.“, he said, in what is certainly a sentence that suggests that Reynolds came to understand very well the appeal of football. “I love every second, but it’s a torment in equal measure. Every second is pure agony. It’s a new experience for me. I am in awe of people who have survived in this culture all their lives.

Wrexham co-owners Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney in the stands during a game.  (Photo: Reuters/Paul Burrows)

Wrexham co-owners Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney in the stands during a game. (Photo: Reuters/Paul Burrows)

In fact, neither McElhenney nor Reynolds had anticipated magnitude of emotional impact when, at the end of 2020, the first contacted the second to submit a proposal. McElhenney had spent a considerable part of the pandemic lockdown watching sports documentaries: The highly acclaimed “From Sunderland to Death” was one of them, and most notably an HBO series about Diego Maradona. McElhenney decided that wanted to add own production to canonand wanted Reynolds – who was more of an acquaintance than a friend at the time – to help fund it.

The result, “Welcome to Wrexham”, is touching, funny and charming, but also difficult to categorize. At one point Reynolds describes it – perhaps incorrectly – as a reality show”, but it seems reductionist. The same goes for the slightly euphemistic term “structured reality,” a genre recently typified by Netflix’s brilliant “Selling Sunset.”

But neither strictly speaking, a documentary, not in the traditional sense, not in the sense that “From Sunderland to Death” is a documentary. There is an age-old rule among wildlife photographers and documentarians that they are there to observe, not to intervene. Even David Attenborough follows the mantra of “tragedy is part of life”. To prevent it, he said, would be “distorting the truth”.

“Welcome to Wrexham”, on the contrary, it is inherently interventionist. Wrexham had been adrift, abandoned and hopelessin the fifth tier of English football for over a decade when he was acquired, out of nowhere, by two Hollywood stars. Reynolds and McElhenney don’t just tell a story. They also shape it.

A clear example of this occurs in what appears to be an innocuous cut in the middle of the second episode of the series. Suddenly, the viewer finds themselves in the home of Paul Rutherford, Wrexham’s veteran local midfielder. With obvious pride, Rutherford shows off all the work he and his wife, Gemma, have put into their home: they climbed the stairs, lowered the ceilings and installed a bathroom first floor.

But it turns out the house is about to get busier. The couple already have two children; a third is on the way. Rutherford is currently building the baby’s crib. Then we show you playing football with his eldest son. When finished, he carries it home on his shoulders. The scene is moving, entertaining and deeply disturbing.

Anyone who has seen a wildlife documentary in which a young giraffe is separated from the herd, or a horror movie in which a teenager suffers a blackout, or a “Match of the Day” segment showing a player receiving an innocuous early yellow card, recognize the signal. Something bad is about to happen.

Wrexham co-owners Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney before a game.  (Photo: Reuters/Andrew Boyers)

Wrexham co-owners Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney before a game. (Photo: Reuters/Andrew Boyers)

The bad thing, in this case, happens in Wrexham’s final game of the season, a few months after the acquisition. The team he must win to qualify for the playoffs. Rutherford, introduced as a substitute, is sent off for a reckless defensive tackle. We see him in the locker room, his chest heaving, urging his teammates to win the game without him. They can’t. Wrexham fail with a draw. Your season is over. Then we see a subtitle. Rutherford’s contract expired the following day and it was not renewed. They let him go. Rutherford was the giraffe.

That’s the cold reality of football, of course. It’s a sport that has no appetite for thrills and – at Wrexham level – they don’t have the money for that either. Countless players suffer the same fate as Rutherford all seasons. They are victims of the relentless cruelty of sport. His story, apart perhaps from the circumstances of his separation, it is nothing exceptional.

Reynolds and McElhenney are clear that although in the end, they are responsible, they are not the ones who made this decision. Team decisions are left to those on the pitch at Wrexham, those who know the sport far better than they do. No one gets hired or fired because it makes good drama.; his commitment, Reynolds said, is simply to do what is best for Wrexham as a whole.

“For me, sport only makes sense if you know what is at stake for someonesaid Reynolds. “What a player had to overcome to be there. What a club means to a community. If I think of the films that marked me; Is “Field of Dreams” a movie about baseball? Not really. It’s a movie about a father and his son trying to connect. It is this context that attracts you.

Ultimately, of course, what Reynolds and McElhenney have done in Wrexham is an inherently benign form of ownership, especially by football standards. They did not put the club in debt. They don’t use it for trying to clean up the image of a repressive state. They gave a club and a city a reason to believe, and all for the price of a few production crews with cameras.

Their property, they insist, does not depend on “Welcome to Wrexham” is a success. They’re in it “for the long haul,” Reynolds said, whether the audience is there or not. Sure, have already marked the history of the team and very probably of the city. But they are not mere observers. They are also involved in the story, so the team and the city did exactly the same with them.


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