Monday, June 22, 2009

Mononucleosis Monday

Here's the sound of a narcoleptic head hitting a keyboard:


That was authentic, too. I wanted to see what would actually appear on screen if I just let my head drop on the keys. The first two times it met with emptiness, since I guess there's a default mechanism that types nothing if more than ten keys are pressed. The third time, I put my forehead near the caps lock key and sort of dragged it left to right in a sort of braying motion, creating the sequence above. Are you starting to understand what life is like for me?

Way back in the summer of '06, my first here in New York, I came down with a viral disease known as mononucleosis, aka mono, aka the 'kissing disease.' Except I didn't know I had anything, and the one doctor I saw in June refused to give me a blood test, insisting I had a severe flu (in September, a different doctor confirmed that I had mono, and that the disease had almost run its course). So for about three months, I slept all the time, didn't eat anything, and wondered what kind of fucking devil flu had taken over my body. The lowlight came when I couldn't even summon the energy to get out of bed on July 4th and see my favorite band, Belle & Sebastian, at Battery Park. I know there are a lot of you who want to make fun of me for the last part of that sentence, and this picture should help:

I remember being totally psyched for the World Cup that summer, and even though it took every ounce of energy to pull myself out of bed just to slouch toward work in the morning (after which I'd routinely sleep for about 13 hours), I still dragged myself to a bar called Nevada Smith's on the weekends to be around the partisans and experience the high drama of World Cup soccer. Once there, I'd have a beer, which is the worst thing you can do with mono other than running a marathon, and I'd immediately feel like hell and wonder why I wasn't having a good time.

World Cup '06 was probably the worst sporting events of my life. Not only did Team America gag on the big stage; incompetent refs took control of the entire tournament, and the one team that faked injuries the best (the eminently hatable Italians) won. Everyone who complained about the officiating in the NBA playoffs this year should watch footage of WC '06 to see how bad things can really get. The only good part of the whole tournament was when Zidane put the Italian dude on his ass with a vicious head-butt, and that ended up costing France the title.

Before the tournament, I thought of soccer as a slow but passionate game full of intricate ebbs and flows that subtly influenced the tenor, and eventually the outcome, of a match. When it was over, I thought of it as a tremendously boring sport where, past a certain skill level, the winner of any given contest was fairly arbitrary, and depended on who could cheat the most effectively.

That perception combined with the foggy viral outlook of the day, and created a viscous, frustration-based mental goop that became associated with "The Beautiful Game." I'd never been a really huge soccer fan, but after suffering through the Azzurri con artists' celebration in Germany, I don't think I watched ten consecutive minutes in two years. Then EuroCup 2008 came around, and I got suckered in again. This time, though, a very fun and deserving Spanish team took the title, and somewhat saved the sport's image in my mercurial brain.

So it was curious this morning, as I woke up with an extreme fatigue redolent of the Mono Era, when the most interesting item on ESPN was the US Soccer team advancing in something called the Confederations Cup. The headline merited a click because we'd lost the previous two group matches, to Brazil and Italy, and advancing to the semis required beating Egypt by three goals and having Brazil drop the same margin on the Italians. A long shot, but it happened, which I guess gives us the right to lose to Spain on Wednesday. Still, it's nice to see some international success for Team USA, even if it came in a typically soccer-like fashion; 100% lucky and about 70% undeserved. I had to laugh at Michael Bradley's post-game quote from this article:

"All of the critics in America who said we were no good after losing to Italy and Brazil, let's see what they say now," Michael Bradley said.

Well, Michael, I bet those critics are saying that you lost to the only two high-quality opponents you faced, and that if you lose to Spain, you'll have proven once again that the US isn't up to par with the cream of the international crop. But I'm no expert.

I don't know why I'm writing about soccer, but I do want to make this clear: if the morning's strange coincidences somehow signal a relapse into the mononucleotic abyss, I give up on life.

(Please, please, please let me get hungry at lunch time.)

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