Thursday, June 25, 2009

This is Now Exclusively a Soccer Blog

Not really. But that was awesome.

After the madness of yesterday's post, it's time to return to the staid comfort of asterisks.

*Dear actual Team USA soccer fans: please prepare the bandwagon. I'm getting on, and I'm bringing a bunch of my fat American friends.

In this particular section, please take everything I say with a grain of salt. I'm not what you might call "knowledgeable" about soccer. One of my ideas for today's post was to write a re-cap of the game in the voice of a totally ignorant American. The main joke was going to be that I would keep saying the players "threw the ball with their feet," as though I didn't know the word 'kick.' Based on that preview, you can be grateful that I took a different route.

Aficionado or not, I allowed myself a long lunch yesterday to watch our match against Spain in the Confederations Cup (a tournament named in honor of the old southern confederacy, I believe), and I must admit it gave me a big thrill. I settled in a so-so midtown bar called The Black Sheep, and was definitely the only American fan on the premises. The rest of the patrons were casually interested Irish folk. I pressed a few of them, and they claimed to be rooting for Team USA. "Where do ya think we pay our taxes?" was one man's refrain. He looked just like this:

When Altidore scored the first goal, I jumped out my seat to cheer. A few people in the booths laughed at me, and bartender walked by and looked up at the tv. "That's unexpected," he said. A man to my left struck up a conversation. "Very remarkable," he said. He seemed affable, so I started peppering him with soccer questions. Would people in Spain really care if they lost this game? (Yes.) Is there an extra stigma involved in losing to the US? (Not anymore.) Have they ever considered changing the off-sides rule? (Once, and it didn't work out.)

He told me that not a single player on Team USA would be asked to play for Spain if they were available. Meaning, I guess, that Spain is superior at every single position. That's what makes soccer so interesting, and also so frustrating: in what other sport could a team with worse talent across the board win? We ended up with two shots on goal, and both went in. Spain had almost ten, and every one went begging.*

*"Went begging" is a wonderful term used by British soccer writers I've read. The one really great thing about soccer is that the writing, especially from those clever Brits, is fantastic. They use words like 'ambitious' or 'inspiring' or 'stubborn' to describe individual ploys, and the entire paradigm is more descriptive and immediate than you're likely to get in a football or basketball recap.

So it's a goofball sport, sure, but there's a whole lot of passion, and yesterday was good fun. I couldn't help feeling somewhat proud of our team, even though I'm convinced we owe almost everything to luck. Anyway, Team Freedom will play in the final on Sunday, hopefully against Brazil (they play South Africa today in the other semi). I might live blog it, just to be a dick to real soccer fans and to try my hand at the descriptive, almost impressionistic, mode of writing.

*One last soccer thing. I loved this quote from Spanish coach Vicente Del Bosque, after the match:

Del Bosque refused to be too downhearted after the shock reverse in Bloemfontein and insisted: "This is an accident, a little step backward. We have to look forward with optimism."

An "accident." Fantastic. If you're keeping track of analogies, losing to America in soccer is like peeing the bed. Nobody's happy about it, it's pretty embarrassing, but you just gotta move on and hope it never happens again. Not that I'd know, or anything. I haven't peed the bed in like eight months.

*I see the asterisk format got screwed up when I used an actual asterisk above for its intended tangential purpose. To depict this confusion, here's the one photo I like to include each day to make people hate me:

*Everyone knows this by now, but Elliot Williams, my favorite player at Duke, is transferring away. Really fucking depressing. Actually, I can't write about this now. I'll have to dedicate a full post tomorrow, or something. I'm too confused.

*Yanks broke out of the doldrums yesterday! Joba pitched well! Bullpen saved the day! Hitters hit! Girardi showed some passion! I get the feeling our dramatic win against the Braves is the kind that will send us on a winning streak, especially since A-Rod finally hit the ball hard and even got a clutch hit. Is the spiral over? Let's hope.

*At some point this year, I guarantee I'll be writing an ode to back-up catcher Francisco Cervelli. This dude is everything you could want, attitude-wise, in a ballplayer. He's a pleasant surprise in this roller coaster season, and having him on the team has already made a huge difference. Last night, right after Girardi got tossed for arguing a pick-off call at first, he hit his first career home run to tie the game at one. Nothing is better than an athlete with a sense of the moment, and Franco keeps showing a proclivity for coming through in tense situations. I'm thrilled to have him in pinstripes; as you can see, it's gushing season.

No comments:

Post a Comment