On my way to Saturday’s Red Bulls soccer match at Giants Stadium (none of that was a typo), I was in line at Krispy Kreme for a little saturated fat. A bellowing ruckus erupted from whatever Paddy O’Hellhole McPub was there in the station. I, the dumb sports guy, had forgotten about the Preakness.
Valor only gets you so far in professional sports-far enough to be nowhere. Injury-plagued teams might hang around long enough in the playoffs to earn admiration, to win pride. But winning isn’t about pride, it’s about winning. Winning is one harsh mistress, based on a weird mix of greatness, luck and the other team screwing up. They don’t give rings for moral victories and they won’t have a parade for you defying expectations. Which is too bad, because parades can be nice.
As exhilarating as Mine That Bird’s underdog victory in the Kentucky Derby was, at the Preakness there was a new underdog in town. Girl Power was behind the filly Rachel Alexandra. And if we can’t yet have a lady president then we were goddamned due a lady horse winner.
I sauntered into the bar seeking answers-which for me, Mr. Angry No Drinky, is like Superman locking himself in a room full of kryptonite. But whatever, I wanted to know. I asked a dude who was watching the TV who had won the race. Maybe he didn’t speak English. I asked another guy. No idea. Some blotto blonde lady covered in beads turned her bolted-to-the-bar barstool to face me and proudly declare the cross-species victory for her gender. And what better place to take in that victory than Penn Station, let me tell you.
Later, sitting in row 5 of Giants Stadium to watch Houston and New York-Jersey get their American Club Football gave me some mixed emotions. Never again in my whole life will I probably sit that close to the playing surface of Giants Stadium (unless I attend another Red Bulls game, to which many tickets are available). I thought of that Cosmos documentary, with every damn seat filled to watch Pele and Company try to build a base for American soccer back in the Jurassic 70s. And I thought, what a nice place to sit quietly with ten thousand people and sip coffee.
I claim that I would watch anything with a score. Put a score on the bottom of “Parks and Recreation” or Opera/Ballet, I’m along for the ride gladly. My favorite sport is Curling, naturally. Ice shuffleboard with giant rocks? And have you seen the World Champion Chinese ladies play it? I’m a lucky man, me with my Universal Sports network.
The Red Bulls’ John Wolyniec tied the match with just minutes left. This was after many had given up hope and were probably driving home. The Red Bulls had played with a man down most of the match, and had managed only a few real chances to score. But Wolyniec had come on as a replacement, had fresh legs, brought some energy and had been in the right place at the right time.
A soccer goal is a homerun wrapped in bacon and orgasm. The silent fans were jubilant, and as we walked toward the exits bearing the tie we had witnessed, I thought, not a bad night out. And while I have a few exciting ideas for MLS tie-breakers (one scenario involves letting children shoot penalty shots) I salute the warriors of American soccer and those who bang the drum all night for them.
You can take all your overhyped (but blowout boringest) NBA Game Sevens-neither of which had many memorable moments that make sports fun to behold. Just give me one pure second, just when it seems nothing good could possibly happen. And give some big blond dude with a taped-up hand the chance to whirl and bury a shot into the corner. Sports gives dudes the right to feel stuff-it is nice when we get to enjoy those feelings. Just for the sport of it.
Yes, the Yankees can come back any night you want on the Twinkies. Remember: Johnny Damon isn’t juiced, the New Yankee Stadium is juiced. And Johan Santana may slit his wrists some night because his bullpen doesn’t love him enough. The underdog wheel keeps on turning-it’s a never-ending equation of who ought to win as opposed to who does win: Blackhawks, Nuggets, Royals. That most underdogs gets crushed makes the few that sneak through and actually win pretty sublime. I watched 3 hours of heads-up poker in which the first lady to make the finals was thoroughly bullied and defeated by some dude who was obviously stoned (he ate a banana in the middle of the game, like an asshole). You can’t win them all, genderfans. On to the Brickyard. The Indianapolis 500 looms large. That’s one of those car things, right?