Thirty six hours ago, Bryson and I left the drive way “Miami Bound” for two soccer games and a much-anticipated weekend with my college roommate Robin Singh. The drive was uneventful for me, but Robin’s sister was involved in a minor motor vehicle accident that required him to miss lunch. Bryson and I found a subway in Kendall a few miles from the field and arrived shortly after Man U and Reading kicked off. We watched the first half on the concession stand TV while the team assembled. It was scintillating as United led 4-3 after 45 minutes. It was not apparent at the moment, but the seven goal outburst set off a goal shortage extending to the artificial fields of Kendall.
We played a truly miserable game of football. The playing surface caused the ball to run quick and long. The strong winds effected the ball in the air. We had no discernable mode of play preferring to rely primarily on random acts of individual heroism. Kendall was not much better, and a nil-nil draw was probably a fair result flattering neither team. In two trips to Kendall, who is by all accounts a strong team, I have been subjected to a downpour, a mild windstorm, two crapfest games and one goal against the good guys. Let it not be lost on us that we left two valuable points on the field that I hope, but ultimately fear will prove costly.
After the game, we met Robin at the Residence Inn in Weston. He was poolside with his sister and her boyfriend, a boat captain with a propensity for dry, homoerotic humor. Beer and wings were aplenty, and after I dropped my bag in the room, I had both while Bryson texted me updates of the Alabama/Georgia SEC title game. Robin and I caught up with stories of professional and personal triumphs and tribulations before I reached my breaking point and needed to see the Tide.
The three of us made it over to Flanagin’s for some food and football. As Robin slickly obtained a table, Georgia blocked an Alabama field goal and returned it for a touchdown to lead 21-10 in the later part of the third quarter. I was bummed, and really wasn’t in the mood to suffer another adverse result on the day, but this is why it is good to be a bandwagon Alabama fan. They don’t go quietly into the night. They dig deeper in the soul, and fight. Fifteen unanswered points later and they lead 25-21. Georgia responds to lead 28-25. Alabama moves the ball upfield, but has a third and 10 from 35 yards out. AJ McCarron throws a fade route and they are in the lead 32-28. Georgia responds with a drive, but the game ends when they catch a deflected pass yards short of the goal line, and watched the clock run out as Mark Richt (who i hold in low regard from his days in Tallahassee) is without a timeout. For all the 42-7 thumpings the Tide deliver it is the games in Baton Rouge, at home against A & M and last night that make a dynasty. They lost one of them, but went down in a gun-blazing, testosterone-fueled fury of pride. Even in defeat their enormous character was revealed.
My alma mater FSU, once a source of pride and now….well it’s week to week, won the ACC title despite the quiet passing of their offense at half time. We had some great laughs with Robin, his sister and the boat captain. Notable moments included Robin giving our nose-ring wearing waitress a history on nose piercing that went back to India to a time when women were regarded more as chattels, then well women. She was suitably creeped out, but with a tip at stake played things out nicely.
This morning I awoke to a barrage of my own flatulence, no doubt the result of over-indulgence. Oddly, Robin, who was sleeping across the room, was not nearly as amused as I was. Suffering from guilt and caloric bloating, I went downstairs and shot the basketball for an hour on the hotel’s sport court.
We played Weston at 1:00pm. We scored two relatively early goals and seemed to have firm control of a mediocre game. Things then got interesting. As expected so far from home, it was difficult to get a marginal offside or foul call to go our way, but early in the second half the head referee lost control of the game. It would not come back to him. Chippy fouls gave way to reckless fouls and ultimately borderline criminal assaults. We lost a man with 30 minutes to play, and they lost one with 15. At one point, we managed, in the jaundiced-eyes of the linesman to be offside on five consecutive through balls. Both teams finished with ten men, but we had two goals to their zero and won. It was in my unique parlance, a double middle finger win.
In the broad scope of competitive endeavors, winning these games are important. You will never win a championship if you can’t win such a game. It becomes a street fight in which you are outnumbered by the exact amount of officials that govern your sport. You must find and ride the fine line of composure, the resilience of a Bastogne veteran, and the blood-thirsty visceral vengance of the Count of Monte Cristo. It is more fight than sporting event, but quite satisfying when it comes off.
What all this means to our presumably growing and evolving team remains puzzling as in truth we played very little good soccer and left two vital points in the depths of Dade County. We have, but two events remaining in this calender year and I haven’t again felt what I did leaving the Champion’s podium at Disney.