Soccer – The Most Important of Life’s Unimportant Things

September 27, 2006


by @ 9:05 am.
Filed under Uncategorized


Frankly, I was starting to get worried. So many of my road trips to Pizza Hut Park this year have ended as losses, the word “jinx” was starting to creep out of my subconscious and into the frontal lobe with alarming regularity.
I mean, I’m not superstitious or anything, but when that many losses coincide with that many road trips, one starts to move away from superstition and enter the murky world of statistical certainty.
Fortunately, I failed statistics in college, and I wouldn’t know statistical certainty if it bit me on the big toe. Thus, I felt it was safe to hit the road Saturday and head down to the Friscoplex for the night’s meeting with ReAL SaLT LaKE, or however they spell that deal.
Sadly, the lovely Cid could not accompany me, so I was rolling’ solo in the Camry, with a few bucks in my pocket, a tank full of $2.00 gas, and some specially prepared personal mix CD’s crankin’ from the stereo (”personal mix” in this case meaning “nothing recorded after 1990″).
I know that sounds like a recipe for trouble, but I was bound to be on my best behavior. Partly because I fear the lovely Cid, partly because my friends in the Inferno, I believe, are secretly plotting to add a “no Cid, no game” provision to my membership. I don’t totally disagree with that, by the way. I hate not having her with me.
The game itself was full of Goalkeepery goodness. First, we had our old friend Scott Garlick netminding for Salt Lake. Great guy, one who served us well for lots of years. I point that out to underline my (minority) opinion that the man categorically did NOT deserve the pounding he took from the Inferno.
Joe Cannon? Yes.
Kevin Hartman? Oh yeah.
Zach Thornton? Sure.
But not Scotty. He’s our guy. He’s one of us. I could not, for instance, take part in any of the uglier chants that were being flung his way, like, say, “Dal-las Re-ject.” That was uncalled for. As were some of the things said about the man’s ancestry. Now, okay, I did chant “mussssssssstache…..musssssssstache….” because let’s face it, that’s funny. But I can’t abide being ugly to the man. He’s a good’un and deserves better from us.
And then, on our side, we had the PHP debut of Shaka Hislop. Our very own T & T World Cup hero. He had a sharp game, even if RSL didn’t give him much to do apart from gather up some stray through-balls, and track down the occasional long cross.
The one goal he conceded was actually a pretty fine finish from Jeff Cunningham, from a breakaway. No shame in that – it was quality work from the man. 
There was a brief discussion among the Inferno about taking up a collection for Mr. C so he could afford a good barber when he got home to Utah. He was having what my wife would refer to as an “unfortunate hair episode.” But then someone pointed out that was probably just how the young people do their hair these days, and so the subject was dropped. Plus nobody wanted to spend their beer money. But I digress.
So as if Garlick v Hislop wasn’t enough, along about halfway through the first half, there was a buzz, a stir, a commotion, a “brouhaha” if you will, just a few rows above me. I turned around to see what it was about, and what do I see?
The man. El León. Dario Sala.
Hangin’ with the Inferno.
Does it get any better than that? Say what you will about the status of soccer as a second-tier sport in this country, and how it will never have the following it has around the world, but let me ask you something. When’s the last time you think something similar happened in an NFL stadium, not to mention MLB or the NBA?
Let me step out on a limb here and guess. I’m gonna go ahead and say it was, oh, about NEVER ago.
(Granted, you occasionally see a player in the stands at a Pistons game, but that’s a different story altogether.)
Yet there he was, along with his wife Margot, laughing, visiting, and generally feeling at home, as if among friends (which they were). Though I’m not sure how much of the game Dario saw, being as he was unwilling to say “no” to any of the young kids who wanted to meet him and get an autograph (okay, let’s don’t lie, there were also the middle aged geeks like me who wanted pictures, too).
Not only that, but in a totally original (and, I’m willing to wager, unprecedented) move, Dario actually asked all of us for our autographs. He was wearing an Inferno t-shirt, and insisted that each member present sign it for him.
Class. The man is pure class. He is Plato’s ideal, and Joseph Campbell’s archetype, of class.
Margot, too. She actually chatted with Cid on the cell phone for five good minutes. Then she handed the phone to Dario, who razzed her about missing the game.
Additionally, Dario is quite the raconteur. Listening to him tell us the first-hand story of the now legendary “don’t even look at me” game against Tigres in the Rio Grande Cup was priceless. It was like having Willie Mays describe the catch he made to rob Vic Wertz in the ‘56 series. Incredible.
As for the game (oh yeah, the game!), well, it was pretty well sewn up by the 15th minute. Two quick goals and the Lakers never really threatened. Even after Cunningham pulled one back in the second half, there was never really any danger they were going to go ballistic and rob us like they did last weekend.
The first goal came from Vanney, who hit a beautiful left footed cross from the right touchline. It curled to within a yard of the far post where Carlos Ruiz headed it straight down and beat Scotty to the near post. I don’t think Carlos scores with his head very much, so it was nice to witness.
The second goal, I’m sure, will be a Goal of the Year candidate; if it isn’t, they should just stop having such thing as a GOTY. Kenny Cooper, streaking down the left side (in the soccer sense, not the fad-from-the-70s sense) gets to the 18, stops on a dime, looks up, then chips a long, curling shot to the far post. Scott Garlick (along with everyone else at Pizza Hut Park) just watched it, expecting it to go way high and wide. Then the ball just dropped like a dead duck and fell under the cross bar.
It was impetuous. Homeric. Not one in ten players even thinks to try that shot, much less make it. Poor Scott had this empty, disbelieving look on his face, like, say if you went to start your car in the morning only to see a small, flaming meteor come down from the heavens and smash it to smithereens. Not his night.
After all that, it was on to the official Inferno after-party. Unfortunately, I cannot go into detail about this particular soirée, for I have had to invoke the “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” rule for very good (if not immediately obvious) reasons. Sorry.
Anyway, see you next weekend for Columbus Motley Crew.


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