As I watched the Cleveland Indians wish they would melt into the Fenway’s grass Sunday night, I was reminded of a time in my life when I wasn’t always a winner.
Roughly 20 years ago this month marks the anniversary of a soccer massacre. Here’s my story. The places and names have been altered to protect the incompetent and dim-witted.
We entered the tournament as a second seed behind some club from Western Quebec. Despite this, we felt confident – based on absolutely nothing but pure ignorance. We could take home the trophy. As it happened, the top two seeds did meet in the finals.
Prior to the showdown, our confidence only grew after we watched a semi-final game between our bitter inter-city rivals from the other side of town and our eventual opponents.
As we laughed at our rivals getting pummeled, one of my teammates – Jimmy – got up and said, “We can take these guys.” We all agreed. Meanwhile, a tall boy stood motionless with a menacing look and long hair, boasting an Iron Maiden t-shirt (Piece of Mind I think it was) and we all joked that it was thanks to God’s graces we weren’t playing against him.
Later on that day, we found that the guy in the Iron Maiden t-shirt was getting into uniform. He was the opposing keeper.
Before the game began, our coach called the team over. As we gathered with anticipation he looked around and said, “Guys, come closer. Listen…” I braced myself for one of those “I love you guys” moments – like the one in Hoosiers. He continued, “Listen. You’re going to get your asses kicked. Try not to embarrass yourselves.”
Oh the silent, stunned and suddenly sullen faces at that moment must have been priceless.
He clasped his hands together and added, “Okay. So have fun.”
Evidently he was putting into practice what he learned at the School of Soccer Psychology for Misplaced Deadpan Comedians.
This is the closest I’ve ever come to my Hoosiers moment.
The game started well enough for us. A few minutes into the game, Jimmy let one of his signature wicked shots wail. We all had our hands in the air and for a moment we thought we were going to be the first team to score on them.
Then, out of nowhere, the keeper – flat on his ass – sprung out like Mighty Mouse and punched the ball out into the air. He may have even deflated it. I don’t remember.
It was all downhill from there. They took over the game and we couldn’t wait for the oranges at halftime – Sicilian blood oranges were in season.
I distinctly remember the murmurs from our “supporters” (read: family members and “friends”) in the stands as they hurled creative, playful insults in three different languages.
We lost 6-0 – saved by the mercy rule.
After the game, we were told that the team who just spanked us silly was from the Indian reserves.
Now we were really perplexed.
“Indians play soccer?” we wondered. Such sheltered, wasted lives we led up until that point. Note: The term Native was not part of the ’80s lexicon. But “Relax (Don’t do it)” was.
At the end of the game the comments didn’t let up. “Look at the muscles on their legs!” our motivational coach blurted. “I bet they don’t go play video games like you guys. They know what it takes to win.”
Man that was harsh.
They know what it takes to win.
If there was one line that I took away from that forgettable, lukewarm autumn day, it was that one because it’s a true axiom in sports – wanting it more than the next guy. But we did try that day. It just wasn’t good enough. That sucked.
I’m sure the coach was proud of us. Maybe I blocked it out or something.
Still, I sure could use an “I love you guys” right about now.