Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Last Single Taskers

Saw first professional soccer game last night, just after the rain, at a 50-year-old stadium holding 20,000 fans and families in a space for twice that many. 

For a neophyte like me, I was in the perfect group: Friends who knew soccer and played soccer, with the added bonus of knowing the history (and suspecting the future) of the team. I lucked out on this score. We live in an age where knowledge often substitutes for experience, and when the experience of playing is limited (football or hockey, for example), people heckle because they think they could do better or coach better, never having tried. 

Before the  game, the announcers ran through a litany of elementary and junior high school soccer teams as the players and coaches walked around the stadium. My favorite team was the Midnight Turtles, perhaps channeled from Marianne Moore. But the list was truly so long and so repetitive that you could hear the announcers lose sense of the words within the rhythm: blah blah blah grade 4 girls, blah blah blah grade 4 girls, blah blah blah grafergirls, blah blah blah grafergs. And that might be as close to a petscan of my own brain functioning as I'll ever get for free.

When the game started, each player walked on the field holding the hand of a small boy or girl from a school soccer team, which was so sweet. How cool must that have been for a little player? 

The game itself was really fun to watch, punctuated by smart comments and funny anecdotes. (Not mine!) These athletes play an amazing full-on 45 minutes each half, with very few player substitutions allowed throughout the game. Who does anything for 45 minutes at a time these days? Are these the only single taskers left in America? 

And we won, thanks to two goals by a player considered past his prime just a few years ago and traded away before being brought back.  What can't Obama do??

I have to compare this to other sports I see live: No voiceovers throughout the game: Yea! No statistics blinking at you from around the stadium like the eyes of some virulent spider: Yea! No dancecam, kisscam: Yea! No plastic blaring trumpets or horns: Yea! A mad hatter walking around beating a huge drum for us: Yea! (This last guy, Salvatore, was a well-known fan with his own fan base and a drum the size of a tractor tire. He paused in front of one man on the aisle who was totally dead to the world and pounded and pounded and pounded his drum--to no avail. Blessed medicated sleep.) 

It's also interesting to be in a place so unrefurbished. (Is there another word capturing more truly the opposite of onomatopoeia than "refurbish"?) Many things speak of an older age: The best views are still for the fans and not the corporations. The seats are narrow, built before the golden age of the American butt, but the leg room is vast. The seats are simply for sitting, watching, and disparaging or encouraging the teams--your choice--and not mini-cockpits with food and drink consoles.

 Not one of these things is a bother. 

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