Saturday, October 31, 2015

Smell ya later, Revs!

On Wednesday, I stood in the rain with a few thousand other similarly crazy people and watched our D.C. United run the New England Revolution into the ground. We fans were nervous going in for a few reasons, not the least of which is that we were coming off that horrible 5-0 loss to Columbus and if we lost this game, too, our season was over. Would the team be demoralized? Angry? Ambivalent? Determined? And then there was the addition of volatile referee Mark Geiger, whose antics had been dubbed "The Geiger Show" by our coach Ben Olsen a few years ago. Would the ringmaster unleash chaos on the field?

The evening was wet but unseasonably warm as we filed into our seats. The crowd at RFK a bit sparse due to weather and the short notice of the scheduling of the game. A tense opening 15 minutes was finally broken by a bicycle kick from New England's Juan Agudelo that sent the ball flying over Bill Hamid's reach as we all stood there stunned. The score was 1-0 to New England. But the tide would soon turn. A fantastic save from Hamid kept us in the game; Pontius equalized the score just before halftime with a skillful header.

And then the second half. The energy in the stands was electric, at least in our corner. Flags waving, chanting, a mist of water and beer in the harsh floodlights of RFK. New England was falling to pieces and it was only a matter of time before they completely collapsed... which they did, spectacularly.

The moment comes after my boy Rolfe misses a chance to take the lead when he misses his first penalty kick all season in the 75th minute. As he explained later, "I kept believing that I was going to get another chance and I was going to score. There was a split second there, maybe a minute or two after the PK where its running through my head and I’m like 'Wow, it’s just one of those days, you know, I don’t know what’s going to happen. I haven’t played 90 minutes in a long time, I don’t know if they’re gonna take me out.’ So I just cleared my head and tried to stay optimistic and kept making runs."

That's what it's all about, right there. Olsen trusting Rolfe enough to keep him in game. Rolfe trusting himself enough to brush off the missed chances. Nick DeLeon is seemingly cornered by some New England defenders, defenders so focused on the ball they don't mark Fabi running right past them. He picks up the ball on a backheel from Nick DeLeon and sends it gliding through the crowd of confused white-and-red shirts to Rolfe who puts it in the goal clean and simple. No theatrics. It was the communication, the teamwork that was thrilling... much more so than a single bicycle kick.

Because when it comes right down to it, what good is a single bicycle kick when it leaves you injured and having to come off? What's really impressive is staying in there, keeping focused through missed chances, keeping an eye on your teammates to be in the right position when the time comes. I got chills reading Rolfe's postgame quotes later; I honestly did. The ability to focus, to concentrate, to get the job done. In this age of smartphones and analysis via gif, of endless tweets and shortened attention spans, I aspire to that attitude. It's something I struggle with everyday. Trying my best to keep my head in the game and off the hamster wheel of mental distraction.

Soccer is 90 minutes away from all of that distraction. It's 90 minutes of being present in the present right in front of your face, something all too difficult to find these days. Bill Hamid--in a very sweet video you absolutely should watch--says a soccer game is like a symphony. Who am I to disagree? (Side note: #TeamSully)

Standing in the pissy weather, Rolfe jersey thrown on over my office clothes, I should have been exhausted from work and from 90 minutes spent yelling my ass off, but I was under the spell. Coming home and watching the highlights reel a million times, trying to hold onto the feeling of standing in RFK stadium in the mist, under the harsh light, breathless from excitement... It was a good game.

On Sunday we face our arch rivals, the hideously named New York Red Bulls, in the semifinals. What will happen? Who can say... but I know I'll be there.


(Yup, just thrown on over my librarian duds... I have so much laundry to do today. Oof. Dry cleaning bill sent to D.C. United? Heh. I promise I have movie-arts related posts coming. I PROMISE!!)

P.S. Thoughts are with Chris Pontius and his hamstring. I can't even imagine how shitty a mental place it sends you to as a professional athlete with a chronic injury like that. It must be really hard to push through the mental block. Stay strong, dude. See you at Whole Foods some time.

P.P.S. BOBBY BOSWELL, YOU BETTER COME JOIN US IN THE STANDS! (Or I'm linking everybody to your 2006 Cosmopolitan Man of the Year video...)

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