The Run of Play is a blog about
the wonder and terror of soccer.

We left the window open during a match in October 2007 and a strange wind blew into the room.

Now we walk the forgotten byways of football with a lonely tread, searching for the beautiful, the bewildering, the haunting, and the absurd.

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Cometh the Hour

Four horses without four horsemen

The winds are howling and the world’s shaking itself loose; at least it feels that way. The night scratches its back against our houses, the heat of the day falls away like a dream; and then the cycle reverses, unpredictably, tapping out weird rhythms of hot-cold that upset our animal patterns over the days of this tense spring. There is a feeling of unrest in the Land of the Free, a disquiet. The feeling is immanent and of the time. It has been here before and will be again.

Soccer seems to have a window during each of these periods of weird energy, a chance to make a greater impression upon the minds of Americans. And there’s more at stake now, at the end of the Energy Age. What images do we remember? Again and again, it’s the 1970 Cup, the glowing, phantasmagoric grace of that Brazil team—the first one broadcast in color—like an acid ring-pop of joga bonito.

“Wild, dark times are rumbling toward us, and the prophet who wishes to write a new apocalypse will have to invent entirely new beasts, and beasts so terrible that the ancient animal symbols of St. John will seem like cooing doves and cupids in comparison.” —HeineAnd now we feel it going dark. Who will be remembered? If you can see Pele in electric yellow in your mind even now … who will be remembered? If the Aztecs were right, this is the last World Cup ever. That would explain the wind, the weirdness. And here in the USA, high weirdness has always had its say. This could be the last one ever. Let’s say the USA win. Who would be remembered then? One month for glory. One month, a few systemic disasters, and suddenly you’re Viracocha. You’re Quetzalcoatl. You’re bringing the seeds of civilization to a people riven by superstition.

And who’s to say they couldn’t do it? I mean, besides everyone.

“Everyone” is just presumptuous. And if they did, if they did … the wings of butterflies, flapping so many miles away … the astonished shouts of Martin Tyler, enshrined ironically for all time as the Guy Who Called It When The USA Won It … this nation of new fans, seeing the game anew, and realizing their distance from it was exactly equal to their distance from living their lives in a vital, purposeful way, balancing desire and restraint, action and discussion, time and motion. A new America, born that moment.

Or the USA could crash out, and everyone could snort about sports redolent of communal effort. Q: You know what soccer needs? A: Slam dunks! President Palin cancels plans to host the 2022 Cup: “We don’t need Europeans over here spreading their diseases and Godlessness.” Landon Donovan, 45, kicking field goals for the Dallas Cowboys. Food-system collapse. Riots. Oppression.

Up to you, boys. Not trying to press. Just saying. Up to you.

Sean Spence lives in Flint, Michigan, with his wife Sarah, three step-daughters, and four cats.

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Cometh the Hour

by Sean Spence · June 10, 2010

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