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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Columbus 1 – O New England: Vandal-prone’s Report

Rainy night at Gillette Stadium

Probably one of the top five differences between being in jail and not being in jail is that when you are in jail no one ever calls you on your cell phone with a complicated speech about mythological Japanese tsunami heroes and picking you up at the airport. And yet, when you are not in jail, that is precisely what happens. I didn’t follow most of what Brian was saying, but then, Brian’s basic sense of texting someone is to type in the Gettysburg Address word for word, only changing certain keywords so that the main idea comes through. I was free, and I was used to this. It was supposed to rain, and we were going to the game together.

Somehow, I managed to get on the plane from LA without having eaten anything, and in Atlanta it was all just magazine-stand trail mix and a TGI Friday’s where a “business traveler” could spend $12.95 for permission to loosen his tie. By the time I hit Logan I was feeling a little dizzy, but I thought that was probably from all the notes I’d been reading about like Columbus’s zone defense and how David Beckham wasn’t playing in this game (the top MLS statistic on every official press handout). It hit me in the car that I was actually weak from hunger, but I didn’t want to ask to stop because one, we were only just going to make the game, and two, Brian was trying to navigate in the rain. I am not the kind of driving Judas who asks for a personal-needs exit when it is sideways palm-trees on the highway. I try to take care of the people I care about.

Brian and Siobhan were both extremely decent to me during my recent troubles. We’ve had our differences, but those don’t count for much compared to a care package that included not only fifteen Baby Ruths but what is also the nicest line of Coke products allowed by law inside the California penal system. Not everybody knows that’s Cherry Vanilla. That took research. That is family.

So I sat in the backseat, trying to make my shuddering, starving breaths as quiet as possible so as not to disturb my friends. Siobhan said she had brownies, but then said we would eat them at the stadium. I thought about asking for one now, but then I thought about how thoughtful and considerate it was for her to make brownies for all of us on such short notice, and how she’s always like that, always just looking out for everybody right and left whether she has any reason to or not, and I just kept it to myself.

At the stadium, this mountain-sized poncho with a flashllght searched her bag and took the brownies away.

We went to get our seats.

I had thought of all these jokes and ways to slip in “That’s how we do things in COLUMBUS” in regular conversation, but it seemed like Brian and Siobhan were mostly interested in talking to each other. Screw it, I was too faint to know whether I was being funny anyway.

In the dripping, concrete, Budweiser-lit concourse they had all these stands and windows where you could buy pretzels and sign up for Bank of America accounts. I saw this one little nestled-in window where this extremely efficient team of employees was just making the shit out of some French fries, just chopping and dipping and shaking and scooping them out in that little mini-shopping-cart thing. It was like, they had this whole routine down, and they knew it so cold that they were free to operate at their maximum potential while simultaneously just ribbing each other and carrying on this hilarious conversation, almost totally ignoring their long line of customers (serving them really quickly, however, and promptly giving them what was obviously the correct change).

There was something about this that I found strangely moving, and then it occurred to me…it was us! I was imagining that we, instead of writing a soccer website, were making French fries, and that was exactly what it would be like. Just a well-honed team of wisecracking friends, doing it up with a smile. I wanted Siobhan and Brian to notice this, but they’d left me in the crowd at some point and already gone to their seats.

I had to get some food. But at the same time, I had to get them to see this. “I’ll go find them,” I thought, “and get them to come get some French fries with me.” I wouldn’t even have to explain. They would just see it and get it.

In the stands, though, everyone was up for the national anthem, and it was like a rainy pall had settled over everything. It was really wet. Squeegeeing off my seat with my sleeve basically saved my pants nothing and ruined my sleeve for the rest of the night. Nobody even blinked at my notion of French fries, and the only sign of life was this guy behind us telling the story of how he lost his place on his high-school soccer team after taking a bad ankle injury in practice. He was a little loud, but you could tell he was just insecure about maybe not knowing enough about soccer. I felt really bad for him.

I tried to make some notes on the game, but the raindrops kept making my ink bleed. I had an idea for a post about how Matt Reis’s second-order reflexes often get him out of trouble when his first-order decisions fail, but I also had a really bad headache. I guess it must have hurt my feelings that my friends didn’t want to come up for French fries with me, because when I finally stood up to go get them on my own, I sort of made a declaration of it and probably looked like a failed opera singer who wound up running for president somehow.

I ate one cup of hot, salty, miraculous French fries right there by one of the ketchup-and-relish serving stations that dotted the aisle of the concourse, watching the teenagers mill around the pretzel booths, drinking a Pepsi in the stadium’s massive innards. Guys went by with their folded cardboard beer trays. I stood there by myself, watching people buy ponchos, listening to the crowd over our heads invisibly groan and cheer.

When I got back to the stands with my second cup of French fries, I was feeling a lot better, but Brian was visibly annoyed that I’d missed a goal (which turned out to be the only goal of the game). I’ve been a little vague on MLS context since the initial arrest a few weeks ago, but I think I can do my job and sum it up for you by saying that the Crew clinched the playoffs, while things are looking bad for the Revolution. Anyway, the costume Sam Adams guys who stood behind the home goal all game didn’t see any reason to fire their muskets.

The whole way home Brian and Siobhan were talking about the “cultural economy of the American sports complex” like that was a real concept, so maybe I just haven’t heard of it. I watched an “According to Jim” on my iPod, but I kept the brightness turned down pretty low so that it wouldn’t interfere with their conversation.

[Brian’s report is here.]

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Columbus 1 – O New England: Vandal-prone’s Report

by Vandal-prone · September 30, 2008

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