I’ll skip over the fact that it’s been a good four months since the Rube’s found the moral strength to post in this journal of no wide circulation. If I were to attempt an explanation or rationalization of the embarrassing gap in correspondence, another four months likely would pass without comment.
^^Fernando Torres ends 44 years of Spanish failure.
So let’s cut to the chase. The prognosis is not good, but my therapist tells me I need to write something, anything, however insignificant, no matter how vapid, if I have any chance of conquering mental paralysis and going on to lead something resembling to a “normal” life.
I’ve got a terrible secret, and I’ve been repressing it for at least six years. Dr. Puskas, my therapist, assures me that bottling up this inner reality is sapping my “creative energies” and turning me into an inert lump of blood and bones and sinew. That’s what he says, anyway. That and it’s time for the Rube to come leaping out of the metaphorical closet.
Obviously, it’s the soccer thing. I’ll try hard not to call it football here, out of respect for friends and colleagues who worry that my interest in this most suspicious and foreign of all sports is sign of irreversible decline, or worse, cultural subversion.
As my good friend the Rookie is fond of saying, it is what it is. Or, in the parlance of that legendary brawler, Popeye the Sailor Man, I yam what I yam.
And it turns out, like it or not, this Yankee bloke’s a gone a bit barmy for international soccer. If this makes me a card-carrying member of the Blame America Crowd, well, so it must be. To go any farther down the road of denial any further is to risk spiritual collapse. That’s what Ferenc, my therapist, tells me.
It is over now, the sublime madness that was Euro 2008. And I am bereft.
But for weeks, I was riding atop the world. I awoke each morning with a sense of purpose, like a kid who couldn’t wait to finish his cereal and get outside to play Whiffleball in the backyard. Instead of the usual sense of dread, I looked forward to the daily trip to the local YMCA, where I would tune in the personal-sized TV atop the elliptical machine to ESPN or ESPN2 (no cable at the Rube hovel) and thrill to wondrous, hypercritical brogue of color analyst Andy Gray – the Groundskeeper Willie of international soccer.
I could go into the many and varied reasons why I’ve fallen under the sway of the beautiful game, but you, dear reader, would surely find the root cause a simple one: my own moral degeneration. The turning point came when Turkey, down 2-0 against the Czech Republic, put together a stunning rally in the last 15 minutes, with Kahveci Nihat scoring the equalizer (sorry, though I might’ve said “bringing the Turks level”) in the 87th minute and then depositing the winner behind Peter Cech two minutes hence.
By the time the Turks upped the ante in the quarterfinals, defying reason by answering a late, late Croatia goal when Semih Senturk scored on the final play of overtime to force penalty kicks (bringing the Turks level), all I could do was smile and keep shuffling my legs as the elliptical-machine clock passed the 100-minute mark.
Then Spain defied 88 years of history and its own sense of romantic doom against Italy and the majestic Buffon – in penalties, on June 22, no less – tamed the wizardry of Arshavin, Hiddink and the Russians in the semis and had enough left in its arsenal of football artistry to finish off the feared Germans in the final.
By the Sunday final, I was glued in front of the shadowy screen at home (this one was on network TV) from opening kick to closing ceremony. The madcap passion that rules the entire enterprise – from players to broadcasters to writers to, of course, the fans – held me riveted. It was if, despite the attendant insanity, I’d found a kernel of residual beauty in the corrupt and over-commercialized world of sport. Well, gosh, it made me feel something like Ginsburg must have felt when Kerouac pointed out that forlorn sunflower, encrusted as it was with “the smut and smog and smoke of olden locomotives.”
You were never no locomotive, Sunflower, you were a sunflower!
And you Locomotive, you are a locomotive, forget me not
Yes, this is getting a tad silly. I hear the siren song of ennui calling again. I must go.
I have a therapist to answer to now.