Cheap Seats: Taking down the nets
and, no, "cool bowties" is not an oxymoron.
Coach once wrote an essay about the sadness he felt each fall when the time came to take down the soccer nets. It was filled with autumnal imagery, blowing leaves, dying grass, bare trees, and all the other metaphors of our mortality. Basically, the end of the soccer season was likened to the end of life. Back when I was a teenager, that seemed very profound. Of course, back when I was a teenager, I also thought the Scorpions' "Wind of Change" was profound simply because it mentioned Gorky Park -- "Take me to the magic of the moment on a glory night where the children of tomorrow dream away on the wind of change."
The offseason is here and I'm lost. I feel like Coach taking down the nets. Empty. Void. Nothing. The End of Something. It's gotten so bad, I'm contemplating donning a bowtie and re-reading The Odyssey and calling Coach to ask him about Telemachus again. It's bad, people, really bad.
Who will I criticize mercilessly now that the Columbus Crew have knocked off for the winter? (BTW, I made my peace with Greg Andrulis over the MLS Cup weekend. He was very gracious, and I'd like to thank him for not hitting me.)
How will I survive Saturday nights now that "MLS Wrap" has gone off the air? No more John Harkes jokes? No more Christopher Sullivan in his Dirk Diggler outfit? Last Saturday, I was so flustered that I watched My Big Fat Greek Wedding and finally fell asleep muttering "Hold me!" to myself.
Who will make me chuckle now that the discipline committee has put away its rulebook?
Who will slake my bloodthirst now that Dema Kovalenko has put his studs away? Oh wait, the NBA's got that one covered.
What about the national team, you ask. What about them, I reply. They don't play a real game until February. Friendlies bore me.
What about the U.S. futsal team, you ask. What about them, I reply. To my mind, the U.S. futsal team doesn't exist. In fact, futsal as a game does not exist. It's a vicious ruse perpetuated by people with a surplus of small balls.
What about all the English Premier League games on Fox Sports World, you ask. What about them, I reply. Yeah, I watch them all -- particularly Newcastle, the team that has been breaking my heart for years -- but it just isn't the same. The EPL is too good, all those internationals and the rabid fans singing. It's what MLS would love to be someday. But right now, the EPL isn't nearly as entertaining as watching Chris Leitch try to trap the ball.
The only remedy for offseason-itis is to play the actual game. I'll play anytime, anywhere. I'm like Ben Kingsley's character in Searching for Bobby Fischer. Remember, he roams the streets in search of the narcotic thrill that can only come from chess. That's the magic of Hollywood for you -- a soundtrack and some quick cuts and all of a sudden chess is as enthralling as Frasier-Ali. Late at night, I too slink around New York City in search of a game, but it's kind of pathetic. (Wouldn't it be cool if life had a soundtrack? I'd go obscure with mine, I think, lots of Sam Roberts, Butch Walker, and Powderfinger, a dash each of the Kinks, 'Til Tuesday, and Louder Than Love-era Soundgarden. What about you?)
This past Monday, a cold, clear night with the Empire State Building in the backdrop, I found a game at Pier 40. My fellow wackos and I did our best Brazil impressions. Heel flicks galore! But let me tell you, we aren't Brazil. We aren't even the Colorado Rapids, though we're pretty close. We lost 2-1 on a goal kick that bounced over our 'keeper's head, if you can believe that. It would've been absolutely shameful, if it hadn't been so funny.
Regardless of the outcome, for an hour I forgot the emptiness inside. I forgot that MLS is done for another five months. I forgot that it's time to take down the nets.
Greg Lalas played for the Tampa Bay Mutiny and the New England Revolution in 1996 and 1997. Send e-mail to Greg at firstname.lastname@example.org. Views and opinions expressed in this column are the author's, and not necessarily those of Major League Soccer or MLSnet.com.