9 November 2003

Do You Believe in Miracles?

The truth about football (or most any sport, really) is that you put up with all kinds of bad days: the heartbreaking losses, the games that should have been won but the team managed to screw up, the stinkers, the bores. You put up with the stupid calls, the lousy weather, the failed potential, the dumb goals given up, all of it, and keep coming back for more. And why on earth would you do that? You can watch for years and years and put up with all that stuff, and why?

Because every once in a once upon a time, magic happens, lightning strikes, good conquers evil, miracles occur, the fairytale works out as it should. It was a script straight from the latest TV movie, with casting that would be trite in a work of fiction: Who can believe any of this?

Aging veteran central defender well known for his lack of pace, pushed into an unaccustomed wide midfield role scores the first goal and helps make many of the others, running hard up and down the wing the whole night until he is reduced to standing in midfield laying off passes? Young rookie who hasn't played more that 15 minutes a game all year, starts game, plays a blinder, scores goal? Golden boy who has struggled to find the net scores one from a ridiculous angle, assists two more, and saves his team from a breakaway goal to boot? Midfielder on the bubble for the national teams tears up the field, assists lord only knows how many goals, and wins man-of-the-match with the national team coach watching from the stands? Midfielder, traded from the evil team who hardly gave him any playing time at all, sprinting for 100 minutes, beating everyone to the ball, and putting in cross after cross? Late season acquisition, struggling to find his form from mourning the death of his father, scores winner?

And the story line? Who can credit that!? Team plays evil arch rivals, whom they haven't managed a win against in three straight runs at it, a team that hasn't given up two goals all year, a team they start the game at two goals down on aggregate. Rains pour down to create a sloppy muddy mess, not an advantage to a team that plays a quick passing game. (This would be the good guys.) All the smart money is on the evil team. Evil team scores twice within the first 15 minutes, and now a 0-2 hill has become a 0-4 Everest. But our heros don't give up. Oh no. They scrap and they claw and the run and the fight, and they score. And score. And score. And score. And score. 10 minute standing ovation after the match. And the rain doesn't start until the moment after the winning goal slots home.

This was one of the greatest games ever played. Certainly the greatest game I've ever seen, and I've seen a lot. This was an act of pure will, a refusal to be beaten, a team-wide commitment, an attacking onslaught. Several of those players could hardly walk off the field; they left everything on the pitch.

Final score: Quakes 5 LA 2 OT; Quakes win 5-4 on aggregate.

Have fourteen thousand ever sounded louder? It is a good thing I can type this, I can't talk this morning. I'm sure as time goes by the number who claim to have been there will grow. But I was there.

Final word to the Golden Boy:

"The crowd was phenomenal tonight. It was louder than I have ever heard, even louder than the World Cup games. I have never been a part of a game that exciting. I almost wish that I had bought a ticket for it and could watch it from the stands."