(updated Sunday morning)
*- It’s a sad thing to have no team in soccer, but I don’t.
*- Modern man. Just cannot commit.
*- Don't get me wrong: I know the pain of rooting, inasmuch as my only professional club is the eccentric New York Mets. And I learned all about angst from my first team, the Brooklyn Dodgers. (I also root for my alma mater, Hofstra, in basketball.)
*- I’m retired from the paper and am allowed to root, but I have no soccer club, a failing that gets in the way of enjoying the Champions League. I have infatuations -- AC Milan with Baresi and Gullit, et al, Chelsea when Drogba carried them on his strong back, Barcelona for the "Dutch" way they moved the ball, West Ham, after spending a few days in 2003, reporting an admirable attempt to include new Muslim neighbors as fans. But I have no lasting loyalty.
*- I do root for the U.S. and Italy in the Men’s World Cup and for the U.S. in the Women’s World Cup. I love World Cups. I almost always pick a team in any match I watch. But Champions League finals leave me melancholy, adrift. I have no team.
*- True, my mother was born in Liverpool, but always insisted “We were really from Southampton.” My wife once sat next to John Henry, the owner of the Red Sox and Liverpool, at a baseball dinner in Boston, and enjoyed chatting with the rather reserved man. And our grandson has rooted for Liverpool since he was a tyke. But I still don't root.
*- My Arsenal pals told me they could see themselves rooting for Liverpool rather than “that bunch” from Tottenham. It’s a North London thing.
*- There is a theory about cup competition that when English clubs meet, they play each other into a stupor because they know each other so well. However, I saw Chelsea drub Arsenal, 4-1, on Wednesday (in the company of my sickened Arsenal pals) and familiarity certainly did not inhibit Chelsea.
*- I was thinking about that theory on Saturday when Tottenham met Liverpool in the Champions League final. In the very first minute, Tottenham was called for a handball, and Liverpool converted, injecting tension into the match, for all fans, including neutrals like me.
*- I had no problem with the call by the Slovenian referee, no doubt backed up by officials with access to a television. The unfortunate Tottenham player, Moussa Sissoko, was caught with his arm extended, the ball skidding from chest to upper arm. His violation was not as blatant as the handball by Germany’s Torsten Frings that robbed the U.S. of a goal in the 2002 quarterfinal, but the ref got this one right.
*- Both teams had forwards familiar to fans around the world – Mo Salah of Liverpool and Harry Kane of Tottenham. I like them both. Some stars (Roberto Baggio of Italy, Mia Hamm of the USA) hated to take penalty kicks. Salah approached his task with something close to a smile on his face, and positive body language – and he drilled a shot into the corner.
*- Thereby, Mo seized the match before it was 2 minutes old. Salah, an Egyptian, whose sunny and mature presence has won over Liverpool fans, continually put pressure on the Tottenham defense, running at them to keep them busy, as Liverpool won, 2-0. In my opinion, he was the Man of the Match (a lovely soccer tradition.)
*- One other observation of the match: English fans defy stereotypes, inasmuch as Liverpool and Tottenham -- at least the ones who could corner tickets and get to Madrid -- seemed quite mixed in origin.
*- I found myself furious with the pre-match “concert” – angry-looking blokes pounding on their instruments and shouting – on the tube, from the stadium, before the match. Does TNT not believe in the tension of a stadium rapidly filling up, with fans chanting and singing, and the field being prepared, as the dozens of commentators are yakking it up? Why a freaking concert? If I wanted to watch that stuff, I would.
*- None of this adds up to much insight about the match. As I typed this Saturday afternoon, I was concerned with whether Jacob DeGrom of the Mets could get back to his high level later in Arizona.
*- DeGrom pitched well for 6 innings as I fell asleep. I woke up Sunday morning and the first thing I did was click on the score and discover the hideous Mets bullpen had blown the game in the 11th inning. I am now in a foul mood, probably much like Tottenham fans, or my Arsenal pals the other day.
*- So, yes, I do know fan anxiety.
6/2/2019 12:53:29 am
This match was further proof that big games are not always great, or even good. But keep an eye on Origi. He seems to have the knack of doing it when it matters.
6/2/2019 09:14:51 am
John: World Cup finals, included. I think PK solution drags down some finals, although the '99 USA-China Scurry/Chastain final remains epic. (Not 94 final with the injured Baresi and Baggio.)
6/2/2019 11:35:02 am
Great ruminations, George. I am entertained by your pace in writing about European football. Sorry you are in a foul mood about the Mets bullpen; it rather looks like de Grom's medical situation is worse. When does the Women's World Cup begin? I am really looking forward to that.
6/2/2019 12:24:39 pm
Hansen: thAnks for that about women’s softball. Didn’t realize DeGrom is hurt from box score. Not a word on the site of my main source of news. But Post and Daily News updated me. GV
6/2/2019 03:42:36 pm
I did not watch the game, but caught the high (low) lights on video. I do not agree with the Laws on handballs.
6/3/2019 02:09:42 pm
Alan, not only Muhlenberg vs Lehigh but male softball! I played a year for Baldwin HS, when most thought it was a girls’ sport— real men played baseball!
6/6/2019 08:04:25 pm
Ed, We followed much the same path. I passed up track at Lehigh as I preferred to play intramural softball.
6/2/2019 10:14:33 pm
6/3/2019 12:47:32 pm
Sorry George but the result hurt and it took me a few days to start reading game reviews and commentary, as well as to start listening to my Spurs-dedicated and general football podcasts. I'm still a bit in shock that Spurs made it to the final - given how challenged they were this past year with no transfers, no home stadium until the last month and a steady diet of injuries. At the same time, I'm sad about the lost opportunity. The future is bright if Poch sticks around and gets some funds from Levy to beef up the squad. COYS!! Michael
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From the great Maureen Dowd:
As I write this, I’m in a deserted newsroom in The Times’s D.C. office. After working at home for two years during Covid, I was elated to get back, so I could wander around and pick up the latest scoop.
But in the last year, there has been only a smattering of people whenever I’m here, with row upon row of empty desks. Sometimes a larger group gets lured in for a meeting with a platter of bagels."
--- Dowd writes about the lost world of journalists clustered in newsrooms at all hours, smoking, drinking, gossipping, making phone calls, typing, editing.
"Putting out the paper," we called it.
Much more than nostalgia.