Zach’s Wide World of Football

“It’s a narrow, cloistered existence that I’m not proud of.”

So sayeth Bill Parcells, itinerant NFL genius, in the latest of Michael Lewis’ excellent articles on gridiron for the New York Times magazines. The Tuna was talking about his own (as Lewis makes plain, dreary, obsessional and unpleasant) life as a 24-hour pointy-ball nutcase. But he could just as well have been talking about XIDevils’ weekend, sardine-packed with that other form of football. Who needs reality—which is becoming more and more overrated all the time—when you have soccer?


Saturday morning, desperately hungover after a night mis-spent in the company of a couple hundred drunken Russians (another story; nay, another blog entirely), I crawled over to my futsal teammate Liverpool Mike’s lair to watch the Reds’ tilt with Aston Villa. Okay—now *this* was the side I signed on to with every ounce of fairweather, dilettantish enthusiasm in my corpuscles at season’s dawn. Liverpool zipped the ball through midfield with lusty confidence, and a couple of the three tallies conjured by Li’l Stevie’s gang in a bury-the-needle first half glowed with that world-class lustre.

Peter Crouch, the Elongated Man, continues to conjure tricks both amazing and improbable with his biologically unfortunate body; Alonso and Hyppia and the whole bunch bore little resemblance to the side that’s stumbled through about half its games so far this season. Not a moment too soon, either, as it will already take a minor collapse on the part of the Big Two for Liverpool to punch its way into the championship tussle. Still, if they can play football this fluid and lovely and committed—the tackles were flying around in ways that had the old-school Brit commentators reminiscing fondly and stereotypically about when they themselves used to break legs at Nottingham Forest (“Twice Champions of Europe”[tm]) back in the early ’70s—against one of the Premiership’s tougher sides-on-the-rise, it can only portend good things.


Shortly after the final whistle blew on the DVR’ed Liverpool match, we passed on Watford (call us crazy) and dialled up the Milan derby. Zooks! I’ve already waxed on this nervy, plot-laden haymaker exchange and the strange, definition-eluding magnetism of Serie A in a comment here. Suffice it to say that my Life Goals list now prominently features “get wasted at a strip club with Marco Materazzi.” No worries—I know a good lawyer.


Sunday morning proved a lot less stirring, because the XIDevils editorial staff itself was in action at Beaverton’s Soccerplex. I put in a pretty disheveled, out-of-it and ineffective performance for The Muckrakers, the all-journalists indoor team I’ve played with off-and-on for the last few months. It was one of those games one plays with a head wrapped in invisible gauze and a stomach increasingly determined to issue a refund on one’s eggs and toast. Hey, man—that’s why they call it The Beautiful Game! Ugh. I hold myself individually responsible for only a few of the flurry of goals our opponents knocked in.


I would have liked to see DC United’s decisive second-leg playoff against the New York Red Bulls, if only because anytime 20,000-plus show up at RFK, it actually looks, sounds and feels like a proper football match. But, alas, there’s more to life than soccer. Or at least I am obligated to pretend that’s the case.


Only football could make me drive to Beaverton not once but twice in one day. The frigid hour of 8 pm last night found me on the austere Soviet-style concrete terraces at the Tualatin Hills Recreation Center (ah—a legendary ground!), soaking in the Oregon Premier Soccer League match between Westside Metros and FC Portland. As the faux-Eastern European goon in those new credit-card commercials bellows, it was VERY, VERY, VERY REWARDING. The local leagues are tough for even the most insane inmate of the Portland Soccer Asylum to follow—their websites are crap, the schedules are odd and the games are stashed in the most remote corners of the metro area. If you can make it out for an OPSL match, though, do. This night saw stalwart Portland Timbers defender Scot Thompson—a player linked to both Premiership and Championship clubs in recent seasons—in action for Westside. What other sport can you see top-notch pros play for free against local bhoys on a Sunday night? And freeze yourself to death in the bargain?


About zachdundas

Freelance journalist. Author of The Renegade Sportsman (Riverhead Books). Thank you.
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2 Responses to Zach’s Wide World of Football

  1. how ’bout that ‘Pool CL match today? pretty good stuff.

  2. how ’bout that ‘Pool CL match today? pretty good stuff.

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