Posted by redwhiteandblues
How I almost missed the dramatic U.S. victory over Jamaica
I received an email from Stampede Sports, the name of the indoor soccer facility where I’ve played on a team the past couple years. It was an invitation to come watch the US v. Jamaica World Cup qualifier in Stampede’s bar area, creatively dubbed “The Corral”. The email made the event sound very exciting, including that it would be the first gathering of the Southlake chapter of the mighty American Outlaws (the US men’s national team supporters group). I’m certainly not in the habit of watching my soccer matches in pubs or bars, primarily because I don’t drink. But in this case I perked up since all of the US’ away qualifiers are only televised on the be In Sports channel, which I don’t get on my cable package.
So, right after I read the kids a goodnight story I threw on my US jersey from World Cup 2010 (the one with the beauty pageant sash) and headed for Stampede Sports in Southlake (about a 20 minute drive).
I arrived at “The Corral” at 8:30, just in time for kickoff, but there was no soccer on the single big screen TV hanging above the bar. The few patrons seemed oblivious to any imminent World Cup qualifier. There were no American Outlaws in sight.
I found a flight of stairs. Aha! I wasn’t aware that Stampede had an upper bar area. The gathering must be upstairs. I jogged up the stairs, afraid that I’d miss an early surprise goal by Clint Dempsey or more likely a squandered chance by Jozy Altidore. Alas, no one was upstairs and the sole TV was turned off.
I jogged back downstairs. The bartender changed the channel… to a Texas Rangers game. I nearly broke into a cold sweat. Did I dream up this qualifier? It was June 7th, right? I checked my watch to verify.
I suddenly remembered there were a couple party rooms at the far end of the arena. Duh! Why hadn’t I thought of those in the first place? Surely the big watch party was there. I jogged down to the rooms only to find them completely empty, lights turned off, doors locked. This was not cool.
Ten minutes of the match were already gone. I jogged to the front desk and asked where the game was being shown. The teenaged girl manning the desk barely looked up as she replied (as if it were no big deal), “Oh yeah, we’re not showing it. We don’t have that channel.”
“We don’t have that channel”? Don’t have that channel? But what about the email invitation? What about the American Outlaws? Why was I the only one that seemed to care that there was a crucial World Cup qualifier in progress? I could feel my pulse in my temples. This was turning into one of those dreams I periodically have where I’m running all over trying to find something or someone and never succeed.
I jogged back to my car without a plan. Where could I possibly watch this game? If I were in Europe or South America I’d probably just have to drive a couple blocks and look for a crowd spilling out of a shop or café broadcasting the game. But not in Southlake, Texas – the ultimate suburban oasis. If I wanted a designer latte, fancy ice cream, to see a movie, or purchase an Apple product, I’d be in business. But finding a place to watch US v. Jamaica here on short notice? I might as well be in the Australian outback.
I thought about calling my friend Kristian, but I was pretty sure he didn’t get be In Sports either, plus he lived in Arlington which would be another 30 minute hike from Southlake. I thought about my friend Jim (the former professional mascot) but it was getting late, he’s working on his doctoral thesis, and his wife is pregnant with their second child, so I didn’t really want to bother him.
I hopped in my car, started driving, and dialed up the only fake person I could think to turn to: Siri. I asked her for Buffalo Wild Wings locations in Bedford. I hadn’t been to a BWW in probably a decade, but I remembered they have lots of TVs. Surely one of them was tuned to US/Jamaica. Siri zapped me a map in a flash.
Twenty minutes later, I pulled into the strip mall parking lot where I thought the Buffalo Wild Wings used to be. It was gone. Had Siri led me astray? I checked her map again. No. I was wrong – the restaurant moved in the decade since I’d been there and was now on the other side of the freeway. I checked the time, disheartened. It was nearly halftime already.
As I drove to the Buffalo Wild Wings I refreshed the match score on my phone… the US had scored! I whipped into the parking lot and could already see multiple TVs tuned to the game. Yes!
I asked to be seated outside on the patio because the night air was unusually pleasant for north Texas in June. I got a table and a menu just as the players left the field for halftime. As soon as I sat down, the only other groups using tables on the patio finished up and left and I was suddenly sitting outside, in the darkness, all alone, in my US jersey.
Though I’d already had dinner and wasn’t hungry, I felt obligated to order something. But my wife Trevlyn had me on the caveman diet, so a soda was forbidden. I gritted my teeth and ordered an unsweet tea. I hoped Trevlyn would forgive me for the chips and salsa I also ordered (chips aren’t caveman diet approved either).
The waitress asked me if I’d like to have the sound turned on outside. I certainly did. Soon, I was kicked back with my own snack, two high-def TVs, with surround sound, and a cool breeze blowing. Did it make up for missing the entire first half? Probably not, but it wasn’t a bad consolation.
Still, it wasn’t quite the same without any fellow fans to cheer on the US with. I called my brother Dan, who has started his extreme busy season as a summer camp director, in the off chance that he was actually getting to watch the game live. He’d just started watching the recording so we couldn’t discuss the action or gripe about players in real time. He said he couldn’t stay on the phone long because he didn’t want to read any spoilers in my tone, but we started talking about Star Trek Into Darkness and ended up on the phone ten more minutes anyway.
Into darkness is exactly where I and all other true US soccer fans plunged when a victory that seemed relatively in hand disappeared with a Jamaican equalizer in the 89th minute. I blamed Graham Zusi. The Sporting KC midfielder lazily mistimed his jump for a header against a Jamaican player who won the ball and might have raced past Zusi had Zusi not tripped him and earned a yellow card. The match commentators commended Zusi for a “smart” foul, but I’m not convinced the play would’ve been much of a threat had he not fouled. Jamaica lined up the resulting free kick within easy distance of the US box. Sure enough, the ball floated in and Jamaica’s Jermaine Beckford easily waltzed through and headed the ball into the goal past a frozen Tim Howard.
All my effort scrambling around suburbia like an obsessed treasure hunter suddenly seemed madness. Why did the US team constantly break my heart so? Why can’t they finish out games when they have the lead? Why did I have to be on this wretched caveman diet when I’m not even a caveman?
As I stewed and pouted into stoppage time, the US pushed the ball up field with semi-urgency. They earned a corner kick. Michael Bradley played it short to Zusi, who wisely returned it to Bradley. Bradley turned sharply toward the end line trying to beat his Jamaican marker. Bradley looked covered but he struck a pass anyway. Brad Evans received Bradley’s pass with his back to goal, spun and ripped a desperate shot that zipped into the upper right corner past Jamaica’s Hulk of a keeper Donovan Ricketts.
I was dumbfounded. This. Never. Happens. To. The. US.
I suddenly wanted Brad Evans posters for my office. I even contemplated not cheering against him next time Dallas plays Seattle.
Sure, a draw wouldn’t have been the end of the world, but the away win provided the US with some welcome breathing room.
I paid my bill and walked to my car. The restaurant seemed unusually empty for a Friday night. What a match! The whole spectrum of sports fan emotion, dejection to elation, in under five minutes. America doesn’t know what it’s missing.
Tags: American Outlaws, be In Sports channel, Brad Evans, Brazil 2014, Buffalo Wild Wings, Clint Dempsey, Donovan Ricketts, FC Dallas, FIFA World Cup 2014, Graham Zusi, Jermaine Beckford, Jozy Altidore, Jurgen Klinsmann, Landon Donovan, Michael Bradley, Seattle Sounders, Sporting KC, Stampede Sports, Star Trek Into Darkness, Texas Rangers, Tim Howard, US Men’s National Team, US men’s roster, US Soccer, US v. Jamaica, US World Cup qualifiers, World Cup 2010, World Cup qualifiying