Monday, December 18, 2006

Soccer as a Drug

“Cocaine is a serious drug”, the late Rick James once proclaimed. And if soccer were a drug, I’d classify it as cocaine, because its potency is that powerful.

As I sit here through my first winter fully aware of the soccer off-season (Stateside, at least), with nine months of the sports bliss known as the MLS season now glaringly in my rearview mirror, I write you on this mild mid-December day, sitting on my hands (figuratively, as it’s impossible to write while doing so), whistling The Veronicas “Revolution”, while thinking about this insatiable addiction known as soccer fanaticism. Thinking, perhaps too generous a word…craving may be the better term.

In any regard, this sport, this football, futbol, fusbal, soccer - whatever you choose to call it- is addictive in the sense that makes you do strange and inexplicable things. It makes you blow off your friends on a Saturday night to trek 20 miles north to Foxboro to watch a Revs game on an evening perfectly suited for going out with the guys. Billiards, movies, bars, restaurants – those are the places normal people go on a typical weekend night. Not me. No sir, party of one for section 110 at Gillette Stadium. Yes, you heard me. Party of one.

This addiction clearly leaves you the one-winged outcast among your friends and associates. When banter of Manny and the Sox in the air, you butt in with a comparative Taylor and the Revs situation. The death of the conversation takes place soon thereafter. They scoff at you when you say you’re “booked” for Saturday night. (“No, I can’t go shoot pool…I know there’s a game next week, but there’s a game tonight”).

God forbid you actually miss a game to do some actual socializing. Case in point: the July 1 Revs game when Deuce scored two goals en route to the Revs 3-2 victory over Red Bull. Where was I? Approximately 132 miles southwest of Foxboro watching the Le Mans 2006 Northeast Grand Prix weekend festivities at Lime Rock Park in western Connecticut. Sure, that was fun. Like shoving your little brother into the clothes hamper is fun, but you can think of 96 other things you’d rather being doing. That being said, while I enjoyed the race among obscenely fast foreign autos, my mind drifted toward what could be transpiring on the pitch some 3-4 driving hours away. Yes, the driving time was calculated often and with varying degrees of speed, routes, and times of arrival. And of course, to validate this addiction (as if actual validation were possible), Dempsey & Co. play, what I was told, an incredible game against the Energy Drinks that night. I still have bite marks on my souvenir Le Mans hat.

To quote Nick Hornsby from his book “Fever Pitch”, I am an idiot for most chunks of the day. When I should be working, I’m e-mailing fellow soccer fans on the pros and cons of playing a 4-4-2 or 3-5-2, or debating the demise of the NASL, rather than cranking out another letter to a hopelessly ignorant attorney. Instead of formulating my monthly case report, I have up on my screen, with,, and all simultaneously minimized on the bottom of my Windows toolbar. Excessive? Par for the course.

No one ever says they want to be a junkie when they grow up. I, unfortunately, did, albeit a soccer junkie. Sure, there are no needles, pipes or pocket-sized powder bags in my desk, but there are far worse things. Like Soccer for Dummies, “Bend it Like Beckham”, and Soccerhead (written by a fellow user, obviously).

And Revolution games weren’t the only places I find my fixes. The RI StingRays and local college soccer games would also do the trick in a pinch. And when there weren’t actual games taking place, I used the Friday flex-days afforded to me at work to wake up at 9am, grab a coffee and donut, and drive 20 miles northward for Revs practice at the old and abandoned Wrentham State School grounds. This is what separates the junkie from the recreational user: looking forward to, and then attending practice in addition to games. This is just another of the outward and obvious characteristics of this horrible affliction. Nonetheless, as the scrimmages, sprints, and the patter of the adidas green and blue-branded balls bouncing off of appendages and crossbars appease the senses, and an unshakable grin finds my face, just another visible sign of this dreaded and time-consuming social problem.

You can only imagine the withdrawal my poor psyche had to undertake when the Revs season ended on penalty kicks in November. The off-season leaves me itchy and uncomfortably squirmy. For visual reference, see “Tyrone”, the maligned crack-addicted character played by Dave Chappelle.

No rehab for me. I had to find new fixes. SL Benfica games televised on the local RTP Portuguese channel does the trick, occasionally. Soccer-themed books, soccer card scouring on eBay, and the non-stop viewing of “Once in a Lifetime: the Extraordinary Story of the New York Cosmos” satiates the craving as well. Then, there are more books and more DVDs sandwiched between a double dose of Portuguese and Spanish games on RTP and Telemundo, both of which I cannot decipher the details of the play-by-play conversation. It’s soccer, and that’s all that matters. The addiction oversteps one’s own cultural and lingual borders, as you can see. Any and all soccer is fair game for the addict.

So while I sit here, wallowing in my soccer-loving, U2-listening, scarf-toting, Sierra Mist-drinking, fake English accent-speaking incarnation, I tell you that, if possible, steer your children and loved ones away from this insufferably addictive game. It eats away at one’s social and psychological well-being. It decreases one’s production at work, and can create inane arguments that can throw relationships into a tailspin at any given moment. In short, the best tool against this disease is prevention, because there is no rehab or intervention to remedy this unfortunate disposition.

At least I hope not.

No comments: