Monday, December 24, 2007

Deck the Halls with MLS teamgeist match balls

Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the hall, not a creature was stirring, not even a mini MLS Teamgeist replica ball.

It’s now Christmas Eve. But, unlike many merry holiday seasons past, I must shamefully admit that the holiday cheer has largely escaped me this year.

Why? In an elongated thirty-two word answer: it is because of my insatiable desire to keep the oxygen I breathe sufficiently saturated with soccer, which is no easy task without the live-action variety to speak of ‘til spring.

To compensate for said soccer deficiency, I’ve gone to the ends of the earth (figuratively, of course) via the internet and television to devour any form of soccer I can transfix my eyes and ears upon. A recorded Champions League match here, an indecipherable Portuguese Liga radio telecast there, it makes little difference to me, as long as it’s still soccer. Calling me "preoccupied" would be kind - the most accurate assessment could be "obsessed." Thus, with the holidays firmly upon us, I must confess that much of the holiday merriment in recent weeks has been lost due to this unquenchable devotion.

Now, I know how the Christmas carols go, and for the bulk of the globe’s football-loving continents, it is indeed The Most Wonderful Time of the Year. After all, Spain has its La Liga, England its Premier League, and Germany its Bundesliga, and lucky for their fans, all are in the midst of their seasons. But here in the States, the last signs of soccer flickered away last Sunday with the NCAA Men’s College Cup Final. After Wake Forest triumphed over Ohio State with obvious glee, the door on the country’s soccer season was effectively slammed shut for many American soccer fans.

Thus, the blustery winter gusts doth wrap its chilly grasp around thee,

Alas there’s no more soccer to be seen, save for that on the telly.

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is a small sample of what I have been tragically reduced to: a horrible infusion of Christmas carols and my woeful tale of how I miss football. Egads…

I beg your pardon if I sound like a Scrooge, cursing the decorated pine trees and the mischievous mistletoe in an overt attempt to keep the coals stoked throughout an unforgiving offseason. But while Scrooge was consumed with the supernatural, he never had, to the best of my knowledge, a local side to cope without in the months following the winter solstice.

It may not seem like it based on the above, but I really do love Christmas and New Year’s. It really is a wonderful excuse to mingle with the non-annoying family members and friends. I truly enjoy all of the festivities and family traditions that the season brings about - decorating house, drinking hot cocoa…and dreaming of carefully-wrapped Dempsey, Dorman and Figo jerseys under the tree.

Contrary to society’s definition of the holiday, Christmas (aside from the obvious and equally important religious connotations) is much more than just a twenty-four hour block devoted to gift giving, eggnog drinking, and shoulder slapping.

To me, Christmas is a full slate of matches that bookend my spring and summer weekends. It’s full-throttle action from the moonrise on Friday night through sunset on Sunday evening. It’s a mild and sunny Saturday afternoon on Fox Point that promises a virtual soccer marathon comprising of back to back to back…to back matches that all feature amateur clubs duking it out on balding neighborhood pitches. Christmas isn’t waking up in the morning to approach the pine tree in the living room corner; it’s finding myself on the other side of the Seekonk River to watch the Mexican Soccer League sides monopolize an entire Sunday afternoon at India Point Park. Christmas is taking a thirty-minute drive to watch an all-important televised match at a dear friend’s house. It’s playing a little game of kickabout with my young cousins, and teaching them about the game I love so dearly. In fact, with the region’s recent snowfall depriving me of ample footing to at very least kick the ball around, it definitely does not feel like Christmas to me.

In essence, soccer is Christmas - at least within the parameters of my own little universe. Lucky for me, Christmas comes more than once a year.

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