Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Breaking News: Revs training today in Foxboro

The more I watch ESPN, the more I'm bound to roll over laughing uncontrollably at the sensational headlines it features on its nightly Sportscenter shows. I understand, though hardly agree with, the media's insatiable hunger for hyperbole. But now, it's become painfully obvious that the newtork is desparate for ratings. Last night's 6pm episode only served to validate my argument.

"Breaking News: Saints TE Jeremy Shockey could miss 3-6 weeks after hernia surgery."

Are you kidding me? Is this what passes as breaking news on The Worldwide Leader in Sports?

But wait. It gets better. I mean, worse. Not even three minutes after the aforementioned, this headline followed:

"Developing Story: Redskins DE Jason Taylor could miss this week's game."


I'm ruing the day when ESPN finally goes Nancy Grace on us and ends all of its headlines with an exclamation point. Which, of course, would lead to the following inane headline.

"Breaking News: Steve Nicol kicks soccer ball during training!"


After writing on the goodbye to Yankee Stadium yesterday, I wondered aloud whether Foxboro Stadium ever given a proper eulogy for its soccer history. I'm sure someone must have. The soccer memories there were much more recent, and some kinda event called The World Cup was held there in 1994. Surely, someone must have written a dignified goodbye to the only stadium in New England that hosted football, soccer and the Foxboro Fair.

I saw my first and only soccer game at Foxboro. But it was definitely one of my most memorable.

It was the U.S. Women's National Team vs. Ireland on September 4, 1999. I went with my mom, whose idea it was to attend the game. She needed a tag team partner. With me being the only open-minded sports enthusiast in the immediate family, I agreed.*

(*Perhaps one of my most humorous moments at a sporting event occurred that day. My poor mother realized that she forgot her pocketbook in the car once we reached our seats. As you are aware, 99.9% of modern sports stadia have a "no re-entry" policy. So what does my mom do? Improvise. She grabbed my hand and walked over to the gate man at the south end of the stadium. "Excuse me, but my son has diabetes, and he forgot to take his insulin shot before we came in, and he's not feeling very well. Is it ok if I take him back to the car to give him his shot?" The sympathetic gentleman let us through, told us to come right back to him, and he'll let us back in. Upon returning, he asked me "Feeling better?" Oh, much better. Thank you so much...)

It wasn't the first time I'd been to Foxboro - I'd attended a few Patriots games previously-but it definitely one of my most enjoyable experiences there. The lines at the mens bathrooms were surprisingly short. The flea market atmosphere in the stadium underbelly wasn't as congested. The food lines were actually moving faster than the twelve minutes per customer Patriots game standard. And hey - the soccer was pretty good too! The US racked up five goals and shut out the Irish side. Not bad for my first soccer game ever, huh?*

(*If I recall correctly, the Revolution played right after the game. Unfortunately, my mom had to work that night, so we left as soon as the WNT game was over. Alas, I would have to wait a few more years to attend my first Revs game.)

It's ok that Foxboro Stadium wasn't The Colisseum or even the supermodern Gillette Stadium. It gave New England soccer fans a base to congregate for pro soccer. During the late-1970s and early 1980s, it was the New England Tea Men. It would be a long 13 years until any kind of soccer - pro or otherwise - returned, when the U.S. Open Cup brought big-time soccer back to the stadium in 1993. A year later, it came back in the biggest way possible: the 1994 World Cup, which of course, set the table for the Revolution in 1996. Some of the world's greatest players ever played at Foxboro. Pele and Eusebio both played on the unforgiving FieldTurf during the NASL's late-1970's heyday, and a crazy/chemically-altered Diego Maradona mugged/attacked the sideline televison camera after his 60th minute strike against Greece during USA '94.*

(*I have this match on DVD, and all I can say, in retrospect, is that FIFA could've simply bypassed the drug test entirely and just looked at his goal celebration before suspending him. Seriously. I still wait for a small creature to hatch itself out of Maradona's mouth every time I watch it.)

That being said, I hope Foxboro Stadium got its due before it became just another parking lot at Gillette. Granted, it wasn't Wembley or San Siro by any means. But man, some pretty cool things happened there.

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