Monday, December 01, 2008

Goodbye to New England's other number 12

The first time I interviewed Doug Warren was this past summer outside of the tiny locker rooms at Veterans Memorial Stadium in New Britain, CT.

It was after a 120-minute-plus slugfest that shouldn't have been against USL-2 side Crystal Palance Baltimore in the U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals. Although the Revolution managed to score in the first half, CPB found a goal in the second half. The contest remained knotted at 1 for another hour and a half until penalties arrived.

His stop on Val Teixiera's shot, followed up Mauricio Castro's eventual match-winner, instantly cast the media limelight on Matt Reis' longtime backup.

The press gathered outside the Revolution lockers for Doug after the match. With the humid air draped over the scene, and the potent diesel fumes eminating from the club's idling bus nearby, players rushed out of the dingy dressing rooms and into the cool comforts of their air conditioned ride. Not Doug, though. He spent the next fifteen minutes* talking to us in what was likely the longest post-match conversation he'd had with the press in years.

(*Which seemed like 15 hours after the fumes creeped their way into my lungs and brain. You know those little exploding "stars" you see when you get dazed? Yeah, they must have had like a convention in New Britain that night. By the time Doug was done, I think I had temporarily forgotten my own name.)

Despite the heavy air and nauseating fumes, he answered each concisely and patiently. When some media members arrived late, he politely answered the very same questions posed to him just two minutes ago. Sweat cascaded down his forehead. He took intermitten swigs from his water bottle. He rubbed his scruffy chin. But there was never any sense that there was any hurry. Far from it.

After the questions evaporated, there was brief hush. Doug stood around. He scanned the mini-entourage sweaty journalists surrounding him.

"Anything else? You guys sure you got everything you need?"

We all looked around. The consensus was a collective yes.

"Hey, thanks guys."

He strolled over to his bus. He was one of the last players to board.

Now, a devil's advocate might say "Well, of course he didn't mind answering questions. He's a backup. He wanted to relish a moment that was finally his very own. What did you think he was going to do? Miss out on his chance to savor the moment?"

To that I would strongly disagree. Because throughout the numerous questions, Doug constantly credited his teammates. Occasionally, he'd drop an "I". "I tried" this or "I saw" that. But other than those brief mentions, it was all "we", "the team", and "the guys." Instead of hording the limelight, Doug essentially became a billboard for the team. The match ended 1-1, with the Revolution advancing 5-3 on PKs. Somebody had stopped a crucial shot during those penalties. But after talking to Doug, you'd never have known it was him.


When I heard the news last week that Doug had been waived, I wasn't shocked. Surprised? A little. Especially because he was pressed into first-team action just this August when Matt Reis went down with an adductor injury. His value to the team, in my opinion, was reinforced with an admirable three-match showing this summer.

But with a cheaper alternative (Brad Knighton) waiting in the wings, I suppose, in hindsight, that Doug's days in Foxboro were numbered. It's the nature of the business.

I typically don't root for individual players. After all, there is no cheering allowed in the press box. So I simply resign myself to the quiet hope that each player performs well.* But everytime I saw Doug shine - whether it was U.S. Open Cup, Reserve League or first team MLS - I always found myself doing the same thing.

(*With the exception of three...okay, maybe four completely unlikeable souls. To protect the guilty, they'll remain nameless. For now.)

I always smiled.

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