It was almost 9 p.m. Tuesday when I finally realized why I was at Fenway on the same day that the US World Cup team played the most important American soccer game of all time.
It came to me when a young man in the Fenway elevator asked if there was any score in the sixth inning of the Red Sox-Cubs game.
“No,’’ I told him. “It’s nil-nil.’’
There it was. The overrated sport of soccer and the overpaid/overhyped Boston Red Sox have one thing in common:
And they both lost, 2-1, on Tuesday.
These are your Red Sox. There are your American Futbolers. They should be captained by Nils Lofgren and Zero Mostel. They should endorse Coke Zero. They should star in “Zero Dark Thirty” and promote the Zero-Sum game.
Truly. This is ridiculous. The Red Sox, who lost to the last-place Cubs in the ninth at Fenway Tuesday, have been shut out eight times. They rank last in the AL in runs. They rank 14th out of 15 teams in batting average. They rank last in homers.
I was in New York Friday when the Sox were blanked by the immortal Vidal Nuno. We were all in Boston Monday night when Cub righty Jake Arrieta shut out the Sox with a near no-hitter in the first game of the pre-All Star break homestand.
In this spirit, we give you USA soccer. Last month, the Americans won their first game of this wildy overhyped tournament. Our guys choked badly in their second game, settling for a tie against Portugal. In Game 3, we were shut out, managing only one shot over 90 minutes. And Tuesday we were shut out again in the regulation 90 minutes against Belgium. We lost, 2-1, in extra time.
The US finished the tournament 1-2-1, going a whopping 215 consecutive minutes without a goal in Games 2, 3, and 4. Apparently this earns our team a parade down the Canyon of Heroes on the streets of Manhattan. Our team played hard. Our guys never quit. And according to Soccer Sycophants we are supposed to celebrate this team like Charles Lindbergh or the crew of the Apollo 11 mission. Because it is soccer . . . the Beautiful Game . . . the nil-nil game . . . the 2014 Red Sox game.
The US came darn close to tying Belgium in extra time and it would have been thrilling to watch the final seconds tick away if I actually had known how much time was remaining. But this is soccer. It’s like boarding a plane in Sicily. It’s like festival seating at rock concerts. It’s like, “yeah, whatever. This is the way we’ve always done it. Too bad if there’s only one guy on the planet who actually knows how much time is left. We’ll go home when the ref is good and ready to throw his arms up in the air.’’’
Thank God we now can ignore the World Cup and get on with our lives. We’ll miss the parties (Saturday afternoon vs. Argentina would have been a beauty for every bar in Boston), but we’ll figure out a way to get on with our lives. At least we won’t have to listen to the pretentious, soccer-boosting, apologetic coverage from ESPN. When it comes to the World Cup, the Worldwide Leader is downright NESN-esque.
The World Cup will go on without us. But we will not care. And we won’t have to listen to any more elitist soccer proselytizing.
My anecdotal data indicates that there is no group with more conviction and less sense of humor than soccer fans. They are angry and firm in their insistence that theirs is the best game. Anyone who disputes this is dismissed as a xenophobic idiot.
Fortunately, Red Sox fans seem to have a better grip. By now most fans have accepted the reality that 2013 was a gift from the Baseball Gods, unlikely to be replicated in 2014. The mediocrity of most major leagues teams and the contrived playoff system that allows five of 15 entries to make it to the “postseason” keeps hope alive in every hardball hamlet, but we know these Sox are not very good and hardly worthy of October consideration.
Like all good Americans, the Sox honored the World Cup Tuesday. USA vs. Belgium was broadcast in the Sox clubhouse and throughout Fenway. Sox pitchers Jake Peavy and Brandon Workman kicked a soccer ball in right field during batting practice and the game was a big draw in the Baseball Tavern, The Cask ’n Flagon, Remy’s, and Sweet Caroline’s late in the afternoon before the Fenway gates opened.
The Sox generously broadcast ESPN’s World Cup feed on the New Balance videoboard as time ran out on the USA bid. With elimination secured, we turned our eyes back to baseball. More nil. More less. It was downright soccer-esque.
More World Cup coverage:
Dan Shaughnessy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org