Sunday, July 10, 2011


Such a day. I'm gutted. Let me tell you why.

It started this morning, when I got up to watch the US women play Brazil in the last of the quarterfinals. I thought it would be a tight match and predicted it would go to penalties...but not the way it did.I can't do justice to the match; that would take a Victor Hugo, who would have painted the late afternoon's events in his Romantic palette of dark and light and the chiaroscuro of heroism and villainy; the thunderous opening own-goal, the grumbling gathering storm of Brazilian pressure...the sudden lightning-strike of the Buehler sending-off and the saved...and then retaken and made...Brazil penalty. The unbending resolve of the U.S. women, like a rock against the storm-surge of the Brazilian attack. The individual brilliance of Marta, rising like the spirit of the storm itself to score Brazil's second and force the American women to attack relentlessly just for a chance to continue playing. The collective beauty of Megan Rapinoe's lovely service and Abby Wambach's precise header that sent the match to penalties.And then, of course, the horrible whiteknuckle lottery of the PKs, and Hope Solo's redemption on the Brazilian third effort, where she denied the very defender - Daiane - whose own-goal had begun the storm what seemed so many aeons ago.So I was already emotionally drained on my way down to Jeld-Wen Field for THE match of our Timbers' season, the home engagement with our loathed rivals the Seattle Sounders.For this match, though, you would have needed a more tragic muse. Poe, perhaps, or one of the Greek tragedians, to tell the tale of triumph and disaster, of Portland leads gained and lost, of individual heroics but of, finally, the tragedy of a team unable to play together for an hour and a half.

We sang and chanted, cheered and celebrated...but in the end, as it often does in this cruel game, as it has recently for our Boys, it came to naught. Seattle ran off a 3-2 victor, and we were left to sing a last song to them to tell them we were proud of their efforts and still supported them...but I know we all left sadder than we would have as winners.I've said this before, but it bears repeating; soccer is like life because it is so often unforgiving. You hope and believe, and in return you receive a handful of ashes.

But just as a steadfast faith that dies unseen and unknown is in itself a gift, the heart of the Beautiful Game is in the giving, not the receiving. The true supporters sing proudly even in - especially in - defeat. Because they know that the road leads through dark places, and the last measured act of defiant Life is to go down that dark road head up and singing. Because - like the young women on the field in Dresden, like the supporters in the stands in Portland - where there is love, and faith, there can never be despair, only defeat. And the undespairing heart is never truly defeated.


Lisa said...

As always, you wax poetic. What a fabulous sportswriter you would be -- you'd give Ernie Thayer a run for his money :) [I guess you've read, "How Soccer Explains the World"?]

I love your concluding line.

Lisa said...

p.s. -- congrats on your appearance in the news whilst at the game :)