Saturday, March 17, 2007


I suspect most of you aren't familiar with CONCACAF, the premier boundary-crossing soccer league for the western hemisphere. Well, poo on you, because I went to my first CONCACAF game Thursday night, and it was even better than watching MLS on television. Why could I do this? Because D.C. has cultural opportunities that Phoenix, for instance -- despite its tragicomic population boom -- cannot compete with. More on that shortly.

Stephanie and I thought we'd mistakenly been seated in the Chivas Guadalajara area when we got to our seats and began to wonder where the D.C. United fans were. We needn't have bothered: the "Chivas area" could more accurately be called "the stadium," and despite technically being the home team, United were outnumbered in the stands about six to one. This included people with Mexican flags, Chivas bandanas, beer, jerseys, cigarettes (near enough to smell that flavorful tar!) and plenty of chants we weren't able to follow. At first it was nice just to know a U.S. club team was worth inviting to the championship tournament, but once we realized D.C. could actually win it was hard not to watch intently and freak out when things went wrong, sort of the way you see rowdy English fans hit things on TV.

United got two yellow cards early, one of which -- unless the halfback threw that banana peel -- was patently bogus. It was raining and everyone was sliding every which way, and the replays were pretty clear that nothing had really happened, but you know how those referees like to show they're not going to give the locals a break. It was fun watching Chivas fans go nuts whenever something interesting happened until they actually scored early in the second half. By that point I was emotionally invested and couldn't be happy just to watch good sportsmanship. I considered hurling abuse.

United equalized a few minutes before the game ended with a header off a chip shot penalty kick from the right side, getting Ben Olsen off the hook for his hilariously inaccurate open shot on goal seven minutes earlier. The goalie watched the ball sail ten feet wide and twelve high and probably had time for a few jumping jacks before it landed in the mud under the bleachers.

It ended in a tie. Their songs are better than ours. The next game is April 3.

Anyway, this contrasted nicely with the Sibelius concert Stephanie and I went to a few days before. The program included the violin concerto, which is probably one of the most interesting pieces of classical music ever written, and I don't mean in any technically intricate or professional way so much as in terms of just listening to it. It sounds, alternately, like gypsy music, frantic pagan drumming, Sherlock Holmes at the fireplace and sometimes like a caveman standing over a newly slain antelope, crudely proud of himself for doing something important. This was a good birthday present -- even better than the Dwight Schrute bobblehead doll -- and probably could not have been given back in the home state, where we don't get a lot of Sibelius and certainly don't have concertgoers with nearly as expensive or musty an air about them.

You see, this is why I came here, this and the journalism. And Stephanie is fun enough to share each of these interests with me. If I can get her playing poker, we may have to get married. At the Vegas Bellaggio, if we do well. Or maybe the Westin Casuarina, where we'll be in May for a vacation. They have a Web site. Look them up.


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