Maybe you didn’t grow up on the beach. But if you did, you already know that game on the boardwalk where there are twelve plastic racehorses stacked vertically. You and eleven other schmos pay a dollar to roll racquetballs into a wooden contraption with a bunch of holes assigned a value between one and five. First idiot to the finish line gets a prize.
Look at the rest of these clowns. Prepubescent gradeschoolers with ice cream on their faces. This is no contest. You roll and roll and roll, each ball bringing you closer to your surefire victory. You’re an old pro. You’ve got speed, agility, and experience on your side.
This little horsey is going all the way to the winner’s circle.
But who’s this dude in green, pulling up on horse number nine? Fuck. You didn’t even see him, sitting there with his sunburned nose and using his overpriced neon Oakleys like a headband, as if it’s 1994 and he’s Shane fucking McDermott. Wait, did Shane McDermott even wear Oakleys? THERE’S NO TIME, DUMMY. KEEP ROLLING.
You roll frantically, with all your might, but this only seems to make matters worse. With this new excessively powerful roll, the ball now bounces rather than just going down the damn chute like you’d thought it would. It’s taking too long. HOW WAS THAT A ONE? Balls. You’re sweating and anxious. Your adrenaline blasts through the roof like Willy Wonka just decided you would inherit his factory.
You’re neck and neck. It’s going to be a photo finish. Oh boy.
When the bell rings, you let out an audible cry of PLEASE GOD LET IT BE ME and then, like a pro, shake your head and point your thumb, blaming the girl sitting next to you. She looks at you with fire and hatred, so you stare at your feet, pretending When you look up, the spinning red light is next to horse number nine.
You wanted that fucking stuffed caterpillar so bad. Two weeks from now, you would have thrown it in the garbage can because it would serve no purpose in your life, but in this moment, you feel empty. Defeated. Like the day your hermit crabs died. The first hermit crabs, the ones you actually cared about. Not the second or third set, where your heart hardened and you learned that life is cold and cruel and that changing shells is basically hermit crab suicide.
That’s how this soccer game felt.
The Firm are the best team in the league and have won the title for the past three seasons. I’m not sure how or why. They’re a bunch of skinny white kids with bored faces. They probably didn’t go to prom, and if they did, it was with a friend, and she already had a boyfriend. They pack healthy lunches but still have iron deficiency. They probably come from loving families that don’t curse or yell or fight, ever. The fact that they’re nondescript is actually the most descriptive I can possibly get.
But these humans are good at soccer. Shit.
RFE had one of our best performances, shattered by moments of ineptitude that would make your head explode. Against the top team in the league, that’s just not going to cut it.
The game started with a bang. The Firm strutted down the field to the corner flag, laid up a perfect cross for a perfect header. We know these guys, so the play wasn’t unexpected. Just tough to defend.
It’s no excuse, though. If we were going to make a run for this game, RFE would have to toughen up and settle in.
RFE made an offensive push that resulted in a scrambling play in front of The Firm’s goal. Tommy Park, Marissa McBride, and Mike Muldoon pinged the ball around expertly, shaking up the defense. When the keeper bobbled Tommy’s shot, Marissa poked her toe in to jiggle it loose and off to Mike for the finish. All tied up at 1-1.
Minutes later, RFE would make another disarming offensive push. With few options left, The Firm committed a foul just outside the 18 yard-line that resulted in a direct kick. Fabian Galvez, whose agent should probably just negotiate him a big fat contract and transfer at this point (I mean, for real), struck the ball in retaliation like it said something about his mama. It sailed over the wall and into the upper-90 to put RFE up 2-1. Pretty.
But ohmydamn, that lead was short-lived. At most, 25 seconds. The Firm has this one tall dude with salt-and-pepper hair, and he just carried the ball past three lines of defense, lined up, and ripped it past RFE’s keeper, Alex Bard.
We went to halftime 2-2. And then something really weird happened, guys.
I went on a little run, of sorts, and ended up in the offensive third. This isn’t usually my scene. I have no touch or finesse, so I usually stay holed up on defense like a bridge troll.
But when the ball came to me at, let’s call it 23 yards out, I fired off a shot. Why not, right?
It deflected off some wanker from The Firm and right back to me. And like some selfish, crazed lunatic, I shot again from the same angle, same distance. Thinking of how Amy DeValue used to yell “SANDBAGS” so that we’d keep our teenage boobs over the ball, I leaned over it and let my gigantic square thighs have a go. And it kind of just sailed into orbit, into the atmosphere, over the keeper, and made a moon landing in the back of the net. And we were winning again.
But then those J-O.s did it again. They ripped the glory right from my heart. That same tall dude took a spoonful of vegetables and shoved it down our throats, tying the game 3-3 with a little dinker into the near post. Ugh.
But then young Pape took over, playing the ball in perfect service to hero/workhorse/silent assassin Paul Turkevich for an unstoppable header. With less than 10 minutes remaining, RFE led 4-3. If we kept up this pace, we might pull off the upset.
Look, I’m not going to belabor the point here. The Firm scored. Then they scored again. We lost 5-4. It was terrible. It was like that silly back-and-forth boardwalk horserace only it mattered a lot more because I have an unhealthy competitive streak.
But at least we learned a lesson. No matter who your opponent is, you have to play your game. You have to keep rolling.
Grumble grumble grummmbleeee.
RFE takes on Club Mudd in a must-win midseason match up, tomorrow at 9:30pm.