Fulham 1- FC Basel 0, As the Mind’s Eye Sees It

Posted on October 4, 2009

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When I use the computer at my work, I’m behind an internet firewall that filters the types of websites that I’m allowed to view.  This prevents me from accessing websites that will distract me from working (fantasy sports) or embarrass me personally (Cliff’s Notes to ‘Twilight’).   This is fine most of the time.  But sometimes Fulham play while I’m on the clock, and work has chosen to block the audio feed that I can pick up from the official website.  This means there’s only one way to follow the game:  ESPN Soccernet’s GameCast.

GameCast is a Java applet that is essentially a self-contained, live game summary that is meant to allow a person to follow the game ‘live’, in the sense that ESPN constantly updates the information on a minute-by-minute basis with live text commentary.  The quality of the commentary varies from ‘descriptive and helpful’ to ‘dry like Ben Stein reading the Wall Street Journal’, depending on whether the game is good and if the ESPN intern at the wheel even gives a crap.  The Fulham/FC Basel Europa League game was an extreme example of the latter on both counts.  So in the absence of much help beyond “Andy Johnson offside”, how would my imagination fill the blanks?

0- “Game on’– It’s a wonderful evening along the Thames River at Craven Cottage.  A regatta cruised the river.  The boats dodged the small pieces of garbage that dotted the water and gathered in packs along the shore.  Andy Johnson bent down to adjust his shin guards.  He hadn’t scored in several games.  Someone will pay for that tonight.

6′- “Handball called on Marco Streller.”  Streller wove through the Fulham back line toward an exquisite through ball.  At the last instant Chris Baird got a toe to the ball and sends it up against Streller’s left arm.  Even though Streller put a confused face on, he knew deep inside it was hand ball.

10″- “Bjorn Helge Riise commits a foul on Berang Safari resulting in a free kick for FC Basel”- “He shouldn’t have been standing there,” thought Riise.  “He knew I was running as fast as I can at him and have no way of stopping.”  Riise swore in Norwegian.  Marco Streller ran up to take the free kick, still burning from his earlier handball.  ‘It’s 30 yards away, but I’m going for it,’ says Streller, who then buried his swerving drive in the face of a beef jerky vendor 15 rows up.

18′- “Franco Costanzo takes a long goal kick”-  Clint Dempsey watched as Costanzo’s kick flew to the opposite side of the field from where he stood.  “F,” he thought to himself, and resolved to shoot the very next time he touched the ball.

26′- “Throw-in: Serkan Sahin takes it.”  Sahin cradled the ball in two hands, unconsciously tip-toeing up the line.  He saw no one open.  Well, no one but that swine Alexander Frei.  Serkan Sahin may do many things, but one thing he would not do is swallow his pride and throw a soccer ball to a man who has slept with Sahin’s wife.  He has his pride.  After a three count he put it in play to the middle of the field, to no one in particular.  He jogged back towards his own goal and put a hand to his bearded chin.   No balls to Alexander Frei tonight.

35″- “Benjamin Huggel commits a foul on Clint Dempsey, resulting in a free kick for Fulham”-  Clint Dempsey dragged himself from the turf, brushing grass from his arm.  He saw an opening and had dribbled toward it, to take a shot from the edge of the box, but had been brought down by someone.  Some defender, he guessed.  He was definitely going to score that time.

45″- “The referee has signaled the end of the first half”.  The referee looked at his watch and tapped the face of it twice.  ‘Looks like half time,’ he thought.  ‘One more half to endure, and then back home.’  He glanced at the top of the stands as he walked towards the locker room.  ‘Maybe I’d make a good architect.  Is it too late to go back to school?” he thought.  A towel boy on the sideline handed him a Lucozade.  ‘Maybe.  Anything’s better than this.’

50″ “Alexander Frei takes a corner kick from the left byline with his right foot and hits an inswinger to the near post.”  It was not his favored foot, the right.  Alexander Frei preferred to use his left on corners.  The result was a right footed floater, heading towards the back post on a useless trajectory towards nothing.  With his left the ball would have been a bird of prey, swooping down on goal with danger in its wake.  Frei looked at Sahin, clear across the field, hand rubbing his chin like always.  Frei frowned.  He had not meant to sleep with Mila.  It was an accident.  But a preventable one, if Sahin would simply pick up the dry cleaning once in a while.  Still, thought Frei, it was better for Sahin if he did not find out.  At least not right away.

56″- “Clint Dempsey hits a good right footed shot, but it is off-target.”  “@#$%$!,” Dempsey screamed.  The ball bounced off the advertising wall and into the stands.  What did it take to score tonight?  ‘Step-over time,’ he thought.

61″ -“Throw in:  Serkan Sahin takes it.”  Sahin watched as Alexander Frei cut sharply towards him, palms up in the universal gesture for wanting the ball.  “He doesn’t know that I know,” Sahin thought.  A vague excitement flooded him.  He threw the ball to Streller in the box.  Sahin rubbed his chin again.  “He doesn’t know that I know.”

71″- “Marco Streller commits a foul on Chris Smalling, resulting in a free kick for Fulham.”  He was at his limit now.  The handball early had forced his adrenaline to flow far too soon, and he had run hard far too early.  Instead of peaking as he normally would, Streller was gassed.  He leaned in to pull the kid from the ground- he was big, Streller realized as the kid’s hand engulfed his own.  Streller jogged to the edge of the 18 yard box.  He would have to be careful with his runs from now on.  Rationing was the first survival skill they had taught him in the Serbian army.  He did not want to starve his legs in the 85th minute.

74″- “Serkan Sahin hits a good right footed shot.  Outcome, save.”  So the keeper made the save.  So what?  Take that, Mila.

77″- “Alexander Frei hits a good right footed shot.”  ‘Always with the right foot,” grumbled  Frei.  Even a good shot with his right foot yielded nothing.  Today was simply not his day.  He knew there would be a voicemail from Mila when he got back to the locker room, and he dreaded returning that call.  How do you explain to someone that  you’ve made a mistake, that they are the mistake?  Frei flexed his toes against the inside of his cleats.  Right foot, left foot.  He had to get a ball on his left foot at some point this game.  It can’t go on forever.

83″-  “Marco Streller hits a good left footed shot, but it is off target.  Outcome: over bar.”  Streller tumbled to the ground and lay there.  He didn’t need to look, he knew that he’d missed.  He half-heartedly grabbed at his knee, feigning an injury.  He just needed some time to catch his breath.

90″- “Throw in: Serkan Sahin takes it.”.  A sideline attendant rolled the ball to Sahin, who chipped it up into his waiting hands.  He always threw the ball in, it seemed.  He pump-faked up the line to Streller, who was jogging away from the play and looked, Sahin thought, like he had quit trying.  Sahin threw the ball up for grabs again, and it was won by the American with the buzzcut.  Sahin watched him dribble towards goal from the midfield, as the American had done so many times this game- he is tenacious, thought Sahin.  Mila still had not returned his voicemail, and Sahin thought he’d better call her one more time.

90″-” The referee has signaled the end of the second half”–  The artificial lights buzzed inside the locker room.  The referee tugged on a hoodie over his t-shirt and started towards the door.  “Hello, dear,” he said into his cell phone.  “Are the children in bed?  Yes, yes, the game went well.  Not much excitement, pretty boring.  Listen, can you do me a favor?  Go on the Internet and search for “online architecture schools.  I’ll explain when I get home.”

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