Substitution

It’s the eighty-eighth minute. One of D.C. United is lying on the pitch. This is not the first time.

Or the second.

The ref needed to run in reverse, before, running from someone giving his opinion on the decision. One of lots of someones–the supporters, too, yell their opinions. “Milk!” someone behind me suggests to the D.C. United person. “It gives you strong bones!”

Were the Fire better? Not score-wise; they were tied 0-0. Oh, the Fire kicked two shots into the net, but neither counted. Let’s put it like this; the supporters didn’t like these decisions, either.

Sorry. “The supporters?” There were some in the end where you stood most of the time, hopping, yelling, insulting. There were some on the other end, with drums. But we were there, too. In the midfield, good tickets, trying to pick out the yells. Cheering “Fire!” sometimes, echoing “McBride!” too, but not so…loud. Not so supportive of bookings to the Fire’s benefit, not so crushed by those helping out D.C. United.

Which is why I, trying to be sort of objective while still rooting, wondered whether the Fire were…well, whether D.C. United were being unscrupulous, first off. Secondly, if the Fire were. I didn’t know–the thing is, I’m not good with quickly interpreting people’s movements even in sports I like or know well. I’ve seen countless pitches thrown on TV or in person, but I couldn’t tell you “oh, those were sliders”. It’s just not my skill. So I definitely couldn’t tell you who dove or who truly got hurt, from either side…it looked like the Fire spent less time lying on the ground, but possibly they just hurt their opponents more. Or my rooting blinded me to the truth.

Though this suggests the extreme supporters, who surely see things with more insight, couldn’t know either.

So whoever it is is just lying there. Suddenly it’s McBride right behind him, gesturing. To who? The ref–“hey, injury over here”? The rest of the Fire–“stop, guys, he’s hurt”? I wished for him to be doing something nice. They’d been honoring him throughout with video clips. Little kids wore “We’ll Miss You, #20” t-shirts. I hoped for him to be the nice guy.

But I couldn’t tell.

Fire substitution. Fire substitution? It’s the other guy who’s…

Oh.

He exits slowly while we rise, cheering. He hugs one opponent, plus some of the Fire. Why substitute him out? I find out, once I’ve left, it occurred on purpose. Just so we–the yellers, drummers, one-sided, insulting, even those of us who weren’t those things–would get to recognize him.

I still don’t get this sport.

Four minutes more beyond the two which were left, but no scoring. They held some sort of tribute ceremony following the competition, but I left. When we were pulling out of the lot, there were loud noises.

Weird. Very extreme rooters?

There they were once more.

I turned to see fireworks rise over Bridgeview.

Lake Waters

I thought soccer clocks count down.
I thought the nation didn’t care.
Who was I to speak of a nation?
I was wrong. I wasn’t fair.

It only takes one crowd to
Understand how the game’s done.
Eleven on eleven comes
Down to seven on one.

Had lake waters
Come to quench fire?
Each kick was vital
The stands were hot
We were on our feet
Rising that much higher
Had lake waters
Come to quench fire?

Pay my respects to Ned Grabavoy.
Send my condolence to McBride.
Give my regards to Busch and Blanco.
If nothing else, I know they tried.
So long to wrong assumptions
I have learned more, and now I know.
Wave goodbye, wish me well
Because I had to go.

Had they become my home team?
Was I cheering for a dream?
The fourth official’s word is coming
Let us know if the clock’s still running

Had lake waters
Come to quench fire?
Each kick was vital
Sent from the spot
We were on our feet
Rising that much higher.
I had to go to know.