Coach's Corner

Coach ventures forth to a pre-dawn World Cup-watching party.

Solitary drinking has acquired, unfairly I think, a bad name. My wife, for example, thinks only "sorry losers" drink alone -- a view she frequently expounds when she finds me in a dark room with an iced beverage of one sort or another. I suppose this is an understandable, mainstream view, perpetrated by movies and dime store novels, that solitary drinkers tend to be depressed, dangerous psychopaths.

Nonsense. I enjoy my company. I amuse myself. I carry on complex conversations with almost anybody: Ariel Sharon, Lou Piniella, Bill Clinton, even Ed Clements and Jeff Ward. When Kelly goes to her mother's, like she did last weekend, my proclivities, with no one about to call me a sorry loser, well, they tend to accelerate.

I awoke at 4am Sunday to a driving thunderstorm, a bad headache, and an aching feeling of impending doom. During the solitary drinking hours of Saturday evening, feeling curiously sociable, I called my friend Pipo and took him up on his offer to join his buddies for a World Cup party ... which would be starting in exactly two hours. Dear lord, what had I done? I fell back into a restless, uneasy slumber, hoping this recollection was merely an alcoholic reverie. Only that and nothing more.

KLBJ-FM blasts forth, at full screeching volume from the little bedside radio, at 5:50. The rain's pounding down even harder than a few hours before. I'm, frankly, confused, though not as bewildered as my two dogs (pretending to be asleep) as I stumble about in the dark. They fervently hope I'm not considering putting them outside.

This gives me a thought: I'll tell Pipo I have to stay home because I can't put the animals out in the storm and I can't, because of the deluge, leave the door open for them either. A conundrum. He'll understand. Then I remember I had to look Pipo's phone number up in the book, a task I'm simply physically unable to accomplish this morning and anyway, it's too late. I told Pipo I'd meet him in a shopping center parking lot. He's already on the way. There is no way out.

My only point of reference for a sports party is the Super Bowl. I hate Super Bowl parties because of the infusion of football dilettantes this event produces. I count 13 men and one sleepy boy, looped in a wide sprawling L shape around two television sets broadcasting the Spanish Univision feed of the far away game, packed into the den of Efrian's house. The only dilettante here is me, though if the Super Bowl kicked off at 6am I'm pretty certain it would weed out the football pretenders as well.

Fourteen soccer fans, all speaking languages other than English (Spanish and French as best I can tell) are crowded into the den before daybreak on a Sunday morning as if this were the most normal thing imaginable. The room itself is, given the circumstances, quite pleasant. The only light comes from the blue haze of the two TVs and the vaguely comforting, soft fluorescent glow emanating from a well stocked bar in the den's far corner. A single ceiling fan moves in a lazy swish-swish circle. I'm having hot flashes. The humid, heavy air, not positively enhanced by 15 people, isn't moving much.

I'm a tad hazy on my genealogy, but I for sure don't hail from Brazil. I'm going to root for Germany. My logic, as it were, is simply that I am of European Germanic origin. Fortunately, this isn't a set-in-stone position, as everyone here is passionately rooting for Brazil. In fact, anti-German sentiment runs hot in the warm den. I switch allegiances -- quickly -- to the Brazilian side.

Halftime arrives with -- hey, what a shock! -- a scoreless tie. The pre-dawn halftime buffet includes some hair of the old dog in the form of two mimosas. This is good. I have no interest in food. Very little English is spoken during the game, except for brief, to me totally unconnected, confusing outbursts of American-laced profanity. "What a fucking asshole," or "Gestapo bastard," for example.

When the outstanding (even I can see this) German goalkeeper -- likely the object of some of the above referenced derision -- makes a youth-league blunder and fails to capture an easy shot, he creates an undemanding stroll-in rebound goal for Brazilian star Ronaldo. The room explodes. Guys are doing the Twist, high-fiving, and back-pounding for so long the commotion outlives the Univision broadcaster's distinctive "goooooooaaaaalllll" call, not an easy thing to do.

The tension is broken. I'm sure those guys would disagree, but a 1-0 lead in soccer is pretty secure. Germany, in any case, never is trying to score. It seems like their game plan was to rely on their goalie and hope for a 0-0 tie and take their chances in a shootout or whatever it's called. Now that they must go on the attack, all is quickly lost. Brazil scores again, igniting the same passionate tumult.

I need to get back home and see what awful wet shit the dogs have dragged into my living room. It turns out Jasper and Roxy aren't in the slightest disturbed by my odd absence. They're both still sound asleep, at the foot of the bed, where I'd left them three hours before.

A long, wet day is only just beginning.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

World Cup, soccer, Brazil, Germany, Ronaldo, Oliver Kahn

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