Events have conspired to prevent me from attending many live sporting events in the last month. No more evenings at Nationals stadium, half-paying attention to the events on the field; no quick trips out to see the Baysox (either for Bark in the Park or to take up our preferred seats on the first base line next to the bullpen); no use of the ill-conceived season ticket subscriptions to Crystal Palace USA (indeed, I have yet to set foot on UMBC's campus); nor any sojourns to the SoccerPlex to spectate Real Maryland or the Washington Freedom; and, most of all, no metro ride down to RFK to witness the resurgence of Emilio and DC United. While I hope to be able to catch the Quakes-United clash Sunday afternoon, I am not too terribly disappointed with my own state of affairs. First, the change in status (parenthood) is most welcome. Second, the paternity leave that has become available has corresponded with ESPN's broadcast of Euro 2008, innumerable World Cup qualifiers throughout the Americas, and a thoroughly entertaining Cubs season, all presented in the comfort of my living room.
The matches in the Euro 2008 that we've witnessed have exceeded all expectations, culminating in the insane quarterfinal match this afternoon between Turkey and Croatia. Going into the game, Croatia's run was nothing short of impressive -- humbling Austria, Poland, and Germany in the group stage. Truth be told, to the extent rooting interests were held, we were behind the Croats, with their picnic table strip and Kranjcar marauding near the Turkish goal. Further, for 115 minutes, there was little of distinction in the match, particularly in light of the proceedings the evening prior between Germany and Portugal. But, given what happened afterwards, who cares what the rest of the match looked like (the words "putrid" and "insufferable" leap immediately to mind)?
For my purposes, setting aside the terrific equalizer and horrific Croatian shots from the spot, the tale of the match was a single, solitary, silly blunder -- the pass that led to the offsides call resulting in Rustu's free kick. The moment it happened, my jaw dropped in disbelief. Given the limited injury time, why would the ball not simply be drilled down the length of the field? What was to be gained from an outlet pass to two streaking Croatian players when the winning goal had already been accomplished? Whatever else one might say about the match, there can be no question that if the ball was simply booted to the touch line, the game would conclude one-nil and Croatia would be preparing to beat Germany a second time. Given the circumstances, I was surprised by the lack of comment on this stupendous error. ESPN shot right by the correct offsides call and repeatedly went directly to Rustu's free kick, as if it could not have been avoided.
However many times the Turks are derided as lucky for their history in the tournament to date, there would not have been any opportunity to have moved on if not for a simple mistake that wiped out the gift that Rustu's wanderings had provided Croatia. Whatever the cause, the Turks capitalized and for a team that does not play an attractive style of football (I can't even watch Altintop play for Bayern Munich without grumbling), they have certainly made me a fan.