Monday, May 17, 2010


I have no right to claim any measure of pain that is currently afflicting Charlton supporters. But damned if following the match didn't kill me. Up 2-0 and 3-2 on aggregate, I was certain that it was only a matter of time until Swindon notched a goal. But I fell into believing the impossible when Greer got his red, even though the warning signs were there for anyone to see (why are you playing so deep?). Danny Ward's goal may ultimately have a huge impact on the club, but for today it was simply a cruel capstone to a painful season.

There are not going to be many supporters of other League 1 sides that are going to be showing much sympathy for Nicky Bailey tonight, but it does not impact my respect for his commitment to the shirt and club in the slightest. I would like to believe that Charlton's players are hurting as much as their supporters and as pollyanish as it might be, I think that is probably right.

I was not able to get a lick of work done until five hours after the game concluded. I kept thinking about how devastating the loss was and how it was stinging thousands of people I don't know. I love this club.

Sunday, May 16, 2010


I was sitting in our idled parked car on Charles Street yesterday, next to a thoroughly content sleeping toddler after a great day at the Maryland Zoo and I took the opportunity to catch up on some essential reading. And that led me to NYA's great tale of taking his three-year old to an away match last month.

Our almost two-year old has been dragged to soccer games, college basketball games, NFL games, and baseball games, with various levels of enthusiasms at the different events. This last week, however, was huge for me -- I was going to take her to Wrigley for the first time and share a singular passion. Initially, the wife and kid were in Chicago for five days to celebrate mother's day with four generations. I was to join them on Wednesday for a matinee match up against the Marlins. Last minute developments at work allowed me to take a mini-vacation and spend five days in Chicago as well. I figured that I should push my luck and got tickets for the Tuesday evening game as well.

Tickets for two games in hand and an unenthusiastic agreement from my wife earned, my next mission was to get my daughter excited about the trip. On Sunday, we steal away from the family at our brunch spot to sit at the bar and watch the Cubs play in Cincinnati over coffee and apple juice ("That's Starlin Castro... can you say 'Yeah Castro!'? No? Ok, well that's Derrek Lee, he's awesome but is having a tough year so far.") The game lost out to the novelty of a spinning bar chair and we only saw two frames. On Monday at Navy Pier, I used the opportunity afforded by a call that the missus had to make to take our little girl to a store selling sports gear. Going straight to the Cubs section, she picked up a foam Cubbies finger and began walking around the store waving it in the air. That seemed positive. But three minutes later, she has wandered over to the Sox section of the store and was trying on a series of pink Sox hats. And that was it. No Cubs gear for her. She told me that she might settle for an orange Bears hat, but Cubbie blue was not going to grace her head. We left the store without a purchase, although we later picked up Cote D'Ivoire wristbands that she wanted from a Puma store -- a sign of things to come that I did not fully appreciate at the time.

I ended up picking up a $20 pink "Cubs Princess" hat from an overpriced shop on Michigan Avenue when she was asleep in her stroller on Tuesday and it was off to Wrigley. There is nothing rational about my love for Wrigley Field. Walking my little girl to the stadium on Tuesday, we started skipping. We said hello to everyone we passed by and the smile across my face would have made it difficult for anyone to recognize me. Our seats were off the first base line on the field and it was cold. Like 40 degrees of cold, cold enough that there were a lot of empty seats all around us, only to be filled in at the seventh inning by folks that finally decided to leave their respective Wrigleyville watering holes.

The cold did not bother my little girl. The game, on the other hand, bored the hell out of her. Sitting close to the field gave her full opportunity to watch Randy Wells and ex-Cub Ricky Nolasco face-off... and she was unimpressed. She made it through three innings trying to entertain herself, but by the fourth it was all over. Eventually, she walked over to me and told me that she wanted the players on the field to "go away." When I repeatedly failed to understand the meaning of her request, she clambered up the seat next to me, grabbed my face by putting a hand on each cheek, looked me in the eyes and said "soccer game, I want soccer game." We lasted through the seventh inning (in part because I bought her a giant chocolate chip cookie, drawing the ire of my wife), spent Wednesday at the Brookfield zoo, and, back home, I took her to soccer games on Thursday and Saturday night. She had a great time at both and asked to go to another one today. She has not asked for a baseball game.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Thursday Night at Richard Montgomery

There are a whole bunch of things I have wanted to write about over the last month and still might eventually get to them, but after taking my daughter to see Real Maryland play Harrisburg tonight, one thing jumps to the top of the queue.

I am a big fan of Josh Wicks. I do not know the man personally and had no idea of the personal struggles he has grappled with over the last year, as documented in a great story by Craig Stouffer, but my soon to be two-year old daughter recognized Wicks in the stands before I did... likely a response to his infectious smile. This is either the third or fourth time she has seen him. Twice she was forced to ask for and receive his autograph (once by my wife at a DC United "Meet the Team" event and once at Ludwig, when he accompanied Marc Burch and Rodney Wallace to a game and stood outside the sidelines greeting kids and signing autographs). Tonight, we left him alone, largely out of an overwhelming sense of embarrassment of how hard done Josh has been by United supporters. The hue & cry over Wicks' actions in last year's Open Cup Finals has always struck me as a product of frustration at a poorly coached team misdirected at a guy who played his heart out for the shirt. It seems ridiculous that anyone can be faulted for wanting to do harm to Fredy Montero, who is now surpassed in the MLS in terms of irritating caterwaul by Kansas City's Ryan Smith. But the tut-tutting from United's esteemed and deeply thoughtful fanbase emanates from a far more sophisticated understanding of how one ought to put one's team first and foremost.

But just as I have no problem with Jozy Altidore head-butting another player in a vital game for Hull City, I have no qualms with someone who acts rashly out of a burning passion for their team. This year's version of United is no better coached than Soehn's squad, but what makes them more irritating is the lack of pride many seem to take in being professional footballers. Setting to one side what Cristian Castillo brings to the franchise in terms of ticket sales, I do not think he is terribly bothered when United is, once more, on the losing side of a match against a mediocre team lined up against them.

Wicks always seemed to care. And when he is off the pitch -- perhaps excluding those portions of the time when he is "partying" -- he is an excellent ambassador of the game to kids with time and patience and enthusiasm in abundance. Whatever the future has in store for him, we're rooting for him.