I knew full well that nothing good ever happens on a baseball field. But there I was: running, doing passing drills in the shaggy, unkempt outfield, practicing my dribble etc. Then I would take the ball as if in a match and knife down the field, headfakes and all, before taking a ferocious shot into the imaginary goal section of the ancient, chain-link backstop. I blame Landon Donovan for what happened next.
Still high off his incredible goal against Slovenia in the World Cup finals two days earlier, I started my run, thinking about what celebration (Four Horsemen salute) I’d do after burying my shot into the top of the cage as he did, when my right ankle found a nice, dangerous little hole, hidden just enough by the grass, and before my mind registered it, I planted and cut the other way laterally…I literally heard a tearing sound like someone ripping a newspaper or comic in half and I was on the ground in a blinding, buzzing cup of pain, enveloped by jagged jolts of lightning with serrated teeth. I saw a fleeting vortex of pure color like the “Jupiter and Beyond” sequence of 2001. When that was over, my main worries were: is the bone broken? And, if so, will I have to crawl down the road to my house (no cellphones in my semi-pro soccer workout/throwdowns), pebbles and garbage biting into my knees, dragging my useless hyena ankle behind me. It wasn’t broke, but damn, was it swollen. I somehow hopped and pogo’d home to my terrified wife, who took me to the doctors where I was painfully pissed the entire time to be missing the Brazil/Portugal match that afternoon while I got x-rayed and fitted for a walking boot. Torn ligaments. The bright side is that I got to stay home from work for a few days and completely immerse myself in ice, vicodin (occasional sips of vodka) and World Cup matches. It was glorious!
A few days after I tore up my ankle, my wife had to go to Michael’s craft store to get some stuff so I tagged along because there was a Barnes and Noble next door and I hadn’t been out of the house and in the fresh summer air for days. I was swathed in that beautifully warm and blurry high you get from painkillers as I hobbled and clunked my walking boot way into B & N determined to be a good consumer and buy myself a proper “woe is me” present. I took my time, pleasantly buzzed, developing a nice little narcotic flush, skimming film mags (Breathless at 50) and cursing Charlottesville’s lack of quality underground music mags. I settled on finally buying a copy of David Winner’s, up to that point, sadly, hard to find, Brilliant Orange: the Neurotic Genius of Dutch Soccer. I first caught wind of it a few years ago when I’d read Franklin Foer’s excellent How Soccer Explains the World and Foer had graciously mentioned the influence of Brilliant Orange numerous times throughout the course of the book.
Brilliant Orange was out of print in America for a while, waiting to be re-issued which it finally was–complete with a blurb from Mr. Foer. I hastily ditched The Road to Wigan Pier and I don’t regret it all.
After I bought the book, I got in the car feeling awesome (sad, Adbusters would have a field day with this, but true) and I rolled the window down and let my hair blow in the breeze while the sun was setting and everyone seemed bustling and happy.