Thursday, October 15, 2009

Sporty Schadenfreude

I know it’s not very nice to revel in the misery of others. “Do unto others . . .” and all that. But when it comes to sports, it really goes with the terrain, doesn’t it?

I mean, by definition, if I want my team to win I want the other team to lose, right? Thus the misery. When the other side is a hated rival, it’s all the sweeter. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got nothing against Marshall University or its alums (most of the rest of my family went there for a spell – I’m the weird one who went north), but I will take pleasure in WVU crushing them on Saturday. And I’ll be sure to rub it in at our autocross on Sunday. But it’s all in good fun.

But last night, my schadenfreude meter nearly exploded, first for what happened on the field and then for what happened off of it.

Last night was the final night of qualifications for next year’s World Cup in CONCACAF, the region of which the US is a part. We punched our ticket to South Africa over the weekend with a 3-2 thriller in Honduras. So last night’s game was technically meaningless. For us, that is. Not for our opponent, Costa Rica, who needed a win to secure a spot in the Cup next year, nor for the Hondurans, who needed a win of their own plus some help from us to leapfrog the Ticos. Given the classy treatment the Honduran fans gave our team Saturday night after the win, most US fans were hoping to help them out. Add in the high emotions in the wake of Charlie Davies’s massive car crash this week, along with Costa Rica’s earlier embarrassment of us at their place, and it was safe to say that a Costa Rican win was not desired.

Nonetheless, the Ticos jumped out in front 2-0 in the first half. After that, they sat back and generally got thumped by a US team that (in typical fashion) created a lot of chances but couldn’t finish them. Michael Bradley pulled things back to 2-1 in the second half, but as time ran out things looked bleak for the US and Honduras (who held up their end of the bargain, beating El Salvador 1-0). When Oguchi Onyewu blew out his knee on a corner kick, so badly that the two Costa Ricans around him were frantically waiving for medical attention, and we were down to 10 men (already used all three subs), that seemed to be it. The Ticos were on the way to South Africa, Honduras on the way to a playoff with Uruguay for a spot.

Then the Costa Rican coaching staff went nuts. The Ticos were already trying to waste time and kill the game, but during an attempted substitution the head coach actually laid hands upon the fourth official. In the mess that followed, not only were several members of the coaching staff ejected from the game (leaving the fitness manager in charge!), but several minutes had elapsed. As a result, the referee added more than five minutes of extra time to the end of the game.

Guess what happened in the fifth minute of extra time?

That’s right. In the glut of extra time caused by the Costa Rican coaching staff’s nonsense, Jonathan Bornstein headed in the equalizer. US fans delighted, Hondurans went nuts, and Costa Ricans were completely crushed, having had a trip to South Africa slip through their fingers.

Given all that, how could I not gloat a little? Bask in the joy of watching the Costa Ricans hoisted on an extra time petard of their own creation? Could it get any better than that?

Why yes, it could. As that game was unfolding, the ESPN ticker was reporting this news:

One day after Commissioner Roger Goodell said that Rush Limbaugh’s bid to buy the St. Louis Rams would receive little support from N.F.L. ownership, Limbaugh was dropped from the group of investors hoping to buy the team.
It couldn’t happen to a nicer guy, you know? Rush has been a football fanatic for a long time and already got bounced from his dream NFL-related job once. Slipping back in as a silent partner in an ownership group wasn’t going to raise any hackles. Until some players said they wouldn’t play for a team owned by Rush. Until other owners said, “thanks, but no thanks.” All because they’ve come to know Rush via his public persona over the years and find that so repulsive that they want nothing to do with him. Like the Costa Ricans, he was hoisted on his own petard.

Yeah, it was a good night last night!

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