Thursday, May 24, 2007

3 In, 3 Out

King Kaufman makes a possibly obvious but nonetheless important point in his recap of yesterday's European Cup final in Athens.

The first goal of the game, on a deflection by Filippo Inzaghi of a free kick by Andrea Pirlo in the last minute of the first half, got me thinking about a column the other day by Nick Canepa of the San Diego Union-Tribune in which he gave a rundown of "The 10 worst things in sports."

It got me thinking about what some of the best things in sports are. I'd have to give it some thought to come up with a list. Hey, I'm told you readers love lists, so maybe you can chime in with your ideas. We'll write some future column together, and I'll collect the paycheck! OK? OK!

But one of those best things in sports has to be the first goal of a big soccer match. Is it possible for human beings to be any happier than, for example, Milan's fans, not to mention the players, were Wednesday after Inzaghi shouldered that ball home? To say the fans were delirious would be like saying that crowd in Times Square was mildly pleased with the end of World War II.

I think I know exactly what he means, but particularly from the other team's point of view. In recent months I've become something of a fan of the English Premier League, and so it was with at least a small amount of rooting interest (for Liverpool) that I sat down yesterday to watch a TIVOed version of the game (unlike any other sport, watching a TIVOed soccer game is possible, since unless I actively search it out there is no chance of seeing or hearing the outcome).

Liverpool looked to have the edge through most of the first half, controlling the play and outshooting Milan. But as will happen, one mistake had a huge cost. A foul just outside the box gave Milan a free kick which was shouldered in for the first goal.

That goal had exactly the effect that Kaufman discusses, as well as to effect of a feeling of dread that the Reds suddenly faced a giant hill. That first goal in a game at this level truly does completely change the literal feel of the game. In the blink of an eye, it goes from taut to desperate. A sense of desperation that eventually gave way to reality as Liverpool became the third of the three EPL semifinalists to go down.


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