Wednesday, April 7, 2010

An AMSL Story

This is dedicated to all those football people who, either for work or family obligations, have asked themselves the question: Is it ever okay to miss a big game?

Back in May of 2005, I found myself in Connecticut singing with a choir at a Jewish cantor's convention (don't ask) during the Liverpool-AC Milan final in Istanbul.  This sort of thing happens to me a lot; I get offers for this and that, I put dates into my datebook, only to find out a few weeks later I've made a date to sing Handelian solos on the day of the World Cup final (this has never yet happened—thank god—but I came mighty close to doing something similar for this year's final in July). 

But missing the CL final that year in particular was heartbreaking because I had already watched all the available Champions League group stage matches aired live on TSN (our ESPN), and indeed every single available round of sixteen matches plus the quarterfinals and semifinals of that tournament, a feat I have yet to repeat (ah, those Montreal "weekdays").  I had established an emotional connection to the outcome of the final, which would be kicking off about the same time I'd be wandering around a Champions League-less (ESPN 1 showed fucking baseball during the CL final) hotel in New Haven, eating my body weight in smoked salmon. 

Before leaving for Connecticut, I had asked a regular job friend to tape the game on his VCR on the agreement I would I could pick it up as soon as I returned (how quaint that all seems now a mere five years later).  Driving back to Montreal the morning after the missed final, I was pretty tense.  Most of the drive through upstate New York was fine, but as the Montreal's electronic billboards came into view I struggled to keep my eyes forward.  I had already begged my fellow passengers not to listen to the radio, and now I had to find a way to make to my friend's office, pick up the tape, and make it home without happening upon the scoreline.

All of which I managed to do, except for a minor slip up.  As I got on the subway with the tape of the game in hand, the result of which the owner had thankfully given no clues, my eyes grazed past a cover of the Montreal Gazette sitting on a subway newsstand.  It was just long enough to get the impression of a photograph with some vertical shapes in red against a green backdrop.  Instantly, my brain filled in the blank.  "Liverpool won."  And just as instantly, the alternative theory:  "Liverpool lost, and lost tragically."  I had already known the Rossoneri would be wearing white for that game, and so I knew now that whatever the result, the game narrative primarily involved the team from Merseyside.

As I watched the first half of the final in the early Thursday afternoon, witnessing Liverpool getting utterly trounced by Ancelotti's side 3-0 on the stroke of half time, I had already guessed the Gazette photo had been the standard one of players standing around abject as the other side celebrated.  There wasn't really any point in my watching the rest of the game. 

Now this is the part of the story that I still shudder remembering to this day.  As ESPN cut to the scrunched potato that is Tommy Smyth's head, I was about a moment away from just fast forwarding the thing to the end and leaving to buy that Gazette and have a cappuccino.  I felt smug in the knowledge I could use my powers in this one instance to cheat the normal human restrictions of time and space.  After all, I had dutifully watched the first forty-five minutes of a game that had I along with everyone else assumed was over when Crespo dinked in the third Milan goal; why not just skip to the celebrations? 

In fact the only thing that prevented me from pressing stop, fast forward, and play—which would have probably put me somewhere just north of extra-time on the 3-3 draw and led to me throwing the TV out the window—was the amount of trouble I had already gone through to avoid the result.

So what? 

Well, the amazing thing though is I am convinced I wouldn't have bothered to stay and watch had I witnessed it live.

I know you don't believe me—it was the Champions League final after, who cares if it was 10-0?—but football can be a cruel beast and sometimes it's just best for you to leave it and walk away, alone, when it's all fallen to pieces.  I wasn't writing a blog then, I was still drugged on the atmosphere from the Chelsea semifinal at Anfield, I hate it when the underdog loses, and I was poor.  I'm sure I would have asked for the bill and left.

Later on I met several people who said they left home at half time, did some errands, and stopped off to buy a coffee at the local cafe in time to witness Dudek saving Shevchenko's point blank extra time strike.  Under normal circumstances, that would have been me, but instead I sat in my empty apartment on a Thursday afternoon, determined to watch through the whole damn thing as a homage to my labours, bemused when Gerrard scored, incredulous when Smicer's lazy diagonal strike beat Didi's grasp, and annoying my downstairs neighbours (does anyone work in Montreal?) jumping up and down the carpet when Xabi scored and almost had his neck sliced open when Milan Baros grabbed his shirt from behind, twenty-four hours after it had all already happened.

I will never forget that final, partly because how incredible it was, but mostly because by not seeing it, I was able to actually see it.  The one time I had the will power to persevere and avoid scorelines, avoid friends, avoid phonecalls, the newspaper, email, the Internet, to avoid looking in the box to see if the cat was still alive—and I ended up with something more authentic than the thing-in-itself.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Not that I Believe in Anything Really

But when you're pretty sure you've witnessed a player who might just be the Diego of your day score four goals in a CL quarterfinal, when you hear one of the funniest on air bust-ups ever heard on radio, live with Stan Collymore, when you come home to find your When Saturday Comes stuffed in the mail box, and when a routine Google search yields the knowledge that a soccer team based in Massachussets in the 1920s bears your not-so-common name, you start to believe you might be in some sort of insane holodeck type contraption run by Matteus Sindelar, who I'm pretty sure is god if there is one.

God, I love this sport. 

BTW, working on something longer, BRB.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

AMSL Isn't Going Anywhere

I repeat: AMSL isn't going anywhere.  Not ever.  I will write this blog until I am dead and in the earthAnd even then there are no guarantees: 


Anyway, sorry for the longer pauses between posts, but this is the time of year I have to do other more fiduciarily substantial things than writing about soccer for free.  I fucking hate every second I'm not tippy-tappying out my usual bullshit here, believe you me. 

And for my millionaire readers, there's always that handy Donate button.  I dare you to give me enough to write only this blog everyday for the next five years.  Who cares if you're drunk, your wife and kids will never find out.  It will be our little secret.  

More soon.  Like very soon.  Like maybe before the weekend is out.  Until then, read Fake Sigi or something.  Or bask in the glow of Brian's sexily reconstituted Run of Play. 

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Full Time for AMSL

Hi all.  When I started this back in December of 2007, I had no idea it would grow into the mid-sized wonder it is today.  Writing A More Splendid Life has in many ways allowed me to live a more splendid life, connecting with other passionate football supporters in ways only the internet could allow.  If I take anything with me down the years from writing AMSL, that will be it.  

So it's with great sadness that I'm announcing this morning that this will be AMSL's last post.  I have had so much fun here over the past two and a half years, sharing my funny thoughts on the world's game.  I can't say I got everything right, or that my prose was always the most coherent.  But the thing I will take with me most over the past couple of years will be the friendships I've made as a result of writing this blog, week in, week out.  I'm thankful to my regular readers for taking this journey with me.

The truth is it's been dead difficult doing this everyday making next to nothing (leaning heavily toward the latter), so I'm very happy to announce some good news!  I'm not disappearing from the internet for ever.  There are a couple of new exciting projects I'm working on which will hopefully allow me to keep writing on the internet for a long time. 

You may have noticed I haven't been posting these past few days; I've been working on a site design for a new site, Premier League Match Reports (plmatchreports.com) that will be launching in the next week or so.  The site will cover Premier League news, trade rumours, and photos of all of your favourite Premier League stars (and sometimes their girlfriends :-p).  It will have many interesting features, a match highlight video section, a Premier League table, and various club stats.  But its main focus will be match reports.  Want a succinct breakdown of Bolton v. Wolves?  I'll have it up, often within minutes, seconds even, of the full time whistle.

And no, I'm not going to bore you with War and Peace, The Football Edition.  Breakdowns will be easy to read, with single sentence paragraphs and hard-hitting adjectives to get you excited for the World's Best professional football league.  There should be something there for everyone.  But mostly match reports. 

Meanwhile, there will be changes at The Spirit of Forsyth as well.  Covering Canadian soccer history on the web hasn't turned out to be the most lucrative of projects, so in advance of the introduction of Vancouver and Montreal into MLS over the next few years, I'm redesigning the site to cover more contemporary issues in the game—namely trade rumours.  So I'm happy to announce the site will be renamed Canadian MLS RumoUrs (cmlsrumours.com).  Want to know who may or may not be coming to your Canadian MLS team?  Check our site first.

I really hope you come to enjoy these new sites as much as I've come to enjoy writing AMSL.  I will leave with another quote from J.B. Priestley: "A novelist who writes nothing for 10 years finds his reputation rising. Because I keep on producing books they say there must be something wrong with this fellow."