Death or Glory– A Fire Fan’s Guide of Renewed Passion

onenil.gifAfter a steady diet these past two weeks of Tylenol and drinking, I have come to one conclusion: Soccer, not dogs nor music nor drinking nor drugs, is man’s best friend.

I have been miserable since I had a temporary filling put in the back of my mouth. My idea of hell, by the way, is closely related to the scene from “Marathon Man” where Laurence Olivier drills one of Dustin Hoffman’s teeth to get some information about where his money is. A dark room. Echoes in the hallway. Strapped into a chair. And Larry doesn’t drill some tooth in the back, but right up in front. A hole. A big hole. Blackened from the burning of the drill. Makes me shiver just thinking about it.

But all this week, as I passed from one state of consciousness to another, usually from “painfully sober” to “not particularly coherent,” I have been following the last weeks of MLS with a renewed vigor. Checking the scores, injury reports, trade information, and news on the two new MLS expansion teams (every morning, in a haze) allows me an anchor I didn’t think I had.

Don’t get me wrong. Penny is always there for me, as I am for her, but the stats offer no pangs of guilt or bitterness because I’m not at my finest. I want to be at my best for her. I don’t feel like I am treading the waters of social convention when I sit down with my cup of tea, a cigarette or three and my sweatpants, which saw their better days before the Fire’s inaugural year, and peruse all there is–each morning–about MLS.

I have allowed myself to become detached from this year’s MLS season, which has been pretty miserable all around. Low-scoring games, transfers of some of the leagues better players, and, for Fire fans, the loss of Zach Thornton and promotion of a less than awe-inspiring Henry Ring, hasn’t done much to endear the American public to our soccer league still in its infancy.

Having been a Fire supporter since our first year, this has to be one of toughest seasons to date. It’s not that we don’t have the talent. It’s not as if we didn’t prove ourselves last year, even with the frequent call-ups of some of our best players. It’s just that we are not igniting the once mighty napalm-strength blistering success that burns inside every winning Fire squad.

The team is without the passion and determination they had last year. We broke records, won trophies. The Section 8ers shouted our opponents down, secure in the knowledge that our squad could pull victory out from the jaws of miserable mediocrity with an Andy Williams 30 yard rocket or a Justin Mapp run, setting up anyone in the box, from Dipsy or even, if required, Big Jim Curtin.

From day one we looked lackadaisical and sloppy. I made it through half the season cheering our boys and I began to get nervous about not winning. Then I got scared that we wouldn’t post a winning record. Then I got mad that our team was fighting for the playoffs. A team that won the Supporters Shield in 2003 had been relegated to the gutter of MLS in 2004, a position previously held almost exclusively by the Dallas Burn.

I excused myself from matches. I became a fair-weather fan. I hated losing. 3-1 to the Revs on by birthday, for Christ’s sake!

And now, as I sit and check the boards in the mornings, woozy from Tylenol, Codine and Vicodin, I have begun to find the lost loving feeling I once had for the team. I don’t care about the losses anymore. I don’t care about the questionable coaching decisions. I try not to notice the $6 beer price at the stadium. I need to be in the stands. This team is my anchor. They will always be there to give me something to distract myself with when the freelance gigs aren’t coming through. They give me something to hope for when I’m sick and drugged. I need to be there for them. I need to fill the stands, to shout out in my loudest voice to all the players I love and those I hate, letting the call of ” DOOOOUCHE BAAGGG!!!” reverberate in the stadium.

And if the season doesn’t end up in our favor, I may have a few pills left for our boys in red.