The New York City subway system is a primary source of inconvenience, vexation, and everything in between. If you’re lost, stranded or just not sure about your destination, MTA workers are either not interested in your failures or they’ll gladly assist you; it’s very much 50-50. This time around, I was stranded and time was not on my side. The devil was the clock and the angel was…well, the devil took over both of my shoulders.
It’s 6:25, the 7 train I’m on from Flushing to Queensboro Plaza is delayed because of train traffic ahead. Every passenger is exasperated. One guy blurts out a very direct fuck this, which every passenger young and old can hear throughout the whole subway car. It wasn’t a good sight.
Thankfully, the stop I had to get off was the very next one. But at the same time, the perturbing train ahead of us wasn’t helping.
Sports is a topic matter that can lure people into conversation. Talking to strangers about sports can sometimes be a nuisance since you never know who you’re going to encounter. I’ve listened to some of the strangest conversations about sports betting on trains.
This past October, some guy asked his law school buddy if he should bet on the Orioles sweeping the Royals in the ALCS. I can assure you that the end result wasn’t so pretty. I wanted to say something, but I realized it wasn’t worth it, because these guys just sounded like complete jackasses, so I didn’t bother.
I don’t have the ability to morph into Dr. Phil. I can’t magically dissect a random person’s psyche unless someone is making it very obvious. Someone could be having a bad day or they’re just looking for someone to talk to and you just don’t know it. Just ask my mom, she’s an expert at both (I hate when she tells strangers how cute I was when I was little. God, no).
There are always three fundamental types of sports people you’ll encounter: the casual, the die-hard, or the straight pessimist-optimist that wants the whole team to be traded after one bad performance (see Yankee fans). Step into any bar or restaurant – no matter if it’s a Dave And Buster’s or a T.G.I Friday’s – and you’ll encounter at least one of the three.
This time I was lucky enough to meet three die-hards on the subway.
Enter Pantellas, David and Chet, three of the most ordinary, passionate football fans anyone can ever run into on an NYC subway that wasn’t a homeless guy or talented street performer (by the way, you need a license to be a subway performer). They’re three major football fans, Pantellas being a Chelsea supporter dating back to pre-Roman Abramovich (also known as the time before Chelsea was even founded), David being a QPR supporter that’s sat through copious amounts of financial troubles and management mishaps and Chet, a fellow Gunner that only spoke when Arsenal was brought up. He is also perhaps the staunchest Arsene Wenger apologist I’ve ever heard. Maybe I’ve seen his name on the interwebs on an Arsenal fan site at one point.
I glanced at Pantellas’ scarf, only to discover that he was wearing a Chelsea scarf over his New York Jets sweatshirt. I was also wearing my Jets beanie, so we hit it off about the Jets. “You’re a Jets fan?” I asked. “Huge, since 1986,” Pantellas said. “Back in the days when we had the gunslinger…Ken O’Brien.” I continued. “And Wesley ‘Legally Blind’ Walker!” Pantellas chucked. “At first, I might’ve had a personal vendetta against you for Chelsea, but then I saw the Jets logo on your sweatshirt.”
But before we discussed football, we all had the same nuisance we all had to get rid of: finding the 4 train to Yankee Stadium.
In the first post, I wrote about how I’d never went to Yankee Stadium for anything whatsoever, except for maybe once when I was too young to function (at approximately 18 months old). But despite never going there, I had no problem with the subway maps for the inaugural home opener; I swooped right in with no problems at all. So, being the over-confident person that I never am, I assumed the first trip was going to be the same routine for every home game. Not so much.
Here’s the thing: everything gets iffy when you have no alternative stratagems for a conflict. The modified version of Douglas MacArthur’s “island-hopping” entitled “subway platform hopping” was in dire straits.
“Where’s the fucking track? I thought it was here,” Pantellas said. “I think we just ran in circles,” said David. (Chet was a man of no words unless the topic was Arsenal. He was just following our scrambling lead.) “You can’t make this shit up,” Pantellas continued. “I know the Queens subways better than anyone, but man, screw the Bronx, the Yankees, the MTA…” Dude just went on and on. His heavy New York accent made it even more jocular. It’s like Andrew Dice Clay roaming the subways.
Finally, we had found the track and caught the train at the last second and tried settling while being squished by other subway goers. For the length of the ride, we all discussed footballing talking points, like who should win World Player of The Year, the Premier League title race, our general feelings about FIFA (all of us said “corrupt as fuck”), Eden Hazard’s prowess and, of course, the game.
“I think Eden Hazard is a class player, man. He’s so much better than Ronaldo and Messi,” Pantellas declared. “You biased son of a bitch,” I said, sarcastically. David let out a big laugh. “I can sense the bias in that one,” David said. “If anything, Robert Green deserves a shit ton of recognition.” We all laughed in unison.
David started doing a pretty good impression of ‘Arry Redknapp. “OH, ROB GREEN? TRIFFIC, TRIFFIC PLAYER. SO TRIFFIC.” We all laughed incredibly hard. Every other subway passenger? They gave him death stares, much like Kobe Bryant’s.
Unfortunately, we had to drift away from each other, because of seating arrangements (wow, how surprising is that?) Pantellas was in the same set of seats, but was far away. In the middle of trying to get into the stadium, David had an extra ticket he was desperately trying to get rid of, so he took more time trying to scalp it outside of the stadium and Chet – well, I honestly have no clue. He probably found American Gooners somewhere.
NYCFC was going up against Sporting Kansas City.
Sporting is a good team to root for if you’re looking to get into MLS for a few reasons:
1. Their fans are incredible. The Cauldron rocks Sporting Park almost every game. Sporting Park is the place to be at.
2. Matt Besler and Graham Zusi (yes, they count as one reason when combined).
3. The Midwest is an American soccer hub.
4. They have a nice club history, dating back to when they were the Kansas City Wizards.
Their best success was in 2000, mainly because of Tony Meola (he won MLS MVP, Goalkeeper of The Year and MLS Cup MVP that year) post mullet and their MLS Cup win in 2013 against Nick Rimando’s Real Salt Lake.
This was the first time manager Jason Kreis had to deal with altering his player selection, due to injuries and international callups. He kept his 4-4-2 intact, but with very different faces. David Villa was scratched because of an adductor strain, super sub Khiry Shelton was called up to the USMNT U-23s, and target man Adam Nemec – or the Slovakian Jozy Altidore to NYCFC supporters – was also on international break for his native Slovakia. Patrick Mullins, who scored NYCFC’s second goal in the home opener off of a David Villa cross, got the start up front with Javier Calle.
Sporting KC was NYCFC’s first real test, because of their stifling, stonewall defense. The center back pairing of Matt Besler and Ike Opara stifles many strikers who attempt to venture through the middle. Ask any Sporting fan and they’ll tell you that the Besler-Opara twosome shellac opposing forwards on a consistent basis.
I missed the first seven minutes of the game when fortunately, nothing really happened 0utside of hearing scattered “Red Bulls suck” chants outside the stadium (they ended up beating the Columbus Crew 2-1). Matt Besler was being booed by the NYCFC home crowd during a long throw in that eventually lead to the first and only goal of the entire contest.
You all know what happens when you antagonize somebody that’s really good: they capitalize.
Besler’s throw in was a killer, placed with such astonishing accuracy. Kwame Watson-Siriboe, NYCFC’s tallest player, had Ike Opara marked perfectly, but Opara’s vertical was far too much for Watson-Siriboe and beat Josh Saunders with the header, with Saunders not even attempting to dive for the save. That people were complaining about Yankee Stadium’s FIFA-shortened dimensions (by, like, two feet and two inches) after the goal was hysterical. They couldn’t have thought of a better excuse.
The Hot But Pestering Girl
Remember Danny from the first post, the guy that faded away into obscurity with his friend after the first half at the home opener? He disappeared, again. I don’t know what goes on in his head; this guy has to be a steadfast user of telepathy. He’s definitely playing with me.
One day, I’ll find out about his telepathy schtick that no one else in our section knows about (well, other than his accomplice). Maybe the two fine, attractive women that sit right behind me know about it. Speaking of…
During halftime, two women, who seem to be in their early-to-mid 20s, were on drunken stupors with their decently tempered boyfriends (I don’t know how they can handle so much embarrassment in one sitting). But my goodness, they’re Grade A. One of them could qualify as Eugenie Bouchard’s doppelganger. That right there earns you deity status. “Hands Down” by Dashboard Confessional started playing in my head when I turned back around. I made one slight modification to the lyrics: “Hands down the best two drunk looking women I’ve ever seen.”
“Where did you get that jersey?” one of them asked. I lied and said I got my phony AliExpress David Villa jersey off of eBay for $50. “That’s cool. We were thinking about buying jerseys in the stadium, but they’re fucking assholes for trying to make us pay a shit ton of money.” The girl’s speech was so slurred, even the most highbrow drunk pig Latin scholar couldn’t make out the crass jibber jabber.
My beanie is a relatively tall one. If it’s half way above my forehead, chances are a relatively short person wouldn’t be able to see, like someone wearing a top hat at a movie theater with no stadium seating. Being six feet tall doesn’t help, either.
The unknown girl kept tugging on my beanie throughout the second half, as if she was trying to make a move on me (in my dreams). The first time the beanie was blocking her view, she was playfully shouting “I can’t see! Can you pull it down?” I had no idea if she was serious or not. I pulled it down out of respect.
So much for respect. She kept tugging away. At that point, I just ignored her, until the boyfriend finally jumped in to control her beanie-tugging escapades. He apologized to me. “Sorry man” he said. This is what I have to deal with every time we go out.”
Fantastic. I was liberated from the alluring Eugenie Bouchard stunt double. I didn’t see her for the rest of the game and her friend was lonely without her. She later followed her and the boyfriend. I forgot that the game was even going on during that 10 minute time frame of beanie pulling.
Questionable call after questionable call was perhaps the mantra of this game, for rather everyone. The Third Rail (normally on any foul call) acted as if the referee was like a politician flip flopping from spectrum to spectrum on major issues. He called for a handball and, consequently, wasted at least three minutes. The titantron displayed the moment perfectly. Jeb Brovsky was desperately trying to win the referee over, with Seth Sinovic, the Sporting defender who committed the alleged handball, saying the opposite. The referee discussed with the linesman, and finally reversed his decision. The handball was no more.
Following the handball call-to-no-call, the bulk of NYCFC’s possessions essentially went like this: Pass, pass, pass, turnover, pass, back pass to Josh Saunders, pass out wide to the fullback, back pass back to Josh Saunders again, reset. Rinse. Repeat. Stoppage time produced some decent chances, but, again, not good enough.
NYCFC’s quest to become the MLS Invincibles ended. The contest showed that sans the primary attacking options, there was nothing in sight. Of course, if David Villa was playing, maybe Besler and Opara and or the fullbacks would try to close down Villa, like Orlando City did in the franchise debut.
But NYCFC fans can scrutinize “what-if” scenarios all they want. The team was stymied by the defense and groggy from the Sporting counterattacks. The backline did the job, though. Watson-Siriboe and Chris Wingert both did outstanding jobs clearing balls to the flanks when a Sporting attack was launched. Wingert got man of the match, and deservedly so.
NYCFC have back-to-back fixtures against the Union this week, who just lost to Sporting KC 3-2. Villa, Nemec, Shelton and Sebastian Velasquez are definitely going to be back by then. So will Eugenie Bouchard 2.0, her boyfriend and her quiet friend (I hope).