Futfanatico is closed for the summer as per usual. In fact, the only editor is not even in the United States of America: how dare him! Thus, this random dispatch from GonzoBro is even less edited and less relevant than ever, yet we need pageviews so here goes.
“On assignment” means one thing to baller freelancers like me: watching adult films on the company dime late at night while staying in some roach-infested Howard Johnson motel in the crummy neighborhood of a somewhat major metropolitan area. That fact may creep you out, but honesty and fidelity to truth at all costs are the trademark of GonzoBra.
Every time you see a byline at The Guardian like “Tom Dart in Dallas“, I think: how many Debbie films did this guy catch between flights during his cursory three-hour stay at a Day’s Inn? “On assignment” means “on our” means stags will be stags roaming the wild and its always ever so much fun and glamorous and they don’t serve peanuts in coach anymore and you have zero space to rest your elbows but you are paid to travel hence travel is suddenly fun.
Yet this odd thing happened: Lionel Fucking Messi and the the Argentinian national team came to play a game vs. the US in my own backyard: Houston. On Assignment suddenly meant zero travel, just futbol. Of course, the codo mofos at Futfanatico couldn’t land me press credentials. Should I bother? Could I cook up some content to get paid to pay back a relative who stopped talking to me a few months ago?
The Heavens answered, shouted, cried out: HELL YEAH. SMy wife of all people insisted we attend the Argentina-US match…but not actually pay to enter the stadium. I had no clue what this bonita broad was cooking, but I lapped it up and was ready for whatever whenever.
Before the US game and even the Copa American group stages game, I’d noticed this really disturbing pattern in the USMNT games. Basically, this German (read: Nazi foreigner) dude just tossed away friendly games to scrub teams. He only ever started like 7-8 regular starters and then gave these totally inexperienced kids a half of futbol to show their stuff. Basically, friendlies were just exhibitions and mini-trials, not a point of pride.
This dawned on me and my first instinct was of course to mail threatening letters to everybody at US Soccer, stage a massive protest, and, if necessary, take Jurgen Klinsmann’s life in a violent orgy of violence. I even found a few podcasts where all the hosts and callers seemed to agree, but nobody had the stones to really express just what was wrong, just exactly how they felt, and do anything about it.
Of course, I could easily VOX Jurgen and find his address, but decided that murder just may be too much, I drank some really good herbal tea, and just started a few Instagrams and Snapchat channels which were images of his head on decomposing bodies. You know, the normal run-of-the-mill health American males do to blow off steam without hurting anybody.
I also cast some flirtatious eyes at Juan Carlos Osorio: I saw his Red Bulls beat the Dynamo in the MLS cup playoffs many a moon ago, and there is a man who knows how to win a friendly. Yeah the US won a game or two and made the outrounds and beat Ecuador, but you just know that in the next friendly Jurgen will fuck up his Starting XI and then make changes at halftime when it’s too late.
The kids my wife and I are in the van and we are driving. Mercifully, the children are in middle school and hate us and don’t speak to us – they just fight with one another once their tablet battery dies. My wife and I listen to music that is cool to us but by sheer force of repetition our children will someday grow to hate and this makes me laugh. I still know all the lyrics to most Frank Sinatra songs and hate old blue eyes, despite respecting his artistry. Thanks, mom.
The kids my wife and I are in the van and we are near the medical center area of Houston. I actually lived near the Kroger off Cambridge and OST, so this is kinda sorta my barrio and I am elated to see that the gentrification has largely confined itself to the apartment complexes adjacent to the metro stops. You won’t see crack addicts or any serious drug deals take place, but this is your spot if you need a reasonably priced barber of color or to grab a dimebag.
It is really just emerging middle-class and pretty safe, but people from other parts of Houston may disagree with me on this. People from this barrio may even disagree with me. My wife, who grew up in a Central American neighborhood with three violent gangs competing for turf and often killing rival members by machetazos, locks her car door. In the blink of an eye, I realize just how American she has become and she is still stunningly beautiful.
My old ex landlord, a nice aspiring young doctor from Jordan, still owes me my deposit from, say, seven years ago, but his blue Nissan Sentra is nowhere to be seen in my old apartment complex parking lot so we move on to Phase II: parking for free just far enough away from the stadium to avoid traffic, but close enough where my wife doesn’t have to walk too far and complains more than the usual.
My wife’s plan was not to scalp tickets, it turns out. Thus, the loss of a few hundred possible dollars because this Jordanian is on call is not a fatal blow. Rather, my wife plans to engage in celebritydom tactics. She wants to hang out where the team buses arrive and enter so that we can maybe catch a glimpse of Messi and company. I am not impressed. We have arrived late so we missed the arrival of the buses, but we camp out near the buses and wait.
I have experience seeing players and coaches up close in the flesh. When I lived in Atlanta, a brilliant young Kentuckian devised a plan for us to watch my beloved Jayhawks in-the-flesh in the Georgia Dome and for free. He had seen ads for CSC event staff and we applied and lied about our education so as not to arouse suspicions and were hired!!!!
The Kentuckian and I wore a change of clothes under our CSC uniform and hid flip-flops in the side of our boots. We entered the Dome, sat at a table near the underground parking lot, and then rifled through the equipment bags of Steve Blake and, yes, later, Drew Gooden. Not a single collegiate basketball player had planned to the blow up the Georgia Dome, to our relief.
All the players looked nervous and much older than the Kentuckian and I, even though we (many of the athletes and us) were in the same year in school. I still did not know about super old community college dudes that red-shirted and gamed the NCAA system; I was as innocent as a newborn. I also was not impressed: for some reason, we didn’t get to see Roy Williams travel bag and he didn’t even make eye contact with me or the Kentuckian.
He just walked off the bus and into the locker room as if I didn’t exist. Bastard.
My wife’s plan turned out to be brilliant. The US conceded a goal to LAVEZZI of all people (he who plays in China, tsk tsk) and lost easily . Seeing Messi play would have been cool, but other friends saw him at the friendly a few months earlier and gave me the scouting report: he walks around most of the game, but, when he gets the ball, is really really fucking fast. I was glad to not pay to see the US lose.
I was also glad we were the first in line at the metal fences which separated us the fans from the traveling charter buses. With 30 minutes left in the game, Argentinians slowly trickled out of the stadium and started to form a mob around us. Great, I think. Now we may see Messi, but there’s even less a chance he will see us.
Time ticks off and cries of Ole echo throughout NRG stadium and the mass of people grows and it is hot and it is miserable and I have doubts like Messi is a bit older and doesn’t always come to the U.S. but is this worth it? My wife is unmoved. We wait and stand and I gripe and minutes turn to hours.
Then, late in the night, I saw Him and everything changed. God had plucked one of my brother man and created a slice of divinity, a short, flawed hump of skin and flesh and bone that could travel at amazing speeds and it dawned on me that this Man, this Messi, was in the same lands as me and breathing the same air and maybe even inhaling and coughing from the air pollution as me. I….started…..to….go…..crazy.
A hum then a cry then a shout then nonstop shouts gripped us and we realized that the players, who had won but were sourpusses and probably not yet paid by the AFA for working in the summer, were going to soon exit and get aboard the bus. I watch just a bit of futbol, so I could tell them by their outlines. Di Maria walked like a gunslinger meets greyhound. Mascherano and Banega bobbled like turtles and smiled and waved at us. J-A-V-I-E-R M-O-T-H-E-R-F-U-C-K-I-N-G- M-A-S-C-H-E-R-A-N-O!!!!!!
But that was nothing because soon we saw the shortest silhouette off in the distance and all concepts of time and space and public decency evaporated I grew course from shouting and my arms grew tired from waving for those fleeting few seconds when he-who-was-born-to-play walked to and boarded a bus. Still, that wasn’t the most embarrassing part.
My wife was disgusted because I was crying, clearly, but also….shirtless. In a crazy rush of energy, my first instinct at possibly seeing Messi and maybe even being seen by Messi was…to flash my manboobs at him. They are hairy. They are pasty white. My nipples are basically those old school pink Bubbalicious candy gum but erect at the least opportune of times regardless of shirts worn and the relative temperature.
I had bared what I could to Messi not because it made sense, but because it was all I could offer him. He had meant so much to me, and I didn’t even know it. Shirtless, sobbing, my wife and few other bystanders consoled me for a good half-hour after the bus had left.
I may never recover.