The great presenter Vin Scully once told a story about these two guys. One guy asked the other what he thought was the most amazing invention ever. The second guy thought about it for a while and then replied, “The thermos.”
The first guy, a bit confused, asked, “Why the thermos?”
“Well, he can keep hot things hot and cold things cold.”
“Well, how does he know? »
I tend to think an even greater invention is TiVo, which allows you to record something at the push of a button and watch it later (or, quite often, view the program/sporting event on the list of playback options and wondering why you’ve already recorded it).
Such was the case last Thursday when the University of Arizona men’s basketball team faced Houston in the Sweet 16 and the United States men’s soccer team faced Mexico in a qualifying for the World Cup and both start at 7 p.m. The UA game was on TV, but there were football viewing parties all over town, including one at the Tucson Convention Center.
A good friend of mine who loves football (and, I found out later, sour cream, which is even worse than football) asked me to go watch the football game with him. He looked sad and a little desperate (like most football fans), so I said okay. To be honest, having always been an Arizona fan, I wasn’t particularly confident about the Wildcats’ chances, so football gave me an excuse not to watch basketball.
I’ve been American all my life, so I don’t really like football. In fact, there are three things to love about football. First off, it’s a great entry-level sport for 5-year-olds to wear in uniforms, get out there and run around and dream of playing a sport where you can use your hands.
Second, the football highlights are excellent. They used to have a thing on ESPN on Christmas Eve which was an hour of the biggest footballing highlights from around the world that year. It was amazing.
I could watch the best football moments every day of the year. Great goals scored, great saves from the goalkeeper, great dribbling and passing. The only problem is the other 89 minutes of play, when nothing happens.
The third thing…well, I don’t really remember the third thing. Oh yes! Ted Lasso.
So, I edited the UA game on TiVo and we went to the football viewing party. Man, I wish something exciting had happened. Damn, I wish EVERYTHING had happened.
The game was played at the legendary Estadio Azteca in Mexico City, where the Mexican national team hardly ever loses. The advantages of the land are numerous. For one thing, Mexico City sits at an elevation of 7,200 feet. No matter how well conditioned the visiting athletes are, they begin to wither in the second half from oxygen deprivation. Then, as Humble Pie once sang, it’s hot and mean. Temperatures and humidity levels in the 90s are not uncommon.
And then there are the crowds. The stadium’s official capacity is 89,000. But on the stadium’s opening night in 1966, they drew 107,000 people. A few years later, they squeezed 120,000 people for a game between Mexico and Brazil. Just imagine the UA football stadium packed to capacity, every seat taken. And then double it.
In nearly 60 years, Mexico have lost just two World Cup qualifying matches at the Estadio Azteca (against Costa Rica in 2001 and against Honduras in 2013). Before Thursday, the American team had managed two draws in 11 games in Azteca. Going into the match, both teams trailed surprising favorite Canada, with the top three of the group qualifying for the World Cup. The United States missed the 2018 World Cup after being upset by Trinidad and Tobago in the qualifying round.
The whole night turned out to be disappointing. The match was played at night, with temperatures in the 60s and a light breeze. Also, as the World Cup will be played this year in the sweltering heat of Qatar between (our) Thanksgiving and Christmas, the qualifying game was played in the first week of spring, instead of last summer. The stadium was also only half full as authorities imposed severe limits on fan attendance in Mexico due to poor behavior. (Some “fans” insist on shouting homophobic slurs at opposing players. In 2004, shortly after the 9/11 attacks, people in Azteca were shouting “Osama! Osama!” at American players.)
It got so bad (and boring) that the AP announcer at the stadium was urging those in attendance to make some noise. It was also subdued on viewing night, as the two sides played out a lackluster (and completely unsurprising) 0-0 draw.
At least I didn’t have to watch the UA game.