I Spent $400 To Watch the Meaningless USA Soccer Game

Gene ZarnickCorrespondent IJune 24, 2010

While many of you were getting ready to watch the USA vs. Algeria soccer game, I was standing in the heat, waiting for a cab to pick me up from a local auto shop.  I didn't plan on being there; I actually didn't think there was any chance I'd get to watch the group deciding game, but somehow, 400 bucks later, I was able to.

My fortunate misfortune actually started on Tuesday night.  I drove home from work, parked, and ran inside to grab my checkbook as I was going to go open a checking account nearby.

I just moved to Hartford, Connecticut three weeks ago and started my new job less than two weeks ago so requesting a day off so I could watch the soccer game was never a thought in my mind.

Running back outside, I went to start my car and it wouldn't turn over.  I checked the battery and it seemed alright, but the engine just didn't want to start up.  Immediately, all I could think about was how I was going to get to work in the morning.  I had a couple meetings today, including one at 8:00am and I didn't think it would create a good precedent to skip out on them already.

I called AAA and they came out about an hour and a half later to check the battery.  The guy that came was pretty nice and after running a couple of tests he determined that it was the starter that went bad.  Since he only did the tests he told me he wasn't going to file it or charge me.  I don't know if he realized that I called AAA so the service was free for me anyway or he was just stating the gesture because he was nearly an hour late, but there I was with a car stuck in the parking lot and me worrying about trying to find the bus schedule so I could get to work in the morning.

After returning to my apartment I opened up my laptop to email my manager to let him know what was going on.  He was actually online at the time and I told him the story and he said not to worry about it and that to just deal with the car and that I could work from home.  At the time, it didn't even cross my mind, but later on in the night I finally realized that this meant that I would be able to watch this important soccer game.

The auto shop opened at 7am so I called them early in hopes that I could get my car fixed during the day.  They said if it was just the starter then it would be done today so I proceeded to call AAA again so I could get it towed to the garage.  The tow truck driver came and hooked up the car, I hopped in the passenger seat, and we were on our 4.5 mile journey to the mechanic.

I dropped the car off and called the cab driver.  About 20 minutes later I got picked up and got dropped back off at my place.  Maybe I just don't take cabs too often, but it cost me $18 to take a cab on that short route.  The round trip cost me $36; I could've rented a car for the day for less than that.

When I got back inside, 10 minutes were already off the clock.  I sat down on my coach, with my work laptop in hand so I could check my emails and be available for anyone to contact me, and intently watched the game.

This was definitely one of the most intense soccer games I have ever viewed.  There were just so many chances for the U.S. to grab the lead early on and each one failed again and again.  It really didn't feel like we were going to win the game at the end and I had hope the entire match, but it was vanquishing very quickly as the clock ticked down.

The stoppage time clock went up and I saw that there was 4' to play.  I knew we had enough time to make another run or two, but at this point I thought it was over.  I'm sure we all saw the Landon Donovan play by now.  I went ecstatic, you went ecstatic, Twitter shutdown; all in all it was a moment that was so amazing that I was literally flailing my arms in the air and yelling all by myself in my apartment.

I didn't know what to do at that point. I am just astonished at this point that such an amazing event happened in front of my eyes and I couldn't believe the miracle goal that just incurred and will live on forever in the history of US soccer.

Once the game ended, I started listening to the commentary and reading what people were saying online and the consensus was that the Donovan play, combined with the advancement and winning of the group will lead to a greater soccer audience in the United States.  This single game and single play could single-handedly change the fate of an entire sport in the eyes of our nation.

I don't think so.

Soccer is not going to become a powerhouse in the United States anytime soon.  Maybe if we win a World Cup, but without that I just don't see it happening.

Let's travel back four months ago when we had a similar situation occur that was supposed to change the outlook of another sport.  The U.S. hockey team just beat the too big, too fast, and too strong Canadian team in their home country and the U.S. of A created a new found love of hockey that was supposed to transform the sport back to its glory days.  The hype lived on and we made it all the way into the gold cup game and scored with less than a minute left to go to overtime where we eventually would lose, but an effort that was unforeseen by most anyone in the United States, including die hard hockey fans.

We're less than a month removed from the Stanley Cup Finals and I can definitively say that hockey didn't change one bit.  The fans who were there before are still there now and the fans that weren't there before left quickly after the Olympics.

This will be the same case for US soccer.

One of the biggest problems our country has is that we are overwhelmed by so many successful sports leagues.  Not too many countries have four successful sporting organizations like the NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL.  Add to that we have NASCAR, the PGA, and UFC and we are pretty heavily saturated with a great amount of sporting events.  Trying to force the MLS or the game of soccer into that tight knit top four or even the other three sporting organizations is an extremely tough task.  Probably a task that is almost impossible to happen.

I got the call from the shop that my car was ready and good to go again.  The cab arrived again, dropped me off and paid $18 and I handed the shop my credit card and $375 later I was back on the road, in my car, and headed back to my place.

At the end of the day I basically paid $400 to be able to watch the amazing soccer match between the United States and Algeria.  When the goal went it I thought that it was well worth the price of admission.

Now that I sit here writing this and re-watching the same game on ESPN2, my thoughts have changed quite a bit.  I would've much rather been at work watching the game on ESPN GameCast and have $400 in my bank account then be sitting at home on my couch, teleworking, and waiting for my car to get repaired.

I guess I just realized that just like the hockey game, four months from now, the game will be meaningless and the sport won't change one bit.


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