Saturday, April 11, 2009

Never EVER Turn Off the Game

This morning I flipped on Fox Soccer Channel's broadcast of live English Premier League soccer, as I often do on Saturday mornings. I would describe myself as a casual soccer fan--I once had the good fortune of being able to attend some World Cup matches, back when we hosted the tournament in 1994--and anyway a little live, meaningful sports is a pleasant accompaniment to weekend breakfast.

The match was between top-tier side Chelsea and middle-of-the-table Bolton Wanderers. After a couple early chances by Bolton failed to find the mark, Chelsea took control. They had broken through for a goal by halftime, added another early in the second and seemed to insure the result at the hour mark with a third, this time from the penalty spot after a questionable handball call.

At this point, I noted that Lidia's Italy was about to begin on PBS, and with the outcome of the soccer match no longer in doubt I changed the channel. Had I stuck with the match for a few more minutes, I would've seen Chelsea score yet another goal for a 4-0 margin in the 63rd minute.

As anyone who watches soccer knows, rallying from even a one-goal deficit with less than a half-hour to play is difficult, particularly when a middling squad such as Bolton is chasing an elite side such as Chelsea. Rallying from a two-goal deficit under such circumstances is deeply unlikely. Overcoming a three-goal deficit is virtually unheard of. But coming back from 4-0?

When Lidia's show ended, I flipped back to the game, idly curious to see how things had ended up. I was stunned to see that the scoreline sat at Chelsea 4, Bolton 3, in the fifth minute of stoppage time, with Bolton lining up for a corner kick. I watched as the attempt went for naught, the referee blew the final whistle, and Chelsea left the field with three points. The gentleman calling the broadcast described it as one of the most extraordinary matches one could ever hope to see, this season or ever, or words to that effect, and I experienced a sinking feeling knowing that I had willfully forfeited the chance to witness something special.

The lesson? Never, ever leave early. Never, ever turn off the game.

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