The Agony of Defeat
No, I'm not referring to the feeling I had this morning when I woke up and read that Larry Farnese basically hocked his toes in order to win the First District Democratic nod (Beholden, anyone?). Rather, it's the agony that Chelsea's John Terry must've been feeling after missing a penalty kick that would've locked up a UEFA Championship over Manchester United.
Admittedly, if Real Madrid isn't in the mix (been partial to them since I went to a game while a summer exchange student my sophomore year at Haddon Township), I lean toward the Reds, who I got to see up close and personal when they opened the Linc a few years back.
So, it was a 1-1 at the end of a regulation time that saw Chelsea nail two shots off the post. As the rain started teeming, they played through two scoreless 15-minute overtime periods, near the end of which Chelsea star Didier Drogba got a red card for bitchslapping an opponent. So into penalty kicks they went.
Manchester hits one. Chelsea hits one.
Manchester hits two. Chelsea hits two.
Manchester's Christiano Ronaldo pulls an illegal stop and missed three. Chelsea hits three.
Manchester hits three. Chelsea hits four.
Manchester hits four. And then, just after 1 a.m. local time in Moscow, where the game was played...
LONDON -- In extravagant tension from Moscow, as the Chelsea stalwart John Terry strode to take the clinching penalty kick on giant TV screens, you could sense the pubs along the winding Fulham Road poising to erupt.
The steel-gutted Terry would make the kick, of course. Chelsea of London would defeat fellow kingpin Manchester United, 1-1 and 5-4 on penalties, to win the first all-English final in the biggest soccer-club competition in the world, the European Champions League. And when this European night's drama had settled, this road that runs past Chelsea's Stamford Bridge stadium would become maybe the place-to-be on the planet.
Horns would blare. Strangers might hug. It all became almost visible and audible as pub windows revealed Chelsea fans in blue, inhaling just before joy.
Just then, though, an inconceivable twist happened some 1,559 miles to the east. In Russian rain, Terry missed. He guessed correctly, aiming for the gaping half of the goal while Manchester United goalkeeper Edwin Van der Sar lunged rightward, but Terry slipped and shanked it stunningly wide of the goal.
Moments later, when Manchester United won 6-5 on penalties, once Van der Sar stopped Nicolas Anelka's try, the city of Manchester 163 miles to the northwest became the place-to-be, revealing again that sports is terribly capricious and that the European Champions League can be among the most thrillingly precarious competitions on Earth.
Pardon me for saying so, but this game had more drama than Elway beating the Packers or the Giants knocking off the Pats. Edge-of-the-couch drama. And how horrible must it have felt to watch that ball sail wide of the goal and cost your squad the European club championship. And how much worse was it for fans to realize that hadn't Drogba been tossed out, Terry wouldn't even have taken the shot.
Soccer haters, try to catch a replay of this one. It very well may change your mind.