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13 June 2010
RUSTENBURG, South Africa -- The initial soccer match between the United States and England ended in a 1-1 tie. It was an appropriate end to a competition between a nation that doesn't know what soccer is, and a nation that doesn't know what exciting sport is.
Playing to a tie is an art form in England. In the Premier League, hypercautious play is often the key to entry into the post-season, although the hallmark achievement is the nil-nil result. Unlike other sports played there (between rain storms), the match did not take all weekend, and whether it would get dark too soon was not a factor.
The American players lingered on the field, unaware that they had not achieved a victory. Tim Howard, the arquero (or wicket-minder) for the Yankees, said, "Obviously, the adrenaline is pumping. Tell me, what was the score?"
After the English scored a legitimate goal, the Americans tied the game when Clint Dempsey snuck a ball past English gatekeeper Robert Green.
In the States, the game was seen on big-screen television in many of the stadia of Major League Soccer, filled with fans with no fear that Immigration would round them up for deportation to their real countries. Dave O'Brien described the equalizer as "greasy" during a Boston Red Sox radio broadcast. A definition was not forthcoming. The option of covering soccer, as well as a fundraiser for prostate cancer, was enabled by the two and a half hours of inaction that exist within any three-hour baseball game. The ennui was broken up by Daniel Nava, who hit the first major-league pitch of his career for a grand slam homerun for the Red Sox. This event, a confluence of factors within and not within his control, will be seized on as part of baseball's heritage by accountants and astrologers alike. O'Brien's counterpart, Joe Castiglione, took pride in having urged Nava to swing at anything on his first pitch, in the pre-game interview, in pursuit of baseball's highest achievement: statistical rarity.
Back to soccer, then. Among those attending the World Cup match was U.S. Vice President Joe Biden. He repeated a signature line, urging Howard to "Stand up and take a bow." Unfortunately, Howard could not, as Emile Heskey had just kicked him in the ribs as he lay on the ground.