First things first, Wednesday night's IronBirds game, which is the last one I attended before writing this column, was one of the quickest I have ever covered. I've documented my strong bias toward well-pitched, low-scoring games many times in this column, but the Wednesday contest, a 2-1 victory for Aberdeen, was a bit too much, even by my standards. I got caught in the north-bound, rush hour madness on I-95 heading to the stadium, and when I arrived I stopped in to sit for a few minutes with my parents and some old friends, who were seated together on the first base side. Just chatting with my folks, I watched an entire inning roll by (lest I sound lazy, keep in mind I was working this whole time, compiling a mental list of the plays that were unfolding). By the time I got to the press box, set up my computer and started setting up the article I would later turn in, it was the sixth inning. The last 3-1/2 innings flew by so quick I didn't even have time to set up a lead paragraph, much less outline a story. Somehow I got my postgame interviews, wrote the recap and was back home before 11 p.m., which never happens.
The experience made me think of one of my favorite baseball quotes. Reggie Jackson, after having faced Nolan Ryan, said, "every hitter likes fastballs, just like everybody likes ice cream. But, you don't like it when someone's stuffing it into you by the gallon. That's how you feel when Ryan is throwing balls by you." We all know what we like and how we want to see things unfold, but there is a cutoff point at which we ask, "is this maybe a bit too much?" I asked myself that same question Wednesday night, and it wasn't the first time this week I'd done so.
A little more than 24 hours before Wednesday's IronBirds game, I watched ESPN's streaming broadcast of the World Cup semifinal matchup between Brazil and Germany. I was pulling for Germany, because my ancestors were mostly German, and because I always root against the Brazilian national team. I don't dislike Brazil as a nation, nor do I have a particular distaste for any of the Brazilian players, but every four years that team is the front runner, the one the rest of the field is going to have to beat. I'll mark my introduction to international soccer as 1994, when Brazil knocked out the upstart U.S. team of that year's World Cup and went on to beat Italy in the final (and when that dirty Brazilian fullback smashed poor Tab Ramos' skull with an elbow swing that wouldn't have been out of place in a pro wrestling match). Since then, Brazil is the only team to repeat as champion, winning the 2002 final after getting knocked out by France in the championship game four years earlier.
What I was hoping for in Tuesday's semifinal was an exciting, evenly-matched contest that would be decided in regular time, not on penalty kicks (I've written about my distaste for penalty shootouts many times in this column, but I'm not as rabidly against them as I used to be). When Germany scored in the 11th minute, I was pretty sure we would see a five-goal game, with one team winning, 3-2. When Germany scored again in the 23rd minute, I was still fairly sure Brazil would answer before halftime.
The Germans were not on the same page I was, because they went on to score three more goals in a five-minute span, putting Brazil behind, 5-0. My dear friend, Adam, a teammate on my high school soccer team, with whom I'd been swapping texts throughout the World Cup, sent me a message that read, "the Germans are showing no mercy, adios Brazil."
Germany added two more goals in the second half, and Brazil managed one tally in the match's waning minute, bringing the score to 7-1. I had never seen anything like that in a knockout-round game at the World Cup, much less a semifinal contest. I got to see Brazil defeated, but it wasn't very exciting. Around the time Germany scored its fourth goal, it turned from a soccer match to watching Brazil disintegrate on the field.
I just hope that Sunday's championship game is a bit more competitive. I'm completely fine with the IronBirds playing two-hour, one-run games though.