As a kid, we played soccer for many beerless, enthusiastic years. But these days, we mentally urge our body and the scoreboard clock to hustle it up, the forty-five minutes accounting for the 2,700 seconds we look forward to least throughout the week. Our legs are fatigued and Jell-O-like, marked with bruises and strawberry patches. It's all we can do to shakily lift our one-liter bottle of Fiji Natural Artesian Water to our lips after we call for a sub, hop the wall and cheer the sucker who's replaced us on the field.
And that's really saying something, insofar as we've played just two games this season: We've been out of town a lot lately, and the Monday night games don't jibe with our jet-setting lifestyle and chiropractor's orders. Much to our disappointment, we were in town, healthy and could actually make it to this week's game, so we pulled on our regulation purple T-shirt and joined our team at the Concord Sports Club in south St. Louis county.
Inside the complex it's hot and stuffy, like a car's interior that hasn't had a door opened in weeks. (It neighbors a temperature-controlled storage facility, a fact that irks us weekly.) The powerful kicks echo like cannons in the dank, sweaty pen. We fear equally the muscular men in knee braces and the women who could drop us with a Look. We prefer to play offense, but have come to appreciate the precious seconds that playing defense allows when our team charges to the other end of the field, hopeful that this goal will turn our season around.
Our team, Turf Toe, is firmly entrenched at the bottom of the rankings, having never technically won a game. We've had some close calls, but nothing that's resulted in a triumphant "W" on our record. There's plenty of real talent when our team takes the field. But like everything else on ESPN that we can think of besides the World Series of Poker, it's a game of inches that we haven't netted. Yet.
We're playing a team called the Sex Panthers and make snarky comments about how baby-faced their team looks, hypothesizing that our game was scheduled earlier than usual was because of a curfew restriction. This lasts for precisely fifty-two seconds — when the hormone-ravaged juveniles score their first goal of the night. They'd go on to get another six? Seven? We forget, and it doesn't matter. To us, the most important number of the night is four — the number of subs waiting behind the wall, ready to replace our comparatively ancient, creaky bones presently hobbling up and down the field after these crazed panthers of sex.
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