So, okay, last Tuesday night, the US national men’s soccer team was playing Panama’s national team. In Panama. It was a World Cup qualifying game, but meant nothing to the US team–we’ve already qualified for the World Cup, first in our group. But this game still needed to be played, and was important; if Panama won, and Mexico lost, Panama would qualify for the World Cup. If the US won, however, Mexico would qualify. Mexico was playing at Costa Rica, and could also qualify just by winning. But late in the evening, the US was behind Panama 2-1, and Mexico was losing, also 2-1.
Mexico is a soccer-mad nation, and for their national team to not qualify for the World Cup would be a national bummer of epic proportions. Panama is a much smaller country, what with being split in half by a ditch and all; making the World Cup would be super cool for them too.
Soccer games last 90 minutes, with the clock running continuously. But during the game, guys get hurt, penalties get assessed, and the referee keeps track of how long the game is delayed by those events, and that time then gets added to the 90 minutes at the end. It’s called ‘stoppage time.’ Which means, when the clock shows that 90 minutes are up, there are usually 3 or 4 minutes left to play. And goals scored in stoppage time count, obviously.
So after 90 minutes, Mexico trailed Costa Rica, and the US trailed Panama. And it looked like Panama was going to the World Cup.
The Mexican national team stands to lose 600 million dollars this year. If they don’t make the World Cup, their finances are that amount in arrears. They hope that by making it to Brazil, to the World Cup, they’ll recoup those losses.
Sunday night, the Red Sox, having earlier lost Game One of the American League Championship Series, trailed the Tigers in Game Two. In the 8th inning, they were behind 5-1. If they lost the first two games of that 7 game series, they were unlikely to win the series. Especially since the Tigers have the two best pitchers in baseball, Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer, ready to go as needed.
Also, the New England Patriots were losing to the New Orleans Saints at home, 27-23, with a little over a minute left. The Patriots’ quarterback, Tom Brady, is superb. But his best receivers are all hurt. They’ve dropped pass after pass. He’s working with third stringers, plus former BYU star, Austin Collie, who has been with the team two days and doesn’t know the plays.
The Tigers play in Detroit. Detroit is bankrupt. Detroit is also home to the auto industry, which nearly went bankrupt. One of President Obama’s signal domestic accomplishments was his loan, which led to the restructuring of the auto industry, saving thousands of jobs. It would be really really good for Detroit to win the World Series. This year.
The Red Sox are from Boston. Boston has an annual holiday, Patriot’s day, third Monday in April. Schools are closed, also municipal buildings. The Red Sox play at home. And later in the day, the Boston Marathon is run. This year, the Marathon was interrupted by two bombs, which killed three people and badly injured dozens more. The Patriots also play in Boston.
Meanwhile, Tuesday night, John Boehner presented a bill in the House of Representatives that would re-open the government and allow us to avoid default on our nation’s debts. This bill was pretty close to the Republicans last chance to get something substantive in their negotiations. Assuming it could pass the House, pass on a Senate vote, and be signed by the President, all of which looked pretty iffy.
The US soccer team has a guy, Graham Zusi, plays professionally for Kansas City, barely on the National team, but hardly ever plays. For the US, this game against Panama doesn’t matter–none of our stars are in the game. But in stoppage time, Zusi heads in a perfect cross. Game tied, in the 92nd minute.
Tuesday night, as the House is preparing to vote on Boehner’s bill, the conservative advocacy group Heritage Action vets the bill, says House Republicans should vote against it. The Heritage Foundation is run by former Senator Jim DeMint. For a few minutes, it appears that DeMint is de facto House Speaker. In any event, Heritage Action’s memo scuttles the bill–rather than suffer a humiliating defeat, Boehner withdraws it.
Tom Brady moves the Patriots down the field. A key fourth down catch is made by Austin Collie. With five seconds left, Brady throws a touchdown to an undrafted free agent rookie receiver, Kenbrell Thompkins. The Patriots, who looked dead, win the game.
David Ortiz, of the Red Sox, comes up with the bases loaded in the 8th, facing the Tigers best relief pitcher, Joaquin Benoit. Ortiz hits a low line drive to right. The right field wall in Fenway Park is very low; it looks like the ball might barely clear it. Tigers right fielder Torii Hunter leaps, actually jumps over the fence. The ball eludes his glove. Game tied. In the 9th, the Red Sox, who looked dead, win the game.
David Ortiz, Big Papi, is the only Red Sox player still on the team who played in the 2004 World Series, in which the Sox shattered the curse of Babe Ruth. A big Dominican, he has been embraced in the city of Boston as few other athletes have ever been embraced by their cities. The day after the Boston bombing, Ortiz asked to take the take the mic. When he said, proudly, “this is our f-ing city,” the place erupted. That was in April. Now, in October, the season on the line, he hits a grand slam home run to win a game they had to win.
In Panama, in the 94th minute, well into stoppage time by now, the game nearly over, another USA reserve, Aron Johannsson, strikes a ball sharply for the left corner of the goal. It barely slides past the diving keeper. Here’s a link.The USA, who looked dead, win the game 3-2.
In Costa Rica, the Mexican announcer hears the US score and goes berserk. The Mexican national team, who looked completely dead, have qualified for . . . well, not the World Cup, but a playoff game with New Zealand, the winner to advance to the World Cup. The announcer’s great: audibly weeping, he shouts ‘GOAAAAAALLLLLLLL’. For a goal in a different game than the one he was announcing, played in a different country. Then he says, in English, “We love you! We love you forever! God bless America.” And then, best I can make out, the same sentiments many many times in Spanish.
Mexico advances. The Red Sox win. The Patriots win.
On Wednesday, Senators Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell, the Majority and Minority leaders of the Senate, craft a bill that will re-open the government, and raise the debt ceiling. Speaker Boehner calls for a House vote, which passes. The President signs it into law. The United States of America, which looked as close to dead as it’s possible for the richest nation in the history of the world to look, just that close to default, our full faith and credit in jeopardy, probably the world economy at risk, has (barely) survived another crisis.
It’s been, to say the least, an exciting few days. The Patriots survived. Detroit and Boston, two cities who need some good news, remain locked in a titanic playoff battle. Mexico, right now, loves America. And a few other people whose patriotism seemed dubious did, finally, do the right thing for the country. So dish up some ice cream, or whatever you celebrate with, and, very quietly, rejoice. They play the Super Bowl every year, and the debt ceiling will have to be raised again in February.