Sports Karma is Awesome

Before starting this column, I have a confession to make: I definitely did not watch the whole USA-Brazil women’s World Cup game yesterday. Because of Twitter, I knew the game was on but instead opted to eat at Buddy’s Pizza in Detroit. I don’t have many rules in life but one of them is that if I am in a city with a pizza restaurant that Adam Richman ranked in the top 25 in the United States, I eat at said pizza restaurant. I regret nothing, especially because as my Twitter feed was blowing up when I returned from my delicious lunch, I saw that there were about ten minutes left in the game, the US was down 2-1, and there was no time like the present to be a bandwagon patriot.

As I did not watch the entire game (or even a majority of it), I will not pretend to profess what this victory means for the popularity of soccer in America, women’s sports in general, or what any of the other ramifications of such a thrilling victory are. I will instead focus on the ten minutes or so that I saw and how I don’t think I have ever seen sports karma manifest itself so quickly.

As you probably saw or at the very least know by now, the US was down 2-1, the final minutes were ticking down, and defeat seemed inevitable. In the 115th minute, a Brazilian player went down and “needed to be removed on a stretcher.” As soon as she was taken off, she magically hopped off the stretcher and started jogging. Not that I have watched all that much soccer in my life but this was by far the most blatant fake injury I have ever seen in my illustrious career of watching sports.

Because I do not know that much about soccer, I need this explained to me. Time spent dealing with these injuries, I think, gets added into the stoppage time at the end of the period. If this is the case, though, doesn’t it mean that no real advantage was gained by this farcical injury faking? But if no advantage is gained, why bother going through this ridiculous charade and embarrassing yourself, your team, and your country on such a conspicuous world stage? Also, why not fake the injury long enough so that it isn’t abundantly clear what you just did? She could have at least hobbled off as they were bringing the stretcher out and still milked the same amount of time. I get that a minor advantage could be gained by breaking up the flow and momentum of the game but I feel that this would be mitigated by giving the gassed US players a chance to rest their legs and catch their breaths.

Whatever its purpose, this absurd display of histrionics immediately transformed me from a passive observer to an ardent, if bandwagon, US women’s soccer hooligan. Fanhood is completely revolutionized when there is a verifiable villain to root against and for the foreseeable future Brazil would fit this bill. Given the jolt to my relative dormancy, I can only imagine how the US players felt as they were being so brazenly disrespected on a world stage.

We can never know if the US would have scored a goal in the final five minutes had their momentum not been broken by the fake injury, but we do know that all of a sudden a flip switched. The team had an unspoken but collective “There is no effing way we are losing this game now” morale boost and returned from the brief respite on a tear. In stoppage time, Megan Rapinoe charged up the field and somehow, some way, executed a perfect cross field pass between two Brazilian defenders and over the goalie to Abby Wombach who headed it into the goal.

Behind precision penalty shots and impeccable goalie play from impending pop culture superstar Hope Solo, the US team prevailed in the shootout to advance to the semi-finals. Skipping the inevitable platitudes about “never giving up,” I must ask whether anyone can recall a time where sports karma happened so quickly. Wambach’s goal literally came within five minutes of the Brazilian player Erika’s springing off of the stretcher and jogging along the sidelines.

Sports karma is not a given. Auburn, which almost certainly cheated to land Cam Newton but did so effectively enough that the cash has not yet been traced, won the 2010-2011 NCAA Football BCS championship over Oregon, a team which also almost certainly cheated, albeit not well enough to evade the NCAA’s (er, Yahoo!’s) enforcement agency of Dan Wetzel and Charles Robinson. TCU, meanwhile, did not show any signs of cheating, went undefeated in the regular season, convincingly beat Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl, and did not even have a chance to compete for a national title. Even if Auburn and Oregon’s seasons end up being vacated (and it is not like the NCAA enforcers are the Men in Black and can erase our memories), TCU’s perfect season will be nothing more than a footnote. Sports, like life, can be unjust and stay that way.

When sports karma does happen, it can take a painfully long time. Roger Clemens can lie and cheat for the better part of a decade, earn multiple Cy Young awards, and win two World Series before being taken down publicly in court. Frank McCourt can “buy the Dodgers on the Dodgers’ credit card” and use the historic franchise as a cash cow to fund his and his family’s profligate lifestyle for years before any action is taken. Even as the Dallas Mavericks carried out justice in defeating the Miami Heat, we had to endure the possibility of LeBron and the Heat as champions for an entire season until they were not.

Given that it does not always happen and when it does the wait can seem interminable, we must revel in the fact that we objectively saw karma take place within five minutes yesterday. In defeating Brazil, the US Women’s soccer team demonstrated poise and grit in its collective snap into “Eff you” mode that will forever be remembered. In doing so, it set a sports karma speed record that I don’t think will ever be broken in my lifetime.

 

 

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One Response to Sports Karma is Awesome

  1. Raffi says:

    I actually recall some of the Algerian players playing dirty before Donovan’s goal in the 2010 WC, but it pales in comparison to Brazil a couple days ago. There’s also Dwyane Wade shitting on the Dallas Mavs bench in game 2 after he nailed a three pointer – I don’t need to explain what happened after that. I could think of plenty more but I still am not over that loss. Guess it almost doubles the pain if you know that your team is on the wrong end of the sports karma grid and it eventually blows up.

    It’s funny, but when I think of sports karma, I’m always drawn to all those WWF matches I used to watch in like seventh grade. That happened on a match by match basis.

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