Every now and again, something about the sports world makes you (literally) jump out of your seat and celebrate. I have to be honest ... I hate it when the "grumpy" sorts among us complain about the type of crazy salaries athletes pull down in the modern world.
Soccer aside (domestically, at least), do these guys playing kids' games make obscene amounts of money? Of course. Are brain surgeons, paramedics, police officers and teachers more vital members of society? Indeed. But sports exists in a vacuum. Its parameters are beyond the pale of the workaday existence ... and that's a supremely good thing.
In Philadelphia, we've been treated on consecutive nights to moments that make you surge from the sofa after a hard day of work, pumping your fist. Coincidentally (or ironically ... take your pick), the Phillies game ended Friday night with catcher Carlos "Chooch" Ruiz throwing out a Texas Rangers runner trying to steal second at Citizens Bank Park.
Then, on Saturday night at PPL Park in Chester, Pa., the Union got past the Chicago Fire 2-1 when striker Carlos "El Pescadito" Ruiz scored a goal from 35 yards out (see video link) with his weaker left foot. But it wasn't just any goal ... it was a sublime piece of skill (and luck!) that saw the ball dip so sharply on a shot off a rebound that the ball crashed against the crossbar and whistled down past Fire goalkeeper Jon Conway.
Ruiz has labored a bit during his short stint with the Union, but he's also shown some definite moments of magic. His free kick in a raging rainstorm a few weeks ago had given the Union a lead against the Seattle Sounders in a game that ended in a 1-1 tie. As a legend in this league, it must pain him to not be operating as efficiently as he once did.
And, there's no doubt that the Guatemalan Ruiz tends to dive a bit, which runs contrary to American soccer sensibilities. I make this point consistently to my "Anglo" friends (as opposed to Hispanic ones) ... in "Latin" cultures (Hispanic, Portuguese, Spanish, Italian), tricking the referee is as much a part of the game as the athletic components.
The American and English sense of "fair play" ... and that's one of the reasons the English Premier League resonates so much with American fans ... does not factor into the game in many other parts of the world. Over many parts of the globe, soccer is as much theater as it sport.
But, once in a while, all the factors collide in favorable ways. And when the Union's Ruiz cracked that ball into the net on Saturday night, thousands of fans' hopes and dreams made the journey with him. That's why we tune in, buy the tickets and plan our weeks around these teams.
It matters. A whole helluva lot!