|I've got your U.S. boys' backs
By Michael Davies
Special to Page 2
Day 6: Come on, you boys in green (Part II); come on, you "other" boys in red, white and blue
June 5, the media bus to Kashima Stadium, Ibaraki, 4 p.m.
It is navy blue and has an American football on the front, surrounded by "St.Patrick's Celtics" in green and yellow writing. On the back, in yellow, it says "My Son is ..." and then a big number "2." I don't have a son. I don't know who this T-shirt belonged to (I bought it for $3 at a vintage clothes store in New York's Little Italy, where I live). I don't know why it is so lucky. It just is.
It also explains why an actual member of the media has engaged me in conversation. I'm riding with a bunch of British photographers out to the crucial Ireland-Germany game, and the chap sitting next to me, Robin, and all his mates, could not be nicer.
As soon as the bus leaves, they all whip out their laptops and start working in "Photoshop" on the images they've been taking for the last four days. Despite all the dark rooms and wet areas at the media centers, 95 percent of the photographers at the World Cup are taking digital pictures with professional cameras that cost thousands and thousands of dollars. They will take hundreds of pictures before, after and during the game and send them all back to their agencies and papers right after.
I show him my digital camera. He asks me if we have "Antiques Roadshow" in America.
The Media Center, Kashima Stadium, 5:55 p.m.
I'm not American, which is probably abundantly clear by now. I use the words "actually" and "reckon" and "trousers" far too often. But this comment pisses me off.
"You disrespecting my homies, mother$#@%&*!?" I don't say.
In front of same television, final score: USA 3, Portugal 2, 7:50 p.m.
But if you ask me my man of the match, it has to be Jeff Agoos. In fact, "Goose" is my favorite player every match. Maybe it's the unfashionably long hair pulled back in that voluminous pony tail. Maybe it's that "ready for my wide shot" mug. Maybe it's that name. In one sensational span of a few minutes in the second half, Agoos "successfully" converted a left-footed free kick from 19 yards. Unfortunately, he thought he was playing American football -- the ball sailed a good 15 yards over the bar, straight through the uprights. Good! But he more than made up for it just moments later with that superbly timed right foot volley past the flailing, outstretched keeper. Unfortunately, that keeper was Brad Friedel.
I josh, of course, because I really do love the Goose. He's 14 years older than Beasley and Donovan and playing in his first World Cup. It will probably be his last. But he and his generation of players -- Alexi Lalas, Eric Wynalda, Paul Caligiuri, John Harkes, Cobi Jones et al have set the table (and no doubt poured the juice and cut the ends off the sandwiches) for these youngsters. They have toiled for years for little money and less recognition.
Goose will tell his grandchildren about this day (all sitting there on his lap, with their long, crimply hair tied back neatly). He should forget about the own goal. Or tell them it was Eddie Pope.
The Media Tribune, Kashima Stadium, 10:20 p.m.
The media bus back to Yokohama, 1:02 a.m.
For some fans of the other football, and some who aren't, it probably feels that way.
Back in my hotel room, 3:10 a.m.
1. Remembered to put on deodorant.
3. Was spoken to by another member of the press.
4. I felt just a little American for the first time in my life, pissed off as the foreign journalists all around me laughed at the U.S. team lineup before the game started against Portugal.
5. The look on their faces when John O'Brien scored. The German hack beside me told me it was "just what Portugal needed to get into the game."
6. The look on their faces when Landon Donovan skillfully ricocheted the ball off Jorge Costa's head, the goalkeeper's hand and the post for the second U.S. goal. The British hack told me it was "the luckiest goal" he's "ever seen" and to remember that Portugal had come from 2-0 down to beat England at Euro 2000.
7. The look on Taki's face when he arrived and I told him the score.
9. Taki and I high-fiving each other at the final whistle. A Brit and a Japanese, the only U.S. fans in the entire press center, a sea of silence and confused looking faces all around us. Taki whoops. I can't do that yet, maybe never -- I didn't leave Britain until I was 23.
10. Robbie Keane's 92nd-minute goal for Ireland and what it must have felt like watching that for your friends and mine, the Germans.
11. Logging on to ESPN.com and seeing a men's soccer story (for once I'll use that word) as the main feature on the front page.
Tomorrow, I fly to Sapporo for England's crucial game against Argentina. But suddenly it doesn't seem so important. I wondered before how much interest I'd still have if England were eliminated. But I know now that I cheer just as loudly for the Japanese, the Irish and the Americans. And I still have not seen my beloved Italy. I say "my" because I've been there a couple of times on vacation.
I'm rambling. It's late. Good night.
Michael Davies, a native of London, is executive producer of ABC's "Who Wants to be a Millionaire." He'll be filing five diary entries per week from the World Cup for Page 2.