This week's UEFA Champions League semifinals and this post from the blog, A More Splendid Life, got me thinking about the peculiar situations soccer fans in the US go through when attempting to follow the UEFA Champions League matches. Having to decide whether to skip out on work/school to watch a match live is tough enough, but attempting to record the match and then avoiding all information about the result of the match has become nearly impossible. Any shred of evidence regarding the match could be crucial, as you'll read below.
In his post, Richard Whithall described his attempt to watch the 2005 Champions League Final between Liverpool and AC Milan and how a misguided glance at a newspaper effected his viewing pleasure. This particular final was famous for the fact that Liverpool stormed back from a 3:0 halftime deficit to lift the trophy with 3 second half goals and a shootout victory. As Whithall describes, avoiding soccer game information was much easier to do just a few short years ago. It used to be all you had to do was avoid your friends who knew you are a soccer fan but hadn't learned the etiquette of not talking about a game that someone may want to watch later. But that was before the advent of smart phones, ESPN/FSC news tickers, and blogs like the one you are reading now.
I had a similar experience to Whithall's during the famous Manchester United v Bayern Munich Champions League final in 1999. I had recorded the game and had successfully avoided all signs of the result except that I had somehow learned that the game ended in regulation. I don't remember how I knew that it ended without overtime, but it was the one piece of intelligence that I was unable to avoid in the hours between the live event and my date with my couch and the videotape. This one bit of info would change the way I took in the match.
Now, as you may know, I am a huge Bayern fan, and after Bayern took the a sixth minute lead on a Mario Basler free kick and successfully thwarted all ManU attacks for 84 minutes, I was elated... until seconds after the fourth official indicated 3 minutes of added time. Shortly into the added time, on a ManU corner, after a series of scuffed shots and failed clearances, Teddy Sheringham scored typically lucky late ManU goal, and the realization of what would soon take place from my video tape filled me with doom. You see, ManU had seized all of the momentum and I knew there was no way Bayern would come back from that goal. Fortunately, I didn't have to wait long for the second goal, that I knew was coming, as a few seconds later, Ole Gunnar Solskejaer roofed a into the goal from three yards off another ManU corner.
I sat dumbfounded on my couch and was certainly upset about the loss, but in retrospect, I'm thankful that I did not watch the game live and had discovered that the game ended in regulation. It was easier for me to handle the dejection of that last minute loss by having the somewhat deterministic knowledge that no other result could have occurred. If I had viewed that match live, it would have been much more painful to have maintained a shred of hope that Bayern might weather the ManU storm to get into extra time and score the winner or survive to PKs. That sense of hope would have been annihilated by the sucker-punch of that second ManU goal. That is the sort of pain I can do without, thank you very much...
Fortunately, UEFA has helped eliminate the work versus soccer decision faced by the US soccer fan by deciding to hold this year's Champions League Final on a Saturday (May 22nd on FOX54 at 1:30PM). It's up to you now to clear your schedule for that afternoon, so you don't have to play the game of attempting to hide from the results.