A snapshot of the human/footballing/Torontonian condition on this day on the planet:
1) David Beckham watched his first match at the San Siro as an on-loan member of AC Milan, wearing a red-and-black scarf and generally grinning as his new mates buried four first-half goals and cruised to an easy 5-1 win over usually tough and peskier Udinese.
2) Arsenal, who can’t beat hardly anyone from the lower four-fifths of the English Premier League table, remained unbeaten against fellow Big Four opposition, drawing Liverpool 1-1 despite a red card to Emmanuel Adebayor.
3) Manchester United, also down to ten men, rode a Wayne Rooney strike to a 1-0 success over Liga di Quito of Ecuador in the GlobalMegaHype final of the Waste-of-jet-fuel-but-it’d-be-SO-COOL-if-a-Canadian-club-ever-got-here-go-you-Montreal-Impact! Cup. Well done, apparently.
4) Here at home, sheets upon sheets of snow once again tucked in Toronto on the shortest day of the year, as a couple of gun-toting clowns fired two bullets into a bus in Little Italy. They are being described by pursuing police as “armed and dangerous.” Ya think?
Soccer, in other words, orbits on, and the centre of my universe seems a long way from happy green fields today.
But ‘tis solstice, and that means 182 consecutive days of longer, starting … tomorrow.
Yes, there’s winter to get through, but new year, new hope, new soccer season – all will be with us very soon.
And I’ve noticed a subtle change in my city – the home of a last-place club in a strange and off-the-main-track soccer league. Suddenly, increasingly, winter has become the off-season.
At a time when almost the entire rest of the soccer universe is thundering down the backstretch, with flared nostrils picking up the first and tiniest scents of the clubhouse turn ahead, we here in TFC land … are watching games from Europe and don’t mean as much as they used to. Brilliant diversion and entertainment, certainly, but not … dare I even dream to elevate one modest provincial expansion team to this altitude?
… Our team.
Beckham, United and the Big Four can dance all they want on the main stage. Toronto FC fans are settling into winter – heads lolling with dreams of our shining little side-stage of a stadium, and another season yet to come.
That’s every bit as new and strange around here as bullets through a bus.
May it last an awful lot longer.