Perhaps in the future football will be contested by players designed to the purpose - still human, but improved: More explosive, more durable, their mental agility bested only by their astonishing foot skills. And armless, of course.
Alas, we here in 2014 have to make do with the simple product of human procreation, all crazy double-binds and unlikely synergies. And, y'know, everyone's got arms, mostly.
Gonzalo Segares, for example, is an armed human footballer, and his team, our Chicago Fire, were leading the Philadelphia Union, 1-0, in the 84th minute of their MLS clash Saturday evening. A ball squirted loose to the top of the Fire penalty area, and Segares took a quick step to close down Sebastian Le Toux's shot; since Segares has arms, he clenched the ball-side one tight to his body as it whistled across the tiny distance from the shooter.
What could the official do? Segares' arm exists. The ball touched it while Segares (and, it goes without saying, his arm) were in the penalty area. It touched his arm. What could Geoff Gamble do? He gave the penalty without further chastising the Fire stalwart for his provocative armfulness.
Le Toux rifled the penalty past Sean Johnson, evening the match at 1, where it would slump to the floor and feign death. The draw is the Fire's 11th in 18 games this season.
Alas, the arms. Alas, Segares. Alas, Fire, denied both their second consecutive clean sheet and win by the Costa Rican's arm and its shameful existence.
Gonzo's armfulness wasted a solid Chicago performance. Each team prioritized safety over adventure; it wasn't unusual to watch five minutes of football without an incisive attack, each team's outnumbered attackers making concentration-faces as they tried to puzzled out 3-on-6s. The Union marked the Fire's Mike Magee and Harry Shipp on their frequent backward forays to find the ball, daring the other eight to play between the lines, and it worked to neuter Chicago's improved possession into a stale game of keepaway.
Still, the game was hard-fought and coherent - even if the tactics were a bit careful. A good crowd and a pulsating sound-wall from Section 8 seemed to keep the players engaged, avoiding the staleness which can often attend tactical stalemate. The Fire looked sharpest on set pieces, particularly corner kicks; one routine led to the best chance of the first half and the game's first goal, in the second.
In that routine, Jeff Larentowicz - the Men in Red's best header of the football - starts in a cluster of Fire men a few yards off the back post. As Harry Shipp begins his run-up, everyone starts pushing and contesting for space, but not Larentowicz. He sort of fades back toward the top of the area, like a hoops player stepping back off a pick for a three-pointer. Shipp's ability to shape the ball lets him slice an outswinger to Larentowicz' head. In the first half, it whistled just high. In the second, it nestled in the top corner for the lead, 1-0.
Then, further stalemate. Arms. A draw which should've been a win, again. So nearly, so nearly. Alas, arms. Alas.
Chicago (3-11-4) travel to San Jose on Wednesday.