The thing about soccer- the inescapable thing about soccer- is that it’s all so damn fleeting.
We all try so hard to hold on to our history but it’s a losing battle. Yes, there’s the complication of a front office that views the club’s own history as a marketing gimmick (at best), but even if the club leadership weren’t passively hostile we’d all be fighting a losing battle to hang on to our past. Our 18 years have produced an outsize share of heroes and legends— fewer now than there used to be, but still.
Every year we pick a few to single out and acknowledge them. Most of them former players who either moved on to greener pastures or had to quit when their knees stopped doing what they needed them to. Everyone leaves, eventually.
A few came back tonight for the Ring Of Fire proceedings, and, truth be told, that was the only reason most of us checked in tonight. The season is effectively over. Yallop is gone. The players are running out the clock. Nelson Rodriguez will be here in a few weeks to do… something.
The soccer is beside the point now. Tonight was all about Ante Razov. It was about reaching a hand back into the gloaming of the past, hoping someone meets our grasp.
The Ring Of Fire ceremony is supposed to be about history and the pride we take in it, but increasingly it’s about acknowledging the inexorable march of time, and how none of us, none of us, can ever really hang on. Everyone leaves. Everything’s fleeting. Every day, every season, the flame dims.
Even our recent history isn’t safe. In addition to the Ring Of Fire, tonight was also the last night in which Kevin Egan will be on the call. He’s going on to bigger and better things. How many times have we heard that in recent years about competent people in the organization? Players, backroom staff, on-air talent. We’re a leaky ship, listing, with a tattered flag.
As it happens, the soccer wasn’t bad. The Fire had a dismal first half, looking shambolic in the back and conceding a stupid, unnecessary goal while looking absolutely toothless going forward. If you’ve watched this team any time in the past three seasons, you know what I’m talking about. But then a funny thing happened— the Men In Red came out in the second half with something resembling self respect. David Accam found the back of the net just a few minutes into the second half— near post finish, under pressure. It was sharp. Eight minutes later, Harry Shipp capitalized on a defensive giveaway and megged Bobby Shuttleworth to put the home side in front. (How many times, and how many Fire players, would’ve squandered that opportunity this season?) Gilberto- Gilberto!- finished the Revs off with a nice roundhouse kick to the far post from the corner of the six. It may well have been the Fire’s strongest half of soccer this season. Shame it couldn’t happen earlier in the year, but it was good to see some fight in this squad on the night we honor Ante Razov. I’d like to think we did the man proud. And that, if nothing else, is worth it.
But regardless of the result, tonight was about other things. It was about reaching out and back. It was about trying, however in vain, to hang on to our past and the things that make us who we are. It was- hopefully, finally- the first steps in reclaiming our legacy.
At least in so much as we can lay claim to anything. As the abundance of salt-and-pepper hair on display at halftime showed, nothing lasts. Everything is fleeting. Everyone leaves.