Imagine you're alone in a room. Its walls are uniformly red; the ceiling is a blue halfway between royal and navy. (You know these colors well. You've been here a long time.) Suspended on a series of easels is a long, continuous scroll of paper. Drawn through the middle of that paper, extending for the length of its 20-plus-feet is a line that appears nearly, if not exactly, parallel to the floor.
At the end of the paper, facing along its surface, is a chair. You sit in this chair for hours, trying to determine if that line is going up ever ... so ... slightly by the fantastically inefficient process of looking along it. While you are doing this, from beneath the room's only door leaks a looped recording: "The line is going up. We have always made the line go up. You have always enjoyed the line's ascension. The line is going up ..."
The line looks flat, really. But maybe ... in that one section there - did I just lower my head? Or is that part there higher? I think it might be going up. Or ... I don't know. Maybe I'm imagining it going up because of the recordings? Maybe I'm imagining it staying flat (again, because recordings) when it's actually going down? Maybe it's going up and the recordings are having a perverse counter-effect? Observance of the curve and arguments about its derivative continue long after we've forgotten what the line is meant to represent, what the curve (if it exists) is meant to measure.
You are a Chicago Fire fan.
The Fire continued their way along the pencil-line of time Friday evening in Los Angeles, losing to the defending champions in the league premiere, 2-0. Jose Villareal and league MVP Robbie Keane scored the goals for the Galaxy, who created several other near misses against an overwhelmed Chicago midfield.
Despite a first half filled with wayward passes, the Men in Red escaped to the locker room with the game still scoreless. An improved second-half showing was negated by a terrible bit of luck in the back - Jeff Larentowicz' attempt to swivel clear a cross found Lovel Palmer tracking a run into the box. Big Red's clearing ball made it 18 inches before hitting Palmer's torso and spinning out for Villareal to finish.
The Fire coped with the host's movement better as the game wore on - is that line wiggling up, there? - but the Galaxy had access to a luxury a Bruce Arena team can seldom avoid for long: Keeping a solid shape and playing on the counter. The change of Baggio Husidic for Kenny Walker gave the midfield better balance, and LA swept forward in waves. The second came off of just such a rush, Ishizaki scrambling after a second ball then looping in a cross which Husidic won over Chicago's Matt Polster. The ball met Keane in stride and the Ireland great lashed it home with some venom, ending the game as a contest with about 10 minutes left to play.
The season is long; it is tempting to take up primary colors and paint a simple picture - bad badness is bad - but reality is always subtler and less amenable to explication. 2-0 is zero points; 2-0 is zero goals. But 2-0 also isn't 4-0; it isn't 3-2 to the dumpster fire of the west coast on an inexplicable defensive meltdown. It could be worse.
The Fire played credibly, and found some answers as the game went on. And - this, most of all - they played. There was a game. There were moments of intrigue, subtle touches, physical comedy. There were triangles and rhythm changes and long periods of pondering the space. There was football Friday night.
It's important to remember what the line is measuring. There is a world of beauty beyond the argument about the curve.