Whats the opposite of recent? far back? near-distant past? Lets just say a relative period in time which resounds prominently in my memory. A weekend in Toronto, a foray into identity theft, and a tag-along romp through War of 1812 chest puffing. There I was, walking the clean streets of Canada’s preeminent Western cultural capital. The earth concrete, the stores read team USA and the faces are all shades of colonial. A is for Awake. The schedule, arrive to Bank of Montreal (in a land of Anglophiles!) Field by 2pm Eastern time, buy tickets, wait, then witness a game by Major League Soccer’s most successful club – the District of Columbia’s United – versus the ‘Canadian’ soccer team by proxy, Toronto Football Club. As tradition has it, the Football Factory on Bathurst shows the ‘early’ matches of England’s top clubs. Somewhere between late breakfast and Arsenal’s last goal for a 4-1 drubbing of Blackburn, it was time to try the house ale. Orders placed, scarves tucked under messenger bags and Canada-polite smiles donned. “Hey, I’m Pauly!” quoth the mass behind the outstretched hand…he got his neat whiskey before us. “Nice to meet you,” I say, half expecting this to be a socially uncouth gesture of camaraderie based merely on the fact that we are within 3 feet of each other on the same planet, “are you going to the game today?” “Of course! Me and the other DC boys are in back, com’on over when your ready.” I remember where I am, I remember why I came to Toronto, I remember flags are being flown with the jersey on my back ‘Moreno’ ’99.’ I become Graham, from the District. F is for fumbling.
I must clarify here, I support DC, make no mistake. My father, being a proud company man brought me to DC on several occasions in my childhood, and being of middle-class stock, soccer was my natural ally. In this moment, estranged supporters of the same club have no history other than the club’s. We digress about the recent drought, true or false tales of his assocation with prominent members of the starting line up. “Wow, im really glad to hear that he is a good guy,” I say in boyish fascination. Pauly has our tickets. L is for luck. As the ales grow in number by 1pm, Spanish top flight is set to a low hum in a corner and the Chelsea jersey’s and bald heads wear sunglasses in antagonizing ways. It no longer becomes a soccer bar for geeky aficionados of an unfavorably cosmopolitan sport, the pedantic scrutinizing of minorities wins out over the soft conversation. Goodbyes are directed while Heeeeeey’s usher in. N is for normalcy.
Out on the Boulevard the clapping begins. The courage is mustered to put voice to skin cupping…and in broad daylight, and yet with not enough alcohol to approve it as a societal norm of the indigent. We are going to a game! We arrive through gate G. The tickets work. Security takes us to Pauly. Why trust anyone else; between Pauly and the private security, the ring of RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) lining the field look like short sleeved hall monitors. We are the worst in major league soccer. The opposition, Canadian hopes, have a real chance of making it – really making it. Minute 24, DC strikes the right post, “Com’on DC score a goal! Its so fucking simple! Put the ball into the net and we’ll go fucking mental! Lala lalalalala…” Pauly and company have been here before. The traveling, the demeanor of veteran North American soccer fans, the audacity to say fuck in front of home supporters and families. S is for succumb.
We talk out loud, we make tactics for the team in unison. We choose substitutes. The only breaking of the bond is when I apologize to the university age girl in front of me for an obnoxious DC supporter, waving a flag in her face once every 2 minutes, he has officially ceased to recognize spatial awareness thanks to his unabashed enthusiasm or something, maybe beer soaked life. But hes from Oakville, Ontario, and he doesn’t know the passion. She smiles, says thanks and goes back to hating her disposition, I have the televised broadcast of us to prove it. V is for vivacious.
40th minute, nil-nil, Canada is playing absolute shite, makin us look like were supposed to be there. After several high pitched taunts coming from my rear right, a clearly harried Toronto resident climbs the stairs, enthusiastically past the Carlsberg girl, to our guarded fortess. With two pointer fingers for darts, he aims: “George W. was elected twice” with bulls-eye accuracy, but no real fervor. He is both nervous to shout this at us and yet pitched to the point of frustration about more than just recent American political history. He turns and leaps 3 steps at a time down to the exit. His duty was done, his honor upheld, his team will lose but he wins for today. Pauly and company begin the crack down on the innocent. References to exchanging heads of state are broadcast aloud behind us just as my wry grin gives way to a clash of nationalisms. For Canada, a reactionary right is elementarily upheld as the defining feature for why the slow and steady should win the race. My only delight in the coming minutes comes from our brash decision to outline the real culprit on the field by the two of us: “R-C-M-P, You Fascist Police” (set to the tune of give peace a chance). No one joined in, no one opposed, and the G20 is remembered for me thus. In the 81st minute, we rejoice – right, left, up, down, DC rebounds a scrappy shot through the mixer from the 6 yard box. Today ‘We’. W is for winning.