PAUL THE PSYCHIC OCTOPUS
I think one or two of my sisters may have played soccer at some point during our childhood, not because I remember watching any games, but because I seem to remember the wallet sized photos around the house... maybe it was Michelle... anyway, someone in my family once posed with a soccer ball. That's my point.
To say I'm not a soccer fan is, well, not an understatement, but it's accurate. I grew up with baseball. The first time I ever heard my knees pop was during third grade, at baseball practice, while learning how to slide across bases in a bumpy grass field near Pioneer Park. (I still can't slide. I kind of just... fall. On the base.) I played on a boys team with my best friend in Ferndale, sported a bowl cut and cussed like a pirate so other kids wouldn't pick on us. I wasn't super talented at the sport in particular; I mainly kept the outfield laughing.
Soccer was something one step closer to skiing, something I didn't understand. Besides, soccer players don't get to hit anything. I've always been partial to sports that involve not just running, but also a club of some sort, a bat, a racquet, and the smacking of other objects, the harder the better. My oldest sister tried to teach me how to play tennis when I was in middle school. Once I realized I couldn't hit the ball as hard as I wanted, that you had to aim, of all things, I decided to lose touch with that sport too (at least, until I discovered racquetball about fifteen years later. That's a game I can get into).
Eventually, I became engrossed with the physical demands of dance, and I slipped slowly from sports to the arts. I went to college and got really into theatre, decided I didn't much like actors, and got really into writing.
Fast forward almost ten years, to today, when I live in Colorado Springs, and my best teaching buddy, Audrey, is obsessed with soccer. Having lived in Britain for about seven years, "footie" is all this girl talks about. The World Cup blows her mind every four years. She knows the name of everyone who's stepped onto the pro field. Because I like Audrey, and I value our friendship, I promise her that I will watch at least one soccer match with her down at McCabes, a local Irish pub.
First match was about a week ago, between... um... I don't remember. Uruguay and someone else. I brought my poetry textbook and planned lectures. B- for effort.
I swear up and down that I will watch the World Cup final between the Netherlands and Spain. I promise not to bring my textbooks. Of course, as usual, I show up a little late and squeeze into the seat that's been saved for me RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE FLAT SCREEN next to Audrey and about a hundred other fans. I spend a lot of time wondering which players will take on shampoo endorsements after the Cup ends; some of them have just beautiful hair, long and curly and bronze. Audrey snaps me out of it, tells me that Paul, the psychic octopus in Oberhausen, Germany, has predicted that Spain will win. Wait... what? A psychic octopus?
This is something I can get into.
Unfortunately, Audrey is yelling at the television every 60 seconds and can't answer all my questions right away. Who is this Paul? Where did he come from? (Apparently he was hatched in Britain but now lives in a German aquarium.) Why do people believe his predictions? (Turns out he's been spot on with all of them.) Audrey mentions he's had death threats from other countries. That the Italians are claiming he really belongs to them, and his name is Paolo.
I manage to watch the rest of the final match, though I'm outside on the phone with Tom when Spain scores the winning goal. I can see everybody's reactions through the sticky windows: the Dutch fans with their orange face paint and wigs, slumping on their bar stools; the rogue Spanish supporters punching air and hugging each other. And Audrey, in the front, leaning back in her chair and sighing happily.
Conditions are perfect for a poem.
(poem temporarily pulled for submission purposes 7/28/2010)