I have a feeling that sharing stories about Tyrone’s winner will become a sort of personal commodity in the years to come, a way of sharing the thing that can only be shared: Knowing. Belonging. Us. These moments of transcendence are not easily brought to be in this world – it’s just too much. Buffer overrun. A burst of white noise like static. I’m crying as I write this – Post Joy Happiness Disorder.
This euphoria was a distillation of an already potent vintage, and on Saturday all of us drank until our only recourse was to hoot at each other in ecstasy, conversations distilled into “!!!!!” and “???!!!!!!” at top volume. Now that we’ve got words back, here’s where I was when Bakie headed that angled ball forward into the space for Tyrone.
The game felt almost too easy until the end. Here was Ann Arbor, these defensive titans, our boogeyman rival, and City had really controlled the game. Caesar tucked the wings in and we played a quicker, short-passing style through the middle, and suddenly the fact that every defender in white was a lights-out tackling machine didn’t matter – City were beating them with movement and technique, and Ann Arbor didn’t have an obvious answer.
If Elon Musk is right, and the universe we live in is a simulation, then apparently Le Rouge is involved in some kinda soccer RPG – how else to explain the absurd pace at which we’ve seen some of these players grow? Omar Sinclar, who last season played centerback in an unsteady defense, has delivered clutch performances on the wing, and oh by the way he’s scored two free kick goals in the last two games, and narrowly missed adding a third with a shot from over 30 yards. Buffer overrun. Wut?
So we rolled into the final 15 minutes two goals clear and it was delightful, I think. There are memories there. I can access them. I don’t quite trust them, though. That person didn’t know.
It was just as Ann Arbor were really coming back into the game – City having abandoned the futsal approach to adopt a more defensive posture – when my wife Sarah suddenly vanished down the tunnel next to where we stand. Before I could turn my attention back to the game, several more people I love hustled into the tunnel, moving with the kind of urgency usually reserved for combat.
This fear has crouched on my shoulder from my first contact with Northern Guard, and I confess it here today: In that moment, I had a vision of the people I love – maybe even Sarah – in a brawl in the very tight confines of that tunnel. And my primate soul ached to join them. There’s so much darkness when people revert to primates down in that tunnel, so much, and football has historically lit that fuse the world over. In one second, I glimpsed that darkness and started to move … when Sarah reappeared, quickly retrieved her camera, and scurried off again, the vision collapsed, leaving me remembering that fear and the ease with which that feeling came ‘round. But this was not a day for darkness.
It sure would seem like it for a while, though. I asked after Sarah and was told conflicting stories – there was an Ann Arbor fan who started a fight, it wasn’t an Ann Arbor fan it was just some guy, it wasn’t a fight but a kid got hurt. All the while the game is going; Ann Arbor just thwacks away at a corner until they barge it in, and the lead’s only one – ugh. Both Ken and Gene are out of the section, Jackie’s lead capo, Sarge on the bass drum. The universe began to conspicuously tilt toward Ann Arbor’s goal and the Weird threatened to rise up and swallow us whole. The Oak went full Charles Reep, bombing the ball forward immediately every possession, and tied the game through Alec Lisinsky’s quality finish.
My heart in my throat, certain that this fallen universe was about to dispense (yet another!) disquisition on the foolishness of really believing in something, I left my place in the Guard to go look for my wife. I found a steady trail of folks who knew where she’d gone, and pieced the story together from them – the kid who’d gotten hurt was actually Ken’s daughter. (She’s maybe the sweetest kid in the universe as currently constituted.) The guy had been subdued by guys from the Guard, who released him as soon as he submitted. Sarah had gone along to the med tent. It’s 2-2 now, and our guys look tired. Extra time and then PKs? Is Sarah ok?
I came upon Karin, Ken’s wife, and the aforementioned daughter just as I entered the north end. Ken’s daughter had an ice pack on her head, and tearfully needed some hugs as Karin recounted her story: Drunk dude tried to start something, resisted being subdued by grabbing a flag and flailing it around until he cracked Ken’s daughter on the skull. The game rolls into extra time as I hug a crying kid and watch her father approach, his face forbidding and thunderclouds trailing in his wake. We shake hands and shake our heads mournfully, unable to shake the feeling that the ice, as ever, is terribly thin, and the water beneath so unspeakably cold. Fifteen minutes ago, we were leading by two goals and Ken’s daughter was unhurt. Now what?
Ken tells me Sarah’s giving a statement to the police. Is gravity working extra hard right now? Time slows as walk through the north end, turning forward and back to see the field then sweep the picnic area, willing some miracle to happen, worried about my wife. There can’t be much time left now. Stephen Carroll slides a ball forward to Shawn Lawson but Ann Arbor breaks it up – I swivel my head back and see Sarah, perfectly fine, looking away from me because she’s talking to Katie and Alex … Bakie has just headed a half-clearance into space for Tyrone and IT IS HAPPENING IT IS HAPPENING.
Six days ago, one of the best of us, Amanda, was nearly taken away. The ice is so, so thin. The water is so, so cold. And somehow all that pain, all that worry informed this moment, this howling embrace of delight, weighted it, gave it contrast – We that are Us will endure. We will be here for each other. When the ice breaks, we are saved by the fact that we are not alone, that we are interlinked; we bear each other up. And when we witness miracles, we never need fear we’ve gone mad, for here are these eminently reasonable souls feeling the same shock and delight. At some point, everyone stopped hugging.
3-2, Detroit City.