Which kind of makes the rest of us look like a bunch of slackers...
Nevertheless, it was the celebration that got the most attention in the Phillies’ clubhouse at Yankee Stadium nearly three hours before that night’s game against the defending World Champion Yankees. Oh sure, players like Ryan Howard—a standout soccer player when he was kid, he says—love the competition and the athleticism of the game and have a bit more than a passing interest in the World Cup (they are sports fans after all), but more than anything else it’s the theatrics.
Ryan Howard couldn’t get enough of the showmanship.
Oh make no mistake about it; Howard is a savvy fan of soccer. He knows which teams are usually strong in international play which is why Spain’s loss to Switzerland on Wednesday raised a few eyebrows around the team’s clubhouse. But the Phillies’ cleanup hitter also knows that every goal scored in the World Cup is a small miracle. They are like lightning strikes or immovable forces of nature calmly brushed aside. In a more hyperbolic and extreme sense, a goal like Maicon’s proves there are forces larger than us in the universe.
Or something like that…
“A 1-0 game is like 10-0,” Howard said, comparing soccer scores to baseball. “A 2-0 game is a blowout and the 4-0 game like Germany had the other day, that’s ridiculous.”
Surely some saw Maicon’s post-goal celebration as ridiculous. Better yet, it was arguably more compelling than the shot that tucked into the net just inside the left post. In fact, after such a magical goal everyone in the room knew the celebration would be equally as spectacular. When we all realized that the shot had indeed found the net, someone said, “OK, here we go,” in anticipation of what was to come next.
Maicon didn’t disappoint.
Overflowing with emotion, Maicon ran toward the sidelines with his eyes and index finger pointed toward the heavens before he dropped to his knees and put his fingers to his mouth that from the first glance looked as if he were imitating Dr. Evil from the Austin Powers movies or was sucking his thumb. Only later did we learn that he was giving tribute to his wife in a manner that would make former NBA player Doug Christie jealous.
“And to score in the first game? I cried, but I was happy. I kissed my wedding ring for everything that my wife has done for me,” Maicon explained to reporters after the match. “It is a thank you for everyone who has been by my side.”
Later, Maicon got into wardrobe and performed the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet.
Kidding aside, Maicon’s celebration led to an interesting topic of discussion, one I’m sure others have pondered as well…
How come baseball players don’t celebrate the way they do in other sports? Certainly a home run is a physics experiment that could have saved Sir Isaac Newton some time waiting for that piece of fruit to clunk him on the head. Moreover, a perfect swing of the bat that meets the ball oh so perfectly is just as artful as anything that occurs in the so-called, “Beautiful Game.” Clearly this was a question for Howard, one of history’s most prolific home run hitters.
“The next time you hit a home run you should celebrate like that,” I said to Howard while pointing to Maicon on the TV hanging above the clubhouse.
“What, you mean drop to my knees and suck my thumb?”Howard answered with a big smile and a laugh.
“Well, maybe not like that, but it looks like [Maicon] could get around the bases pretty quickly. Maybe you could just do that slide on the knees or do a little touchdown dance?”
Obviously this was all so ridiculous. Howard hits so many homers that he be worn out simply by getting around the bases. Still, it is worth mentioning that Howard’s current home run trot has its own panache with its relaxed movement around the bases that finishes with a little skip at home plate where he registers the run with his right foot as though he were dipping his big toe into a swimming pool to test the temperature of the water. Howard is cool with his own unique style. Howard’s big, smooth and strong vibe works in baseball so much better than anything that could have been choreographed by Bob Fosse or even Charo.
Either way, it never gets old. We could watch Howard or Maicon do their thing all summer long. At least that’s the sense one would get in a stroll through Manhattan where restaurants and pubs entice potential patrons by advertising the day’s World Cup games with big signs out front, while stores dress up mannequins in the latest team kits. Better yet, there were more folks seen around town in soccer gear than there were people dressed in Mets garb.
Was that dude really wearing a Lionel Messi shirt on the No. 4 train?