Sunday, November 28, 2010

Manchester United Meet the Mouse (A Holiday-Themed Magnum Opus)

photo by kaktuslampanvia PhotoRee

The following is a semi-fictional account of events that may or may not have actually happened. Although real names have been used, events have been changed to protect the innocent:

farlieonfootie on family holiday today; even media moguls need to take the occasional break. Instead of the usual blow-by-blow coverage of the United vs. Blackburn game, I have decided to live blog the game as I walk the World Showcase at Walt Disney World's EPCOT theme park, family in tow. My wife has left me in charge of the children for a couple hours as she heads out to shop, trusting I won't get into too much trouble watching both the game and the kids. I assure her that everything will be fine, but I'm not certain I'm all that convincing in my declaration.

Not only will the kids and I be enjoying our global travels around the man-made EPCOT lake, it's "Holidays Around the World" today, with each country in the World Showcase highlighting its own special holiday traditions.  To put me in a festive mood, I've decided to have one drink, and one drink only, for each goal the Reds score this afternoon. I'm quite certain today's game will be a low scoring affair, and after all, I have the children to consider.

The day begins gloriously: 65 degrees and the sun is shining. I studiously ignore the creep who passes me wearing a Liverpool shirt. As he has a small child with him, similarly attired, I can only assume that not only is he raising the child improperly, but likely maltreating him at home, as well. I make a mental note to keep an eye on the kid, and am ready at a moment's notice to call the Disney police if I see any nefarious activities occurring.  After all, when it comes to childrens' welfare these days, one can't be too careful.

The game starts just as the kids and I arrive in the France pavilion. Before we can even sit down, however, Berbatov has the ball in the back of the net for a quick United lead. The goal owes a heavy debt to Anderson, whose alert play just a few seconds earlier jostled the loose ball free from Blackburn goalkeeper Paul Robinson. From there, the ball is found by Nani, who sends it goalward, where it's flicked on by Rooney, with the lanky Bulgarian getting the final touch to send the ball into the back of the net.

I decide to celebrate the end of Berba's dry streak by ending my own: as I'm in France, it seems obligatory to find a glass of champagne to toast the many talents of our Dimi.  Love him or hate him (and I'm firmly in the former camp), there's no doubt Berba has the same type of game-changing skill as that of a much-beloved United man from France: Cantona. In honor of said Eric, I make a vow to head back to France again if Berbatov gets another. I savor the drink, assuming it'll be my last on the day, although you never know with Berbatov.... 

I say a quick hello to Père Noël as I depart France, heading for Italy to hear the tale of La Befana, the old woman who delivers gifts to Italian children on the Eve of the Epiphany. Just as we're getting to the part about Befana sweeping the floor before she leaves, Ji-Sung Park sticks the ball past Robinson for a 2-nil lead, and it's now looking like United may be sweeping the floor with Blackburn today.

The goal caps a fine give and go move with Rooney, and if Park didn't put it home I'd be doubling back to France, as Berba was lurking with intent right next to the Korean. As I'm already close to the Japanese pavilion, I decide to celebrate Park's goal in the nearby Asian country. I know Korea and Japan had a war some time ago, and hard feelings may still linger, but cut me some slack, people: it's EPCOT, and the Koreans didn't pony up for a pavilion of their own. Japan's the best I'm going to do today if I want to raise a toast to Park. The guy wasn't kidding when he said he was going to improve after his slow start to the season!

Leaving the children behind under the careful watch of La Befana, I hightail it over to Japan for a Kirin Ichiban, the original Big Boy of Japanese beers. As I'm downing it, I hear bits and pieces from a story being told there about a doll with no pupils, but I don't have time to investigate further. Leaving the kids unattended at EPCOT is definitely not encouraged.  Loud Japanese drums bang as I run back to Italy, just in time to find my children wandering off toward Norway.

I rejoin them for the walk, but before we get all the way to our destination, Pascal Chimbonda offers a holiday gift of his own to Dimitar Berbatov, underweighting a back pass that is never going to get to the 'keeper. Berbatov cooly and calmy collects it, and with only Robinson to beat, rifles it home without even breaking a sweat. 

It's like target practice for Berbatov, and his goal makes it 3-nil United, and I now need to head back to France in order to to keep my promise from a half hour earlier. I tell the kids to get in line for Maelstrom, the Norwegian log flume ride, hoping they'll be safe in Ole Gunnar Solksjaer's home country while I race back in the opposite direction toward La Belle France.

Out of breathe after the long run, I quickly quaff a glass of the freshly minted Beaujolais Nouveau to celebrate United's third goal of the day, and Berba's second. It's turning into a banner day for the Reds, and another great day for the languid Bulgarian. Feeling happier than I have a right to be, I risk having one more drink in France, knowing that the children will be safely in line for at least another 25 minutes. A glass of chambord does the trick as I toast Cantona, and it's a quick hug for a questioning Père Noël before I hustle back toward Scandinavia.

Out of breathe and now slightly winded, I stop halfway in Germany for a restorative stein of beer. It's a brief stop at the holiday brewers' stand, and an Altenmunster Dunkel that I drain for fuel. My gait is only slightly altered as I weave my way back toward Norway and the children.

On my way, I pass a guy wearing a Villa shirt, a strange sight in the sea of NFL and college football jerseys, and "Big Four" EPL shirts that seem to dominate the attire at Disney. I tip my figurative cap at him for the fine effort his boys made earlier today against the Gunners, ultimately coming up just a bit short.

Continuing to weave my way among the baby strollers and motorized carts -- do you get one just for being overweight, or do you really have to be hurt?  I still haven't figured it out -- I finally make my way back to Norway, but the kids are now nowhere to be seen, and possibly long gone.  

I ignore Julenissen as he tells the holiday story of the troll and the bowl of porridge, but as we're in Norway, and remembering 1999, I offer a figurative toast to Solskjaer. I quickly head onto Mexico to see if I can locate the children before my wife finishes her holiday shopping expedition.

I catch a flash of three heads disappearing around the corner in front of me, and having no idea if they belong to me or another, but with no better leads at the moment, I continue on my way. Berbatov has a shout for a penalty on the stroke of halftime, but Referee Lee Probert is as absent as my children when it comes to making the call. How Probert manages to deny Berbatov the chance at a hat trick is something it will take me at least another six-pack to understand.

It's the stroke of halftime as I arrive in England, still no children in sight, but an outdoor beer cart located temptingly nearby. Reasoning that I must be somewhat dehydrated after my lengthy walk (I'm no longer able to run), and that the state of dehydration is seriously affecting my cognitive abilities, I grab a pint of Stella Artois while I ponder my next move.

Sipping quickly, I silently celebrate the 3-nil halftime lead, and simultaneously wonder why the Brits choose willingly to feature a Belgian beer in their own pavilion. I've been told on prior occasion that they do this because Stella is the best selling lager in the UK, but I can't see the US pavilion selling Corona. Ok, maybe upon further reflection, I can see this. On with the story.

I'm headed over to Canada as the second half opens, still looking for the kids. Just as I cross the border, though, Berbatov's struck again. It's a candidate for goal of the season, the Bulgarian beginning the move with a backheel to Evra, who sends the ball back to Berbatov. Finding Nani with the outside of his right foot, the Bulgarian sprints goalward as the Portuguese winger dazzles the defense with footwork reminiscent of a certain @Cristiano. After positively toying with Blackburn,
Nani offloads the ball directly back into the path of the onrushing Berbatov, who makes no mistake in side footing it home. United are now four to the good, and I'm back off to France again. Wow.

It's a Kronenbourg 1664 to celebrate Berbatov's hat trick. I'm a little woozy after finishing this, and feel the need to sit down sooner rather than later. The child I brush off the lap of Père Noël looks somewhat surprised, although not as much, perhaps, as the holiday icon himself. I just have time to tell Père Noël my holiday wish for a few more goals, as well as being reunited with my children, before his attendant helps me back to my feet -- but not before I'm able to plant a big kiss on Père Noël's bearded cheek to celebrate United being back in their rightful place at the top of the table.

Coming somewhat back to my senses after the attendant's slap, I'm off and running -- stumbling may be a more apt description -- back toward England and wherever the kids may be.

En route, United score once again. Crap. This time it's Nani doing the business, on a brilliant seeing-eye pass from Anderson. The long through ball puts Nani in with only a single defender to beat, and the brilliant winger makes short work of both the defender and goalkeeper Robinson for the fifth United goal of the day.

This is breathtaking stuff by the Reds, clearly the game of the season, and I'm enjoying it perhaps moreso than most. Nani celebrates with a flip, and I attempt to do the same, although the worried crowd surrounding me when I come to is the first indication that my flip hasn't ended as well as his.

Peeling myself off the road, I sit down to recuperate, assisted by only three or so fellow vacationers. The same beer cart that caught my attention previously now does so again, and the sight of it revives me. In addition to the now perfunctory Bass Ale, I celebrate Nani's goal by loading up on Manchester United gear in the England gift shop, including a new warmup jacket and jersey to replace what I'm currently wearing, which is now somewhat bloodied and beer stained.

Although the girl behind the register tries to tell me that no one in Manchester (or England, for that matter; her words, not mine) supports United, I dump a beer over her head, as I know better. Before I leave, I also somewhat mischieviously place "Super Sale" tags on all the Chelski, Scouser and Gooner merchandise the England pavilion offers, marking them down to only $0.34, in honor of Man City's trophy drought. 

While fueling up with a roadie, I again fleetingly glimpse three small unattended heads rounding the corner headed toward Canada. Spilling only a modest amount, I manage to make my way to the Canadian pavilion at a pace best described as a trot.

On my way there, United score yet again. Who knew?  Berbatov surely did, as he has now bagged a double brace on the day, and I'm quickly making a U-turn and heading back the French pavilion to parlez some français.

I've almost run the gamut on the french drink menu, but manage to guzzle a quick glass of chardonnay before I crash into the pastry cart.  After getting up and clearing my creme-covered eyes, I managed to misappropriate for my own use a motorized scooter belonging to someone else. Père Noël shouts and runs for cover as I drive perilously close to the crowd of children listening to his quaint holiday story, now motoring my way back toward Canada.

I'm almost all the way there when Berbatov strikes again, this time for his fifth of the day. Please Sir Alex, I silently plead, take this guy off.  Please.  Never one to break a promise, though, I immediately reverse my path, and head directly back to France. 

Père Noël has only to glimpse my wild visage descending over the bridge before he's off and running, and the cart man brings me a pernod without my even asking. I down it quickly without pausing, and immediately open the throttle to give the scooter some gas.  Spectators dive into the bushes to avoid the cart as I swerve through the mass of onlooking curiosity seekers, making a beeline back to Canada, the last known lead I have on the children.

It's now do or die time, as I'm scheduled to meet my wife with the kids in tow in less than twenty minutes. I'm as clueless as Blackburn's defense as to where they might be at this point in the afternoon, however.

Cleaning myself up in a nearby men's room, I attempt to make myself presentable as I contemplate how to tell my wife that I've lost the children at Disney. I miss Blackburn's only goal on the day, which spoils the shutout, as well as Berbatov's header which would have given him a double hat trick, while I somewhat clumsily change into my new United gear.

As I head unsteadily toward the restaurant where we've planned to meet for a late lunch, I stop at a nearby coffee cart to have a double espresso in a bid to sober up. Fifteen minutes and three double espressos later, and I'm good to go. Feeling low, I walk into Le Cellier with only a patchwork of excuses and fragments of recollection to keep me company. It's not going to be a pleasant dining experience.

It's right at the instant that I hit the day's low point that I see my three children sitting and laughing at the lunch table with my wife. When my wife asks me if I've had a good afternoon, the children laugh and say, "See, Mom? We told you he was just in the Men's Room, and would be right back." My oldest winks at me while I slide into my seat, and my wife thanks me profusely for allowing her to do some holiday shopping in peace. "I hope you had time to enjoy the game, dear," she says.  "Who won?"

I graciously accept her kind words and inform her of the day's big win, while allowing the kids to have not only an extra glass of soda, but dessert for all. It's been a wild ride, but as I sit back at lunch contemplating the afternoon I'm struck at how happy I am. Surrounded by the people that matter most, I've enjoyed a breathtaking win, and the game of the season: United 7- Blackburn 1, and farlieonfootie celebrating, believe it or not, on November 29. 

Game Day Beer Review: Brewery Ommegang Cup O' Kyndnes Belgian-Style Scotch Ale (6.6% ABV). Pours a medium tawny brown, with a dirty one fingered head that quickly dissipates, leaving behind absolutely no lacing at all. Offers a bland, minimalistic smell, with just the faintest hint of caramel. Cup O' Kyndness has a highly carbonated mouthfeel, and a slightly nutty taste that shows more malt as it warms, but it's not as smoky as I might have liked to see in a Scotch ale. It's a good try, but this one is a long way from my favorite for this typically reliable American brewery. Brewey Ommegang is located in upstate New York, and brews all its beer in the Belgian style. Makes sense for a brewery owned by Duvel: B-.   

1 comment:

  1. outstanding! how'd you recall all the details after so much imbibing??