Dave Barry

Classic ’99: My (painful) career as a soccer hooligan

Fans of the Hatian soccer team celebrate as their team takes a 1-0 lead in the Copa Latina soccer tournament February 20, 1999 at Ted Hendricks Stadium in Hialeah.
Fans of the Hatian soccer team celebrate as their team takes a 1-0 lead in the Copa Latina soccer tournament February 20, 1999 at Ted Hendricks Stadium in Hialeah. MIAMI HERALD FILE

This Dave Barry column was originally published Sunday, March 14, 1999 .

We live in troubled and uncertain times, but I am feeling good - about myself; about my homeland; about all the nations of the earth; and, yes, about the future of humanity. And I will tell you why: I am on painkillers.

I got them from my doctor, Curt. Curt is a great doctor, probably the greatest doctor who ever lived, and I will tell you why: He gave me these painkillers. These are some STRONG painkillers. You should see the side effects! I started to read about them on the information sheet, but I got only as far as the part where it said I should report to the doctor's office if my going to come right out and tell you: I'm supposed to report to the doctor's office if my outputs turn black.

Now I believe in following medical advice up to a point, and that point is the point where you're being advised to call a medical office and tell the person who answers the phone - often a complete stranger - about the color of your outputs. Because you don't know what that person will do with the information. For all you know, the person will hang up the phone and shout across the doctor's office waiting room - which for all you know is occupied by your important business associates and several members of the British Royal Family - ``DR. HAMBURG, DAVE BARRY CALLED TO SAY THAT HIS OUTPUTS ARE BLACK. HE DIDN'T SAY WHY HE WAS MONITORING THE COLOR OF HIS OUTPUTS, AND FRANKLY I DIDN'T WANT TO ASK.''

But aside from the side effects - and I am not saying I HAD any of these side effects - these painkillers are terrific. I can walk normally! For the past three days I've been walking like The Human Board, because I did something to my back. Actually, I didn't do it: a large Haitian man did it.

The way this came about was, my friend Philip said he wanted to see some soccer. Philip grew up in England, where as a youth he went to many soccer matches. (Of course, over there they don't call it ``soccer.'' They call it ``Nigel.'') Philip told me that English soccer fans are VERY intense and sometimes express their disapproval by throwing darts from the stands.

``One time,'' he said cheerfully, ``I got one stuck in my shoulder.''

Nevertheless, Philip wanted to see a match, so we went to the Copa Latina, a soccer tournament held in Hialeah, a city next to Miami that has a proud democratic tradition of re-electing political leaders no matter how many times they have been indicted. The match we saw was between a team called Soccer Locker, representing a local store, and one called Seleccion Haiti, representing Haiti. Philip and I sat in the stands with, I would conservatively estimate, every Haitian person on earth.

It was an exciting match, and not just because we thought the stands, which appeared to be made of aluminum foil, were going to collapse. What made it exciting was the Haitians, who are, without question, the greatest sports fans I have ever seen, and I will tell you why: They gave me these painkillers.

No, wait, I'm getting confused (which is another side effect). The Haitian fans are great because they are so enthusiastic: They react to EVERYTHING that happens on the field, including photosynthesis, by cheering, booing, shouting, chanting, dancing, singing and making cellular phone calls. Many fans do all these things simultaneously. Philip and I got so caught up in the spirit that we started cheering also. We do not speak Haitian Creole, so we invented cheers based on our recollection of high-school French, including such rousers as:

* ``Voici la plume de ma tante!'' (``Here is the pen of my aunt!'')

* ``Montrez-moi le livre!'' (``Show me the book!'')

* ``Nos rendements sont noirs!'' (``Our outputs are black!'')

No, we did not really yell that last one. But we did, by cheering for the Haitian team, become close personal friends with the large, enthusiastic and very muscular man in front of us, often exchanging painful ``high five''-style hand slaps with him. And when the match went into overtime, and the Haitian team won, and the crowd went insane, and the grandstands were wobbling like Jell-O on a jackhammer, the large man turned around and decided to express his joy by picking both Philip and me up. Philip, using the quickness he developed by dodging darts as a lad, managed to escape, but I never even realized what was happening until the large man got his arms around my knees and hoisted me high into the air, and I found myself being waved back and forth above the crowd like a human pennant.

That was when I hurt my back. But now, thanks to Dr. Curt, I'm feeling really, really good, and if I have any of these painkillers left over, I'm going to implement world peace by sending them to the hostile factions in the Middle East and wherever it is they're having those troubles involving the ``Kurds.'' Because you cannot feel hostile with these painkillers. I love the Kurds! I love you, too. Time for a nap.

© 1999 Dave Barry

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