According to Brian Lehrer's comments on NPR recently, soccer is poised to become the next baseball as the intellectual set turns its attention away from the Major Leagues and towards the world's favorite sport.
With that thought in mind, I give you:
Casey at the Ball, by David K. Stone (6/22/06)
The outlook wasn't brilliant for the US team that day;
The score stood two to three, with but four minutes left to play,
And then when Cooney got fouled out, and Barrows did the same,
A death-like silence fell upon the patrons of the game.
A straggling few got up to go in deep despair. The rest
Clung to that hope which springs eternal in the human breast;
"If only Casey could but get a whack at that," they thought,
"We'd put up even money now, if Casey had a shot."
But the sphere avoided Casey and the 'mainder of his nine,
Heading for a group of green-shirts as it bounced along the line;
So upon that stricken multitude was cast a dreary pall,
For there seemed but little chance of Casey getting to the ball.
But Flynn let fly a throw-in, to the wonderment of all,
And Blake, the much despised, kicked the cover off the ball;
Then Zantzy passed it blindly, and old Frank gave it his most,
And when the dust was finally gone, the ball was in the post.
Then from a hundred thousand throats there rose a lusty yell;
It rumbled through the valley, it rattled in the dell;
It pounded on the mountain and recoiled upon the sea,
For the US team, the underdog, had tied the game at three.
With but a minute left to go, the fans, their voices raw,
Screamed for the team to press on, not content to have a draw.
The ball was intercepted, and soon the players scowled,
For their captain, poised to take a shot, was violently fouled.
A billion eyes were on the ref, who gazed about the yard,
And millions shouted as he raised his hand to show a card,
It matched the blood shown round the world on every TV set,
And Casey knew 'twas just the keeper twixt the ball and net.
And now th'official placed the sphere upon the verdant jade,
And the keeper started pacing, as Casey moved one blade.
Close by each team stood lips in teeth, in hopefulness and dread,
"Whenever you are ready," the nervous umpire said.
From the benches, black with people, there went up a muffled roar,
Like the beating of the storm-waves on a stern and distant shore;
"Kill him! Kill the umpire!" shouted some one on the stand;
And it's likely they'd have killed him had not Casey raised his hand.
With a smile of Christian charity great Casey's visage shone;
He stilled the rising tumult; he bade the game go on;
He signaled he was ready, as the 90th minute passed,
"Here I go," said mighty Casey. Said the umpire: "Make it fast."
"Fraud!" cried the maddened thousands, and echo answered "Fraud!"
But one scornful look from Casey and the audience was awed.
They saw his face grow stern and cold, they saw his muscles strain,
And they knew that Casey wouldn't let that chance go by again.
The sneer has fled from Casey's lip, the teeth are clenched in gall;
He pounds with cruel violence his foot upon the ball.
And now the keeper guesses left, but then he twitches right,
And now the air is shattered by the force of Casey's might.
Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright,
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
And somewhere men are laughing, and children skip and roll;
But there is no joy in World Cup — mighty Casey missed the goal.