I’ve sat in a lot of press boxes at a lot of stadiums over the course of my career. And, to be honest, most of the sporting events I’ve covered in my life, I’d be hard-pressed to remember anything about them. Regular-season games. A team playing out the string. Just another Saturday night in a loaded season of games.
And, when you are in the press box, by the time the final whistle goes, the media members are all running on adrenaline, smashing out words in order to meet pressing deadlines. You get so lost in what you’re writing — the angle that you’re desperately seeking to find — that you sometimes miss the most meaningful moments. They become little snippets of narrative. It isn’t until you leave the stadium, or the next day, that it really washes over you that you may have seen something really special — that what you just witnessed wasn’t just another game.
I had a hard time sleeping last night, even though I didn’t leave Commonwealth Stadium until nearly two hours after Canada beat Mexico 2-1 in a World Cup qualifier in front of more than 44,000 people. I went for a beer or two with some colleagues after the game to decompress. I finally hit the bed about 1:30 a.m., but my mind was racing. I was processing my emotions. Understand that we can’t cheer in a press box. So, not only are we thinking about our stories, we have to bury the very instincts that make us want to be around sport in the first place. So, laying in the dark, I couldn’t stop replaying Larin’s two goals in my head. I couldn’t stop thinking about what these games meant for Edmonton. I couldn’t stop thinking about the theatre of playing soccer in -9 C weather.
This was the second World Cup qualifier Commonwealth had hosted in a week, but unlike Friday’s win over Costa Rica, Tuesday’s game saw the weather turn wintry. Crews furiously worked to clear snow away from the touch lines before the game began. And the opposition was provided by the country we see as the big, bad boys of our region. The reason Canada Soccer chose to play games in Edmonton in November? It was always about Mexico. It was about the brinksmanship that’s needed to get a nation to the World Cup for the first time since 1986. A major step was made last night.
We watched Cyle Larin, who was so sick earlier in the week that he couldn’t eat, score two goals. We saw fullback Sam Adekugbe take a flying leap into a snowbank to celebrate a goal. Coach John Herdman said the game was meant to “bring out the Canadian” in his players.
Now, Canada sits in first place in its World Cup qualifying group, with eight of 14 matches played. Canada is ahead of the traditional powers, the United States and Mexico. And, with more than 90,000 people attending the two games in Commonwealth this past week, Edmonton showed the rest of the country something. Edmonton showed that, even on a day where it was hard to get your car out of the driveway, well, it’s a great day for soccer. When snow gets sticks to the bottom of your pants and melts down into your sock, it’s a great day for soccer.