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  • Ednold

The Wood Is On Fire 2/21/22

It’s already February again, and that can only mean one thing. Well, that’s not true. I guess it could mean lots of things, now that I think about it. For one, that nasty-looking giant rat thing comes out of his hole in Pennsylvania and 99% of the time he sees his own shadow and makes winter last another six weeks. Stupid thing. Whose idea was it to let him decide when winter ends? Did you know they’ve been watching that dumb rodent since 1886? How long do those things live anyway? Maybe that was considered hi-tech a hundred years ago, but you’d think by now we’d have come up with a more precise way of predicting the weather. If you look at the results from 1929 you’ll see that the groundhog saw his shadow before the sun even came up. No further explanation is given. Did he have a night-light? Had he built a fire? I’m glad I wasn’t there to see him come out in 1937. The notes from that day say “Saw shadow at 9:09 am; unfortunate meeting with a skunk”. That had to be the most exciting thing that ever happened concerning that groundhog, but that single half-sentence is all they chose to write, so we’ll never know the details.

So, anyway, February means groundhogs. And Valentine’s Day. Most people are familiar with Valentine through the work he does with love and romance and that sort of thing. But did you know he’s also the patron saint of beekeepers? Do beekeepers send each other little cards and boxes of chocolate? I’m not a beekeeper, so I’m curious. I know Valentine best as the saint in charge of protecting people from the plague. It’s true; that’s one of his jobs too. And I haven’t caught it yet, so big props to St. Val. Presidents day is also in February. At least in Oregon and Nevada it is. None of our other neighbors have a Presidents Day. Washington has Presidents’ Day, Idaho has President’s Day, and guess what the name of that holiday is in California? The third Monday in February. That’s the legal name of their holiday. For real. Oh, Cali, why must you be so weird?

But, like I was saying, February really only means one thing: The FA Cup tournament is getting down to the nitty-gritty. The chaff has been taken by the wind; the boys and the men have gone their separate ways; the contenders and pretenders have been identified; the crappy stuff has been picked from the top of the pizza, leaving only the tasty stuff behind. Of the 729 teams that were entered and began play last August, only 16 remain, and 15 more will be eliminated over the next three months.

If you read or listened to my story The Final from a few years ago you already know everything there is to know about the FA Cup tournament, so to beat that horse again would probably be a waste of time. But if you haven’t, this will all make more sense if you do. If you can’t be bothered, I’ll just tell you that the FA Cup is the oldest, the biggest and the best soccer tournament, or any other kind of tournament, in the world and it’s drawing toward the end of its 141st season. For the smaller, lower ranked teams that are eliminated early in the competition, there is also a less prestigious FA Trophy competition, and for even smaller, even less successful teams there is an FA Vase competition. For the smallest teams there is an FA Ashtray tournament. Not really. There’s no FA Ashtray, but the rest of that is true.

As almost always happens, the top 92 teams in the country who comprise the Football League have dominated the tournament. But every once in a while a little team beats the odds. Somebody shows up and crashes the big boys’ party, and that’s happened again this year. If you aren’t familiar with English soccer, you may not know that Everton are one of the biggest, one of the best, one of the most storied clubs in the whole country. They’re world renowned. Their stadium, Goodison Park, is the Wrigley Field of English soccer. Earlier this month they beat a fellow Premier League team, Brentford, to move on to the round of 16 where, on March 3, they will host a team that’s not one of those top 92.

But still, there’s only one party crasher, and there have been 713 other teams eliminated from the tournament over the past half-year. That’s a lot of teams. Which means that if you were thinking this was finally the year for Ramsbottom United, well… no. Ramsbottom was spanked early on by Barnoldswick Town. If you’re a big fan of Biggleswade, I’m sorry. They did not wade very deep before being drowned out by Saffron Walden Town. Of course, Brimscombe and Thrupp were crushed 8-0 by Aylesbury. Their team are the Lilywhites, and I don’t expect better results from them until they start calling themselves the Lions, or the Piranhas, or something a little more intimidating than the Lilywhites. If you were hoping East Grinstead Town would still be alive in February, they’re not. Nor are Mulbarton Wanderers, Hemsworth Miners Welfare, Seaham Red Star, Glossop North End, or Redcar Athletic. Sadly, Horsham YMCA was stampeded 10-1 by the Jersey Bulls. Young man, are you listening to me? I said, young man, what do you want to be? I said, young man, you can make real your dreams as long as your dreams don’t include playing for a good soccer team. It may be fun to stay there, but the YMCA soccer team really sucks.

I mostly like giving this update so I have a chance to say some of these names. Tadcaster, Frickley, West Didsbury and Chorlton. I didn’t even know that West Didsbury and Chorlton had combined their teams. Didn’t matter; they still lost. As did Yaxley, whose team are The Cuckoos, which is still better than The Lilywhites. Badshot Lea? Defeated. And what did they expect in a sport where good shooting is kind of important. Moneyfields? They’re out, but they live in Moneyfields. I bet they don’t even care. Goole? Goalless against Pontefract Collieries. Gone. The Metropolitan Police entered a team. They’re out. Or should I say they failed to apprehend St. Albans City? Cockfosters? Gobbled up. Glebe? Gelded. Odd Down? Yes. For the count. Chipping Sodbury? If your village is named for the phrase that comes out of my mouth whenever I stub my toe, you are not going far in the FA Cup. They lost. Sadly, even Dorking is done. That’s the one team I could see myself playing for. In perhaps the most disappointing defeat of all, Plymouth Parkway sprung the trap on Mousehole. Yep, there’s a team called Mousehole. There’s actually a village called Mousehole in Cornwall, and they have a soccer team called Mousehole. Fantastic name; not a great team.

So who does that leave? On March 3, mighty Everton will play host to Boreham Wood. Boreham Wood is not, and has never been, one of the biggest and best teams around. They do not have a storied history. My brother lived for a while within walking distance of Boreham Wood’s home stadium, Meadow Park, and I would bet good money (as if there is such a thing as bad money) that he had never heard of Boreham Wood until a few weeks ago, if even then. The team has been around for 74 years and has never done much of anything. There’s no way they should still be alive in this tournament. But they are. The day after Everton had easily beaten Brentford 4-1, Boreham Wood traveled to Bournemouth to take on a top-25 team in the biggest game in their lackluster history. They brought 1,500 fans with them, twice their average home attendance, and treated those traveling supporters to a most unlikely 1-0 win over the Cherries to set up their match next month against The Toffees. The Cherries? The Toffees? Don’t ask me. You already know I prefer Lions or Piranhas to Banana Split ingredients. I’m not sure what they were thinking.

Almost as unthinkable as it is for Boreham Wood to be in the final 16 is the fact that Arsenal are not. Always known for their generosity, The Kings of London have chosen to let someone else win the cup this year. But they will still have a presence at the game on March 3. The Boreham Wood coach, Luke Garrard, is a huge Arsenal fan, the assistant coach for Everton is Arsenal legend Ashley Cole, and the Arsenal womens’ team uses Boreham Wood as their home stadium. I can only suspect that will bode well for The Wood, as they’re known. The Wood against the Toffees. Just might be one for the ages.

Just this year Everton broke ground on a brand new, £500 million stadium, while the chairman of Boreham Wood had to take out a second mortgage on his own home to keep his club afloat during the pandemic. The £90,000 they won for their win at Bournemouth, an unbelievably huge amount for such a small team, will mostly go toward helping him pay that money back. If they win this time they stand to add another £180,000 to their coffers.

That chairman’s name is Danny Hunter, and he took over in 1999, after working in the film industry as a prop master. He had worked on several James Bond movies and won an Oscar for his work on Shakespeare in Love, and the club bar is packed with movie memorabilia that Mr. Hunter has collected over the years. Garrard, the coach, is a former player who totalled a whopping 12 goals during a professional career spent in the lower tiers of the Football League. He became the head coach at Boreham Wood when he was just 30, and at 36 he is younger than the guy who scored that winning goal in Bournemouth, 37-year-old Mark Ricketts, who is also a personal trainer and currently studying for a degree in IT. Garrard will be matching wits with Everton’s new coach, Frank Lampard, who scored 193 career goals while playing for three of the biggest clubs in the world.

On paper, the game between Everton and Boreham Wood shouldn’t be much of a contest. Even on the field things might be very lopsided. But The Wood had only 19% of the possession in their game against Bournemouth, and were outshot 16-2 that day. One of those shots found the net, though, and their defense made it count by shutting out The Cherries for a 1-0 win. In fact, The Wood haven’t allowed a single goal in this entire tournament. Not one. They have not allowed their opponents to score. At all. And that fact may cause Frank Lampard a few sleepless nights over the next week or two. Or maybe much longer, if The Wood can manage another miracle.

I’m pretty sure the game won’t be televised on any channel that I get, but if you have the right streaming service and some spare time on that Thursday morning, you might be able to find it and share in Boreham Wood’s biggest shot at the big time and just maybe witness one of the epic giant slayings of all time. Saint Valentine may not be able to help them much, but if St. Jude, the patron of impossible causes, has taken a shine to them, you never know what might happen.

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1 comentário

22 de fev. de 2022

Good Job, Ednold. It reads like a Bill Bryson story on English place names. Looking forward to checking out the podcast version, just to hear those names out loud. And please, keep us posted on how Boreham Wood fares.

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