I like baseball a lot. At 8 p.m. Monday, I liked soccer better.
This wasn't intended. When I walked into the Fenway Park press box just before 6 p.m. (or 7 p.m., Natal, Brazil, time) my focus was solely on looking up Tony Gwynn's 1994 batting average and learning what was on the media dining room menu.
Sure, I knew there was a big World Cup game. Over the last few days, there were plenty of baseball writers who had been prioritizing Ghana's scoring punch over Rubby De La Rosa's frame of mind. Good for them. To each their own.
I played a mean right halfback (do they still call it that?) for Essex Elementary. I know the merits of the game. I just chose to leave it to others to relish in those merits.
How much did I care about the World Cup at 5:59 p.m.? Just slightly north of nil.
To set the scene ...
There is a back room in the press box that the home organization uses for organizational-type meetings. But during games it usually clears out, allowing space for those who choose not to witness real live baseball players play a real live baseball game play just a few feet in front of them. There are comfortable chairs, and, most important, two 1,000-inch televisions.
A few of the writers had adjourned to this room to soak in their sudden soccer obsession. I decided to join them. It seemed like as good a place to eat my tater tots and mozzarella sticks. By the way, I have to believe the Fenway dining staff used such delicacies as an homage to the most obese nation in the world -- USA!!!!
Before I could dip one bit of fried cheese into just the proper amount of marinara sauce -- (as a quick aside, mozzarella sticks are one of the few foods it is impossible to screw up) -- the team in red, white and blue, which I was assuming was the United States, scored.
Wait, I thought the Americans were supposed to suck. Wait, I thought soccer was supposed to suck.
OK, maybe I would finish off my tots while watching what our often apathetic crew of journalists seemed to genuinely care about. How did I know they truly cared? They weren't laughing at my awesome soccer jokes. Two days ago when I brought up "The Simpsons" episode in which the soccer announcer intensely yells, "Smith! Back to Jones! Over to Smith! Holding! Holding! Holding!" it elicited at least a few chuckles. Not now. Note to self: Don't ever mock television scene-setter Ian Darke.
Even the "nil" witticisms weren't working. "I have nil tots left!" Or, "I have watched nil innings of this baseball game!" Nothing. So I started asking questions.
Who was this guy the United States was bringing in, John Brooks? Turns out he has tattoos on his elbows.
Why did the American soccer players seem so much slower? Because they're American soccer players.
Where did U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann come from? "Man, I've got some great Jurgen Klinsmann stories from my time in Germany," proclaimed my WEEI.com colleague Alex Speier.
(It should also be noted that the Providence Journal's Brian McPherson informed me that the site of this game was closer to Africa than the southernmost tip of Brazil. That factoid left me more confused than the enormous watch that was held up on the sideline to identify player substitutions.)
By the time the 81st minute rolled around, I was all in. The United States had been in what Darke so eloquently called "survival mode" for half the Red Sox pregame show and the game's first three innings, but the Americans still carried a 1-0 lead. There were now questions about what a win would mean. Was this the equivalent of swishing one on the Rock 'N Jock 25-point basket, propelling Klinsmann's crew to the Cup finals? I think I had a decent grasp of what was going on, certainly better than when I first walked into that back room.
But then Ghana scored. The announcers weeped. And an entire nation seemingly let out a collective, "It was nice while it lasted," before moving on to NBA mock drafts. The world of sport had been properly repositioned. It was a nice 1 1/2-hour distraction. That's what it was.
But then came the corner kick. I remembered corner kicks from my days on the Essex Elementary pitch. It seemed back then we could score on these things almost 50 percent of the time. Would it translate the same way in the rain forests of South America? I guess so.
Graham Zusi -- also known as @gzusi (he looked like a guy I might want to follow on Twitter for some reason) -- was the kid with the strong leg who perfectly placed his corner to the head of Brooks. There typically is no cheering in the press box. There also typically is no soccer in the press box. This time there was both.
The game ended with a sort of satisfaction usually dedicated to a solid "Curb Your Enthusiasm" episode. United States 2, Ghana 1.
I had left the room looking forward to Sunday at 6 p.m. I was trying to figure out if six days would be enough for Jozy Altidore's hamstring to heal. I exited curious about exactly what kind of Jurgen Klinsmann stories Alex Speier could have stumbled upon in Germany back in the 1990s. Then, just a matter of a few feet from the lair of baseball-writing soccer hooligans, resided the other sport, the one in which the Red Sox and Twins were partaking.
For the first time in a long time, Doubleday's creation seemed a bit off. Where was the intensity? Where was the drama? Where was the "piping-hot revenge" Darke spoke of?
Monday night, the game of soccer was the real winner. Who would have thought it? Not me.