Friends of Jimmy,
I regret to inform you that your oh-so-glorious leader is unavailable, a temporary hiatus, "life," he says.
I know. I can't believe he used that excuse either. Hey, Mister Wonderful, nobody cares if you had your first baby or bought your first house or whatever. Just pass the ball to the guys wearing the same color jersey that you are and keep the other color jerseys from scoring in your goal. Sounds simple enough right? It does to me. Today I am going to debunk the myth that is Jimmy Conrad by trying to find fallibility in his life.
But first, let me take a moment to introduce myself. My name is Al Terego, and I've known Jimmy for longer than I care to remember. In fact, I took over this column once before, many years ago, on that OTHER Web site with the bald fellow who writes for the soccer section and wears cool, hip clothes to every event I see him at. The guy loves the scarf. Pouring rain, scarf; denim-on-denim, scarf; 112 degrees, scarf.
Anyway, Jimmy and I did a back and forth, point-counterpoint, which I won with ease because, unknown to you but embedded in stone to others, I ooze ebullient charm and grand machismo. I'm that good. So good, I got a phone call asking me if I wanted to fill in for Boy Genius until he's ready to resume his handshake agreement with Disney. After a moment to reflect upon my relationship with Jimmy and to take stock of what he means to me, I immediately said, "It would be my pleasure."
It's not often I get to voice my opinions in a viable medium (unless Big Soccer counts) and perhaps I should be thankful for this opportunity, but since it's Jimmy's forum, my pleasure comes from using his own graciousness -- or let's say laziness -- against him. He's given me a hammer and I'm ready to swing away.
Nail No. 1 (Some time ago)
I could get into the sizable moral issues that stem from stealing someone's diary, but I don't want to bore you with the machinations of the how and why. Instead I would prefer to focus on the dirt that resides in Jimmy's mud-covered pages. Take this offering for instance:
It's the morning before our game against Paraguay and I am glad to have another game to prepare for after our loss to Argentina. I took that loss quite hard, which I have described in great detail in the days prior to this entry, and with the promise of a new 90 minutes I want to jot down some goals for the day.
1. Eat right, hydrate, and get my mind where it needs to be.
2. Play simple, keep everyone organized, and leave everything on the field.
3. Take the blame for another person's pass.
4. Get hammered in the press.
Are you kidding me with this guy? B-O-O-H-O-O. What a whiner! After reading this two-day passage, I confronted him and wanted more.
"So how was the whole Copa America experience, in particular, the second half of the Paraguay game?"
"That is quite a question, open-ended and layered. When did you become a reporter?" he queried.
"When you did," I smartly replied.
After a rub of his chin and a wry grin, he responded, "It was a great learning experience."
"That's it?" I prodded. "That's all I get?"
"On a variety of levels," he added.
"Veiled answers and generalizations aside, can you be a little more specific? What levels are you referring to?"
He looked down with a furrowed brow, as in disbelief that his shoe was untied again, shrugged, and asked, "You want a level?"
"Of course I do," I countered. "We're like blood and I believe I deserve to get more of a peek inside then what you have offered. Think of me as a living, breathing diary."
"I'll give you a level."
"Finally! Get it out. Say what you really feel," I boomed excitedly. "Talk about the injustice of perception or the validity of the people who create it. Or no, no, no, talk about accepting responsibility for your own mistakes, other peoples' mistakes, and the guilt associated with that. Either way it sounds depressing, but I need to hear you say it. Get it off your chest. You'll feel better."
"Remember in Super Mario Bros. where you could get something like 30 free lives by hitting the same turtle shell over and over and over near the pipe," he quipped. "That was a great level."
"I hate you."
Nail No. 2 (A while back)
One evening on a steamy August night, I got the invite to share dinner at the Chosen One's (not named David Beckham, Landon Donovan, Freddy Adu, or Jozy Altidore) house and reveled in the chance to find some chinks in his shiny armor. We met at the door, exchanged pleasantries, and I surveyed the landscape. What I was looking for, I wasn't entirely sure, but I did spy a tumbleweed-like concoction made of dusty hair peeking out from underneath the coffee table.
"Missed a spot," I delightfully pointed out.
Jimmy turned his head in the direction of my finger and said airily, "That's the cat."
Thwarted with crimson cheeks I replied, "I knew that," and quickly changed the subject, "The restroom is where?"
I excused myself and made my way up the staircase. Squeak, squeak, squeak, echoed the floorboards through the hall and I wondered aloud why a guy who signed a new contract at the beginning of the year couldn't have bought something a little newer than this creaky, 100 year-old house with no bathrooms on the main floor! I heard no reply for my blatant disrespect, probably because I couldn't hear over the moans of the house.
At the top of the steps, I decided to take a detour from the bathroom and give myself a personal tour of the top floor, specifically, the master bedroom. I scoured the area looking for any clues of impropriety, anything to prove that this whole Jimmy Conrad thing is an elaborate façade, and I found nothing of substance until I opened his medicine cabinet.
No, not really, but I was hoping. Instead I found a piece of paper taped to the back of the mirror and on it was a quote. It read:
If one man, for whatever reason, has the right to live an extraordinary life, he has no right to keep it to himself. -- Jacques-Yves Cousteau
I re-read it a few times to make sure I fully understood the gist and shuffled out of the master's quarters. I went into the guest bathroom, fake flushed, fake hand-washed, and gently maneuvered my way down the face of the stairs.
Dinner was set, something vegetarian to appease Jimmy's vegetarian wife, and I opened the table talk by lying about how delicious everything looked. After enjoying a few bites of falafel and tofu (if that's possible) I took a sip from my cup to coat my suddenly parched throat and said:
"So I took a look around your top floor before using the restroom."
"Yeah, we know, we can hear you moving around up there," Jimmy answered.
"How charming," I wisecracked. "Did I go No. 1 or No. 2?"
"Let's say we're selective listeners," he replied.
In my mind it was time, I had him right where I wanted him. He was in the comforts of his home and my moment to nail him had arrived so I blurted out, "I think you're a liar."
Jimmy laughed and said, "How is that?"
"You have a quote hanging in your medicine cabinet, a quote you read every day, saying that if you have a chance to live a extraordinary life you can't keep it to yourself," I stated. "But you haven't lifted a finger to write and share your experiences since April and even that last attempt at writing was more about your teammates than you."
"I've had a radio show," he countered, "and it took up a lot of my creative juices I usually save for writing."
"Making fun of Sean Wheelock is not being creative," I declared.
"Depends on whom you ask," he offered.
"Well it looks like Major League Soccer thinks doing a video show with Shep Messing and Greg Lalas is clearly better than you two," I taunted. "Since they booted you and Sean to the curb this year and relegated you to a local radio station."
"I haven't watched Shep and Greg so I wouldn't know," he shrugged, "I've been too busy drinking in all things Ridge Mahoney. The guy is a soccer genius."
I fidgeted in my seat as I felt a blinding rush of frustration coarse through my veins.
"Listen, I'll be honest," I said honestly, "I'm trying to bait you in various ways to prove you're a big phony, but you either dodge my questions completely or act like what I asked you is no big deal. I've looked hard at your personal life, where you live, what you say, but each time I think I have you, I don't. Can you just tell me something that you don't do very well or reveal a flaw, something human?"
He sat still and then looked over at his wife, she smiled and said, "On occasion, I sometimes catch him picking his nose."
"That works for me," I replied and then yelled to the heavens,
"Jimmy Conrad picks his nose!"
"Sometimes," she reminded.
Nail #3 (Just recently)
With remote control in hand, I flipped on MLS Super Soccer Saturday which now plies its trade on Thursday night and coolly pressed the mute button to save my brain from the likes of the baseball announcer, the old guy, and the old pro who can't stand the old guy.
The game was between the Kansas City Wizards and the Los Angeles Galaxy in the comfortable confines of Arrowhead Stadium and it was billed locally as the "Midwest Event of the Century," but everyone in the know or who had bought tickets eight months prior knew it only as the "David Beckham game."
Unfortunately, Mr. Beckham conveniently injured his knee a few weeks earlier and even the NASCAR people, who had scheduled a race a couple of days later at the nearby Kansas Speedway, were up in arms.
"We want to see that Daniel Beckerman!" They screamed.
The newly coined "Pete Vagenas game" was underway and it looked like a typical Galaxy affair. Donovan made great runs and nobody got him the ball. Donovan got frustrated and Alan Gordon gave him the "I'm trying to flick every single ball to you" look. Donovan watched Joe Cannon make some saves and the score was tied 0-0 at halftime.
During the break, I rose to my feet to stretch out and moseyed my way over to the computer to feed my Brianna Scurry/Hope Solo addiction. Sports bras and back-stabbing. Seriously, it doesn't get any better. After trolling the she said/she said articles, I realized that the game the Wizards really, really, really needed to win was probably on and so I returned to the couch. When I rejoined the action, the Wizards put together a few passes and the Argentinean version of Frankie Hejduk was one on one with the goalkeeper, rounded him, and missed wide!
"That'll come back to bite them," I said out loud to no one in particular as the replay flashed from all sorts of angles.
Little did I know that it would only take two minutes for my statement to ring true and it couldn't have been a sweeter moment for me because I finally got confirmation that Mr. Perfect, a.k.a. Jimmy Conrad, is human ... and an absolute hack. And not only did I see his red card but so did the fans, the kids who look up to him, the owners, the head of refereeing, the national team decision-makers, his coaches, his teammates, his friends, his posse, and his family.
Oh, the shame! And in such a big game, I text messaged him immediately.
It took two hours after the game ended, which the Galaxy won 1-0, when my phone buzzed, signaling a text message. It read:
You've been waiting for this for quite some time. At least someone is happy about it, I guess.
The rest of the finger pecking conversation, over a one or two hour time period, went as follows:
AT: You're right, I am happy. I am happy that I can finally hammer you with a mistake that is yours and yours alone.
JC: I didn't think much of it after the whistle blew but apparently Pete Vagenas was rolling around with a broken leg behind me.
AT: He kept playing.
JC: I know. I watched the game from the locker room. I think Davy Arnaud tried to make sure he wouldn't get up with his own late tackle attempt but he missed and then we finished watching the game together.
AT: Davy's red card looked worse than yours.
JC: I was feeling pretty down so it was nice to have some company.
AT: How does it feel to blow the whole season for your team?
JC: Can you single out one play over a 30-game season as a reason for success or failure?
AT: I'm going to fill you in and you can tape this to the back of your mirror: Everything is your fault.
... and I am loving every minute of it.
Jimmy Conrad is a defender for the U.S. national team and Major League Soccer's Kansas City Wizards. He contributes regularly to ESPNsoccernet.