Soccer & Solitude: 3 short words describe how I feel about quarantine.

The European Cup

In 2005, Liverpool F.C. and A.C. Milan played in the Champions League Final.

The CL has a legitimate argument as being the most difficult trophy to win in all of sport: soccer is the most popular sport on the planet, the world’s best play in Europe, and the CL whittles down the best teams from the best leagues in Europe.

Milan, led by human bottle rocket Kaká and quintessential captain Paolo Maldini, were the heavy favorites. Also on that team was quad god Clarence Seedorf. Liverpool, meanwhile, had struggled to stay near the top of the table in the Premiership that season.

Ahead of the final, Liverpool’s Jamie Carragher gave a glowing endorsement of his team’s ability.

“No disrespect to the squad we have got now but it is obvious we are not as strong as we were when we won the (Champions League) in 2001,” he said.

Carragher looked right in the first half. Milan scored a minute into the game and added two more minutes later. “I’m afraid to say,” the English announcers said after Milan went 2–0 up. “We’ll need a minor miracle.” A three-nil lead in soccer is damn near insurmountable, especially with only 45 minutes to turn it around.

But Liverpool clawed their way back in. They scored three goals in six minutes, forced extra time, and won on penalties. All these years later, the game’s known as the Miracle of Istanbul.

Andrea Pirlo circa 2004

Years later Andrea Pirlo, who played in the midfield for Milan and has immeasurable Italian energy, wrote a memoir.

Here’s what he wrote about that May evening in Istanbul:

“I’ll never fully shake that sense of absolute impotence when destiny is at work. The feeling will cling to my feet forever, trying to pull me down.

There are always lessons to be found in the darkest moments. It’s a moral obligation to dig deep and find that little glimmer of hope or pearl of wisdom.

You might hit upon an elegant phrase that stays with you and makes the journey that little bit less bitter. I’ve tried with Istanbul and haven’t managed to get beyond these words: for fuck’s sake.”

I’m stuck at a similar point as Andrea when I try to articulate how I’ve felt during the quarantine.

I know that on the grand scale, I have it good. As long as I’m not alone, on a ventilator, at a hospital, I’ll know no real plight during the pandemic. There are a lot of people out there living that reality right now. I wish them, and the fearless healthcare workers caring for them, courage.

Plus, I’m lucky to be able to do many of the things I love. But nothing lands quite the same. Having a drink on a patio and riding my bike on a beautiful day are so, so much better when shared with friends. Social starvation has been brutal.

Bike trails at Belle Isle, one of the places I’ve found fresh air and refuge during the lockdown.

I’ve tried to limit my news consumption, but the ubiquity of the pandemic is undeniable.

The only thing I know for certain is that the smartest people out there are open about how they still know so little about it. And that vacuum of certainty has opened the door for gasbags to parade as experts, both on social media and in elected offices.

The one consistent feeling during quarantine is a droning aura of sameness. Every day has the same cadence, with nothing new on the horizon. For fuck’s sake, one can only feel numbness so deeply.

Right now, it feels like the future’s been erased. We’re living in an “infinite present” as I’ve seen it put.

It’s just sitting around waiting, with no countdown clock. There’s no certainty that we’re not marching towards a Pyrrhic victory, but hunkering down is the best option we’ve got. Even with so much time to accept that, my baseline reaction when thinking about it is: for fuck’s sake.

Some day I’ll look back at these 10+ weeks of quarantine and find something. I hope it’s a pearl of wisdom, or a well of strength to draw from.

It’s a dark moment and I don’t know whether destiny is at work. For now, I feel how Pirlo feels about Istanbul. For fuck’s sake.

Writer, cyclist, often at the same time.