Did you see that? Did you call your friends? Did you hug strangers? Did you share?This is why we love games. This is why we invest and care and cry and scream and get angry -- for the one breathtaking moment that Landon Donovan gave us Wednesday, when a little balding guy summoned the strength to lift our big country and give the United States a 1-0 victory against Algeria to advance in the World Cup.
There is nothing better in sports than patriotism. But hope is pretty close. And winning, too. And they all merged with that soccer ball in front of an empty net in the 91st minute over in South Africa. The feeling Donovan's foot then produced, in a blink, was so enormous that you could feel the ripples of reverberation from a world away.
Over here, bars and offices erupted with joyous noise, and grown men wept. Most of life is not lived in this arena, of course. Most of life is bills and responsibilities and bosses and oil spills, and we need vacations from all that. But games, in moments like this one, allow us to exist and emote on a different and higher plane, living vicariously through that team's bond, which can grow so large that it allows us to wrap even something as big as our entire country in something as small as a single flag.
It is why America spends so much money and invests so much more emotion on sports -- to escape, to vacation from life in this magical paradise. How often does anything outside of sports make you scream at a television or dance around your couch or jump up and down? Think about that for a second. You scream if you win the lottery or dance when your children are born. But you do it all the time in sports, from quarter to quarter, game to game, season to season, with something that isn't even really yours. Donovan won the lottery Wednesday, not us. Donovan's teammates are his joyous family, not us. But that's the beauty of sports in moments like this: It can make all things feel so much larger, turning ``us'' into ``U.S.''
It doesn't last, of course. Heck, real life flooded in, too, immediately on Wednesday, the news of Lawrence Taylor's underage-rape indictment breaking with urgency into ESPN's joy coverage before the fans had even left the stadium. Locally, the talk was the unfair firing of Marlins Manager Fredi Gonzalez. But chasing this kind of moment -- hoping, praying, believing it will come -- is what keeps us coming back to the arena even though there is always this kind of garbage strewn around it.
The lows, believe it or not, can be pretty good, too, and make the highs all the better. That's why Pat Riley always returns to coaching -- because Game 7, even when you lose it, makes you feel more alive than you ever can behind a desk. For 91 minutes Wednesday, you could feel the low that was coming -- jokes and mockery and anger about how dreadful soccer is for never producing a goal. This tournament was about to be a disaster for American soccer (not just this team but this movement), and its endless quest to lure the ADD sports fan who wants more florescent scoring. We were going to be eliminated from this tournament with a third consecutive tie -- and a 0-0 one at that. That's right. Playing three games without getting a single win or loss. So lame.
But then, just like that, in the one breathtaking moment we all visit this arena to chase, anger and frustration and disgust evaporated into an uncommon and sudden and shared joy. That doesn't happen very often in real life, not outside the arena, not like that. After so much boredom and 0-0, against the odds and the refs and the other countries, keeper Tim Howard threw the ball from his own box, and the panicked and desperate American team blurred down the field, and the game was broken open like a heart loving for the first time. From one second to the other, we went from being eliminated from the world's largest tournament to being one of only 16 countries promised more life just like this.
And here's the coolest thing of all:
This isn't the finish line.
It is merely the starting point.
Now is when this thing starts getting good.
Because we already have all the coolest things in sports -- patriotism and hope and winning.
And now we have the underdog, too.
By SEAN PARNELL
In Alaska we empathize with residents of the Gulf states who are watching with trepidation as the potentially catastrophic oil spill continues unchecked. This tragedy reminds us of the fallout, both financial and environmental, that we still feel here from the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill. State and federal studies still find lingering subsurface oil, for example, and the herring fishery has yet to fully rebound. But just as Alaskans did not abandon our belief in responsible petroleum exploration and development after that disaster, Americans cannot afford to take their eyes off the ball now.
As I noted in these pages last year, responsible offshore oil and gas production, particularly off Alaska's coast, has to be a critical component of our long-term energy security strategy—and so too does responsible onshore domestic production. Yet there are troubling signs that the Obama administration is attempting to stifle—particularly in my state—the critical onshore component of America's ability to produce its own energy.
The coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) holds up to 16 billion barrels of recoverable oil. While this area was set aside by Congress in 1980 for later consideration of whether to permit oil and gas production there, a federal agency is now undertaking a "review" of the management plan of the refuge—a review that seems aimed at laying the groundwork for a wilderness designation that would bar production.
But it is not only ANWR that the Obama administration seems intent on locking up. Federal agencies are also now blocking oil development in the National Petroleum Reserve—Alaska.
Although familiar with ANWR, most Americans are less likely to know about NPR-A and how vital it is to our energy security. Given recent developments, it's time to elevate the position this area holds in our national discourse.
NPR-A, a 23 million acre stretch of Alaska's North Slope, was set aside by President Warren Harding in 1923 for the specific purpose of supplying our country and military with oil and gas. Since 1976 it has been administered by the Department of the Interior, and since 1980 it has been theoretically open for development. The most recent estimates indicate that it holds 12 billion barrels of oil and 73 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
In addition to containing enormous hydrocarbons, NPR-A is very close to the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, which means that there would be relatively little additional infrastructure needed to bring this new oil to our domestic market.
But even here, progress has been stalled.
For more than five years, the state of Alaska has worked closely with major energy companies, local communities and Alaska Native corporations and tribes on a balanced development plan. To back this project, these entities have formed a rare coalition and made significant compromises, often at the behest of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, to clear regulatory hurdles for development on a site in NPR-A known as CD-5.
But this February the Corps reversed course and denied the issuance of a critical permit for CD-5. Specifically, the Corps denied ConocoPhillips's request to build a bridge over a river to accommodate a pipeline and vehicles that can access the company's existing production facilities at the nearby Alpine field. The Corps decreed that the bridge shouldn't be built and that the pipeline should proceed under water, a course of action that would significantly undermine the economics of the project while posing a greater risk to the environment.
Alaska stands ready to help move the nation closer to energy independence, and it's a shame that the federal government is standing in the way. The Corps's own regulations emphasize that state and local governments have primary responsibility for land-use decisions and that their views should be given due consideration. But not only has the Corps rejected a critical permit, it did so without consideration of our concerns—on the overly technical grounds that the state's comments were not made under my signature and that my oral comments to Corps officials were not in writing.
After years of cooperatively trying to move this critical NPR-A project forward, such a backhanded dismissal of a state's position is troubling enough. But what we really fear is that this is part of a much broader agenda at play (directed by the antidevelopment Environmental Protection Agency) to shut down increased domestic oil and gas production even in places like the NPR-A. As Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski stated in a recent address to our legislature, "For heaven's sakes, if we can't drill in the National Petroleum Reserve—an area specifically designated by Congress for oil and gas production—where can we drill?"
The state of Alaska is seeking to join an administrative appeal of this misguided federal decision. If we are not satisfied with the outcome of this proceeding, we will pursue other means, including suing the federal government to ensure that it abides by its own regulations and does not make arbitrary and capricious decisions at the expense of state sovereignty and wise energy policy.
America, particularly in Alaska, has vast reserves of onshore and offshore oil and gas. The crisis in the Gulf should not be used to implement a misguided strategy that shuts down the opportunities to develop these resources and that further endangers our nation's long-term energy security.
Mr. Parnell, a Republican, is governor of Alaska.