"You never lose by loving. You always lose by holding back."
-Barbara De Angelis
Being at the top is exhilarating and surreal. It's like a first date with the most beautiful girl on campus. It feels like you shouldn't be there. You went up to her, which you normally would never do, stammered and sweated through a conversation with her, which should have been a train wreck, made her laugh, which might have been a pity laugh, and convinced her that eating food with you would be the best way for her to spend her Saturday night.
You go through the rest of the week in a confused state of excitement, confusion, and terror at the prospect of picking her up. You constantly worry that the whole thing was a fever dream. You are going to wake up and realize that it didn't actually happen, like when you thought that you went on the Price is Right. You won the car and Drew Carey became your best friend. Only you realized as you looked down at your custom made shirt that said "Drew Carey + You=Best Friends Forever" that you aren't even wearing a shirt. You are naked, and Drew isn't your friend, but your arch nemesis that is now laughing at you on national daytime television! This was all just a huge joke played on you by Drew Carey (Damn you Drew Carey)!
Is this date going to lead to the same disappointment? Are you going to show up to her house only to discover that she actually has no idea who you are, and that you are the exact opposite of her ideal man? Was it all just a dream after all, an apparition, a mirage? Was that feeling of self-satisfaction and achievement fleeting and unreal, flattering to deceive? This insecurity stays with you up until the moment you tell her goodnight, and she shuts the door.
When will I stop feeling this way about FC Dallas? Right now, FC Dallas is the best team in MLS. We have gained 13 points out of a possible 15, and scored bucket loads of goals. At times, we have looked transcendent, with passing like Arsenal, and set pieces like Tony Pulis-era Stoke. Our defense has been stingy and every single player has fought for it every single game. We have more players out injured than George Washington had troops at Valley Forge, but whoever we plug in works like a charm. We have the MLS MVP as of right now pulling the strings of our midfield and we just beat our rivals (and really, the least likable team in all of MLS). With each game, picking a Man of the Match is harder and harder. Two or three names come to mind instantly. Looking at the Opta stats feels like I'm Jordan Belfort checking stock prices in the 1990's. It's rigged in my favor with no risk of the numbers going against me. In corresponding fixtures from last year, we were 1-0-4 with seven points. This year, 4-0-1 with thirteen points. Everything is coming up Hoops, and I love it.
However, I still have this nagging feeling. I am waiting for the other shoe to drop on this dream season. Soon, I'll look down and realize that I'm naked and that the date wasn't real. Watching the game on TV, Kevin Hartman mentioned that he believed that this is a playoff team, and that FC Dallas fans shouldn't worry. They should relax and enjoy what this team is doing. That sounds like an easy thing to do. Just go for the ride, and enjoy the beauty while it lasts, but I can't seem to shake the feeling that we are going to explode like Alderaan in Star Wars.
Last year, in our first five games of the season, we were 4-1-0, and only had two losses in our first 14 league games. We looked pretty unstoppable then too, coming back to win in multiple games we were losing. We led the West through April, only to finish in 8th place and out of playoff contention by the end of the year. I got my hopes up then too, and really thought that we might be able to win the MLS Cup, only to see them dashed on the rocks that were Kenny Cooper's trudging runs from midfield and the utter lack of a defensive midfielder.
So, I have trouble getting my hopes up again. George W. Bush once famously misquoted a rather prescient saying, "Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice shame on me." I keep thinking about that when I start to imagine Andrew Jacobson lifting the golden goblet at the end of the season. I want it more than anything, but I don't want to feel the possible embarrassment that comes with that kind of commitment. I want to hedge my bets and be able to say at the end of the season, "Oh, I saw it coming all along." Which, what good does that do? What would I be saving myself from? I will still feel the crushing disappointment of defeat if we do not reach our goals. The only thing that I will shield myself from by hedging is the joy and happiness of the individual victories in the season.
It's like any relationship. You have to open your heart and take the risk of getting it broken. If you don't, was it really a relationship at all? So, I am recommitting to the decision that I made four weeks ago in this very column (I forget things easily). I will not be pessimistic, and I will enjoy the highs and forget the lows.
Right now, we are winning and we just beat Houston. All is right in the world.