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A lesson on gambling, South American football and a love of Andres Ricaurte

FC Dallas has a special one in Andres Ricaurte, hopefully we see more of it in 2021.

MLS: FC Dallas at Minnesota United FC David Berding-USA TODAY Sports

Oh, hello there, reader. You caught me by surprise. I was just finishing up this piece of writing. Wow, you are so smart and definitely funny. I bet the people in your life are so lucky to have you around. Your boss is wrong and you are right. What is it like to be so good looking? What an honor to meet you. I’m Pappy Check. I turn 31 this month. White guy. I play guitar and I love to sing. A lot of blues music. Definitely some of all American musics.

I am moving back to the Metroplex just in time for this year’s FC Dallas season to get rolling. I think we have a playoff team for sure. Who knows, maybe this year is different. I have been acting my best, building up as much good karma as possible, and I am returning home and must continue this mission. Maybe it can help our team win. Who knows? It probably more depends on our big money striker scoring a lot of goals. (joint rip) But hey, who knows man? (joint rip)

Walk with me as I write a little something about FC Dallas midfielder Andres Ricaurte. Mostly. Well, sort of.

Ricaurte is an absolute animal. He is one of my favorite players and has looked to be an aces loan for FC Dallas. His ball control, his vision and his passing make him a valuable player. While his loan ends in December 2021 and I do hope that after this season, FC Dallas sign him to stay with the club. As long as he wants to stay in the US. Colombia is a beautiful country full of great people, and is his home, of course. He was the first FCD international signing that I felt like I had done eye ball leg work on and he was not as well known to our fans. I want to tell you about a few of the players on his 2019 Independiente Medellin team that were much fun to watch.

But first, I must admit something to you that does not pertain to Ricaurte, Medellin, the 2021 FC Dallas season.

From 2016 to late 2019 I had a smart phone sports gambling addiction. It was bad. It did not start out so bad! It got bad. I bet on all of the American made sports. But I mostly enjoyed betting on soccer. On games I could watch, games I could not watch, games involving my home club FC Dallas, and games I knew nothing about. I have a stupid amount of Indonesian club name knowledge for somebody who has never been to Indonesia but I enjoyed betting on games that would be happening while I was asleep! The immediacy and never ending action the smartphone brought to gambling really got a grip on me. I was surfing an endless wave, I thought. Whoops.

I have always worked either manual labor or service industry jobs. Which means hard work. And in most cases less pay. Personally, I have always enjoyed these lines of work. Less attachment whenever things inevitably go south and in the labor industry you mostly work in the sunshine. Sunshine really is the best, folks. This all sounds nice but it really personifies how insane I was being. Picture a man, busting ass in the sun, checking his phone, realizing another Europa League parlay has crashed into the imagination ocean, thinking momentarily about how he is en route to owing his bookie another 500 dollars for the second time this month, telling himself that next week is when the cookie will crumble his way, and going back to busting ass in the sun. Not so pretty. Pretty crazy actually. Now picture it happening a lot of times.

Throughout 2019 I had been having the inner conversation with myself over and over. “This has been a problem.” “Will you admit this to yourself out loud?” This is not the first addiction I have to admit defeat to and stand up to, dear reader. Maybe I will tell you those stories another day. One thing I know positively 100% about the inner monologue I am ever-having is that if it does not audibly make it out of my mouth, then I have given myself a chance to “forget” and “deal with it later”. If there is something in my life that i need and/or want to change, I have to say it out loud. To myself definitely. It has even more power if I say it to others and if I will keep talking about it forever to others then I can really put some more distance between myself and the previous iteration of myself. All that to say, I was not saying it out loud. I would pause, before I got into bed. “Are you going to say it?”

In the fall of 2019 the work I had been doing was drying up and it was time to get onto something new. I was about to be without a way to supply this gambling engine for a time. I had upped the ceiling of what I was allowed to lose and had been losing more than ever. Lest anybody think I had coffers stashed away somewhere or an extra illegal operation bringing me in more cash, allow me to paint a true and depressing picture. My bookie was a nice guy, meaning he would let me pay off my debt in 50 or 100 dollar increments when I was really broke. Sometimes I was so broke I could only get him 20 dollars for a couple weeks. There were months of each year I gambled where I was not gambling only because I was working to get myself out of gambling jail. Once I was let out of gambling jail, I would circle right back in something like GrandpaSimpson.gif. Sometimes I would borrow money from extended family or friends to pay the full sum to my bookie and start a payment plan with them while I got back to wagering. Not very cool, I must say.

Here is where I tell you that before I ever gambled on a game, I was already obsessed with South American football (soccer). I most definitely tuned in to every chance possible to see a teenage Neymar Jr play at Santos live in the early part of the last decade (GOLTV might have just broadcasted Santos games exclusively back then. At least it seemed that way. Teenage Neymar Jr was absolute madness. He was shattering tv screens worldwide. It was sorcery. Shoutout to George Demetellus, he called them all as I remember). Then, in 2014 I heard about the Argentine Super League broadcasting every single one of their games that season on Youtube. I was living in Snyder, Texas at that time. So, I had some time on my hands to watch some more action.

One day I drunkenly started crying while watching. I had found it. The perfect symmetry of the two things I love most. Music and Sport. I was hooked. The stadiums. The hinchas. Never not singing. Their outfits or their lack of shirts. This feeling is not new, but allow me to restate that there really is something different about singing in the Spanish language, so to the point and romantic at the same time. “I go insane when you score.” “My heart bleeds when you lose.” These example lyrics are sentiments I have felt about my home teams since I was a young boy. Watching the Argentine teams led me to Copa Liberatadores and the Copa Sudamericana, which many fans worldwide know is electric content. Huge games, big goals, big tempers, big flopping. I love it. I must say these are my favorite competitions of all.

The 2016 Libertadores campaign, oh my. That year saw Independiente Del Valle of Ecuador knock out both River Plate and Boca Juniors on their way to losing to Atletico Nacional in the final. Nacional’s run that year saw a most heated end to a match when Nacional met Rosario Central of Argentina in the quarters. Bro. It was wild.

The free ride to watch Argentine football (soccer) came to an end. Nothing stays free, you know. I have gladly made space in my pocket book to continue watching. The streaming site I pay for also had the rights for Colombian soccer over the past couple years. I have a cousin who married a Colombian-American woman, she hails from Cali, Colombia. She will attest, I am sure, that nobody has more questions about Colombia than I did.

Instantly, I was drawn to Independiente Medellin’s 2019 squad. They were a title contender, and they had a striker who was doing numbers. So I was gambling on them. And probably picking the wrong outcome of each game or score total, I don’t really care to remember. It isn’t important. The striker’s name is German Cano. In the 2018 season he put up 34 goals in 51 appearances. In, 2019, the season I checked in, he dropped 41 in 47 appearances. It was magic. Penalties, goals in play, goals with his head, first half goals, and winners at the death. He is not a large man but he had that towering presence, I guess, that would seemingly make defenders wilt away as he went to meet the ball. His huge seasons got him bought by Vasco De Gama in Brazil where he has 24 goals in 51 appearances over the past year and a half.

I tune in whenever Vasco matches align with me sitting down to see what is on. This team had a firecracker, Deinner Quin~ones, whom I was soon cheering for. I watched plenty of his dribbles go for naught that season and never complained. Because I saw a few work wonders. He drew fouls, which worked well for a team with a striker that spent all season in-form and a guy named Ricaurte serving the ball in. Mr. Quinones was loaned to Santos Laguna the next year and bought by Atletico Nacional where he is currently.

Independiente had a hoss at CB as well. He jumped out in every game I watched. His name is Jesus Murillo. I really saw, in watching matches they were losing, that this guy was very capable of getting forward. In 2020, Murillo was loaned to LAFC and was officially signed over in January of this year (FC Dallas plays LAFC in California June 23 and at home October 20).

MLS: Houston Dynamo at FC Dallas Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

And lastly, there was this midfielder who dished the dimes to Cano and to the wingers. He was back in his team’s box defending and a little later was quarterbacking the offense near the opponent’s box. Pinpoint passes, excellent shielding of the ball from defenders, an extremely calm disposition, you could tell that this cog made the wheel move. When it was announced that Ricaurte was being loaned to FC Dallas in the summer of last year I felt like we had gotten a top South American footballer. Somebody else had been watching this team with a wizard on it! As you may remember, he had a pretty immediate impact upon arrival and seems to be an automatic starter in the XI. There was also the golazo, which, dang, still has me thinking. Against the Dynamo. Damn. I can not believe he got his leg right for that connection. The ball reacts like it is a line drive off of a baseball bat. I wish I could have seen everybody else’s reaction. I know my jersey blew off and I ran around the house saying things I should not type here. Mark Followill sounded like he burst blood vessels in his head calling the goal! Damn, Andres. If you take requests, I want to see one against Austin this year.

One of my friends is a bookie. He gave me some advice once I had told him about the extent of my losses and how I was struggling to pay my debts. Predictably, us gamblers only talk about the wins. The losses live in the shadows. He showed me his clientele list on his preferred gambling site. “Not one of them is winning. Let me guess, your bookie makes it seem like a big deal whenever you win. So do I. It is fine. I win the next three times.” There it was. I had opened up to someone and told them the true nature of my reality. I believe it is that simple. There is no way to “forget” or “deal with it later” as the truth flies out of your mouth. Soon after, I admitted it to myself, out loud. “I am addicted to gambling and I wish I could stop gambling.” I believe it is that simple. A couple days later I paid my debts to my bookie and informed him that this was my last time. I made it clear. “This is a real problem for me and I have to stop.” He said something to the effect of that I can contact him if I changed my mind. I am yet to. I had some worries that I had tainted my enjoyment of sports and that I could not enjoy games as I had before.

But it’s fine. Of course it’s fine. Sports rock. Forever and always.

April 17th (against the Colorado Rapids) will be my first game since the 2018 season I will be able to see in person, due to either lack of funds, you know, because of the hemorrhaging of any money I made for a long time, my living out in west TX, and/or COVID 19. My second vaccine dose takes place on the 14th, and I can feel the relief and confidence. I will look haughtily at other fans, x-ray visioning them and deciding if they too have been vaccinated or not.

I can not wait for April 17. I look forward to clapping hard for Michael Barrios, a club legend in mine nearly 31-years old eye. He is sixth all time in FCD appearances. I look forward to being able to see Jader Obrian, Freddy Vargas, and Jose Martinez all likely play in that game. I look forward for clapping hard for the academy players and established club legends alike. I look forward to seeing Luchi Gonzalez’s outfit. He has swag. Period. I can see the number 10, Andres Ricaurte, wizard his way through another match for my favorite futbol club. I smell a W, even if Colorado looks to be a good squad this year. Hopefully I can write about some insane team goal that made me go nuts. I would like that.