It was a hundred year hangover. One I'll tell my grandkids about. I didn't plan it that way, but then again, you never do, do you? The night before one of the biggest sporting events of my life, I thought it'd be a good idea to go into a nightclub in Hamburg, by myself, steal somebody's bottle of Jack, and drink it until I couldn't drink anymore. Yes, "Why are you still doing this to yourself, Brad?", is an appropriate question to ask right now.
The event, was a soccer match. A Borrusia Dortmund home game. The stadium sits 80 thousand plus, and is known throughout Europe to have some of the best supporters and game environments. The closest thing to it in the US might be a Golden State Warriors game, except they've being doing this here for a hundred years. As it happens, US soccers brightest young talent in over a decade plays for Dortmund. More on all this later.
If we're predicting hangovers, the Drunk Doppler, I think we could all agree that there exists a set of conditions that, when introduced into the alcohol atmosphere, produce larger systemic hangovers. First, I was alone. When you drink with friends, or known entities, you have data points to help you predict the outcome of the night. Friends can also insulate you from risk. When you drink alone, there are no variables...anything can happen at the twist of a bottle cap...you're truly subject to the unpredictable nature of the universe. Second, it was the night before a BIG day. The excitement of the buildup often bleeds into the night before. Your anticipation buries you. It's why July 3rd, or say, the eve of your wedding can be so dangerous. Lastly, and this was the kiss of death, when you tell yourself, "I'm just gonna have a couple and go home early", you almost always seal your hungover fate.
If I told you I had a 10am bus to catch that morning to get to the game....what are the chances I made that bus? Absofuckinglutelynochance? Correct. Instead as my bus was likely pulling out of the station, I sank into the bottom of a bath tub for 30 minutes to wash away my pain and weigh my options. Options; get another 5 hour bus to match and have no time to pregame.....skip game altogether, find some fried chicken and wallow in sorrow...put down the plastic for an $85 train, get there before my original bus, and go down with the ship. What kind of man do you take me for?
After years of field research, and suffering, my twin and I developed a simple system to categorize hangovers. A hangover is measured in direct relation to the number of showers you take the day of it's landfall (sorry for the uncomfortable hurricane analogy right now, you'll have to get over it). Length of shower is a measurement tool which helps calculation, like wind speed, but it isn't absolute. A category 1, is typically a happy hour gone too long. A rinse, a coffee, and off to work. A Cat 2 is likely what we're all most familiar with...a good 15-20 minute cleanse to wash away the sin in the morning, and a refresher later in the evening to get you ready for another night out. A two can surely be cured with drinks at brunch. Once we enter into the next tier, things get hairy. A three likely means a shower as soon as you wake up, 6/7am. Two advils, fierce chugging of the Devil's cider...Gatorade, and back to bed, for two more hours of helpless sleep, and then another shower. Your third shower that day is between the man and the hangover. A Cat 4, rarely uttered much less experienced, has no timeline, but the plotted pattern is something like bathroom, bed, bathroom, kitchen, couch, bathroom, food...if you can eat, bathroom, and bed. The devastation from a Cat 4 lasts for days, sometimes weeks. It is usually followed by the empty oath to never drink again. Some weaker souls never fully recover from a four. The memory scars their drinking career for life. A category 4 in 2001 resulted in me never consuming gin again. Most people stop there. And with good reason. The final stage is reserved for only true degenerates. A Cat 5, much like a unicorn, and a 10 on the crazy/hot matrix, should not exist. No one would believe you if you saw or experienced one anyways. Yet, I have seen the Keyser Söze of hangovers during the summer of 2007, San Diego. I'll spare you the details, but somehow I lived to tell about it. I remember very little of the day, there must have been five showers. What I can say, is that at midnight of that unspeakable hangover...I stood in front of my roommates closed door...and contemplated knocking on it, for him to take me to the Emergency Room. I don't know what kept me from knocking, pride...shame...but before I mercifully fell asleep that evening, I considered writing a goodbye note to my loved ones. I literally didn't think I'd make it through the night.
By now I have finally arrived in front of the Borussia Dortmund stadium. Some divine guiding hand brought here. Cause between the German language barrier and my pounding headache, I can't complete a thought. After stumbling around the team store for 40 minutes, that divine hand would deliver another miracle. It ushered me to the ticket office, and placed in my palm, a ticket in the middle of the craziest fan section in soccer. For 17€.
Immediate regret. What have I fucking done. I can barely speak or stand, now I'm going to party amongst a bunch of maniacs for 90+ minutes. What have I done? I'm literally walking aimlessly in circles in front of the stadium. I've got a beer in one hand and a brat in another. Their like accessories. Merely for show. I hate ate two bites of the sausage and tossed it. The beer and I had a staring contest for an hour before I finally finished him off. It's now time.
I was like a twig floating across a river of people. They carried me into the stadium. When I eventually got spit out inside, I managed my way to the gatekeeper of my section, an area they call the 12 block. It's 40 minutes before game time, and the ENTIRE section behind the goal is full...in my haze I'd guess fifteen thousand people. The gatekeeper looked at me, looked at my ticket, said something in German about how I was supposed to be at the top of the section not the bottom...looked at me, smiled, and said it doesn't fucking matter. The guiding hand had delivered me once again. This time, I was at the helm of one of the most insane soccer parties I'll ever witness...I'm literally Leonardo DiCaprio standing behind Kate Winslet at the front of the Titantic...6 rows up from the field...clear view out across a radiant green pitch...with 15,000 screaming fans at my back. It may have been Elysium...I may have died on that train ride over...it's difficult to explain the circumstances otherwise.
The match was a nonstop party. Dortmund scored two minutes in, and didn't stop until they had hung five on poor little F.C. Koln. It featured every type of goal...a header, a crafty toe poke, a penalty kick, a beautiful chip. Each met with a song. Well, they actually never stopped singing for tow hours. The US wunderkind I mentioned earlier, Christian Pulisic, did show. Coming on in the 65th minute he looked hungry and eager, but by this point the game was already in hand, and soccer's gentlemen's agreement to not run up the score settled over the pitch.
Cool, right? Yeah, but maybe you're forgetting I'm still a 5 hour bus ride and 200 miles from my Airbnb, and bed. It is then when I'm posed with the biggest decision of the day. Wait 2 hours to catch my bus at 10pm, arriving by 3am in Hamburg, likely reaching my bed at 4am....orrrrrr...pay another $85 dollars I don't have to get on a train the leaves in 10 minutes and get me in bed by midnight....orrrrr...sneak on that train without paying and accept whatever fate the guiding hand as left for me. What kind of man do you take me for?
I would later refer to her as my stocky five foot grey haired angel. But in that exact moment, I thought she might deliver a just and exacting stroke of punishment for all the poor decisions I had made in the last 24 hours. I snuck on that train. And for the next 90 minutes she held my judgement in her hands. See, she wisely sniffed out my deceit and when I couldn't produce a valid ticket, told me to wait....she'd be back for me. I waited. And waited. And while she would pass me three more times, she never did ask me again for that ticket I couldn't "seem to find". God bless her soul. My sweet, sweet stocky five foot grey haired angel.
Maybe I'm just full of dumb luck, and there was no "guiding hand". The dumb part certainly fits. Honestly, I should have probably spent today answering that first question, "Why are you still doing this to yourself, Brad?", not writing all these words. But, mentally I'm still reeling from the aftermath of a Cat 4 hangover. That more existential examination will have to wait.