Scenes from a Winning DCU Locker Room
1) Sometimes you walk into a professional sports locker room and think, "Gee, that's something I've never seen before. Wow. Gee."
This week's example: Watching United left back Gonzalo Martinez conduct his post-game interviews while above his shoulder, a candle burned next to a little shrine. Martinez identified the centerpiece of the shrine as a statue of Chango, a key orisha (often translated as "a god" or "saint") in Santeria and the patron of Thunder. Martinez lights the flattish round candle before games and leaves it lit throughout the games. He also takes beads off his neck and puts them around Chango's neck during games, re-claiming the necklaces after he dresses.
"It's a Cuban saint which I have always used and which I have up in order to woo away anything bad and to cover my back," he said through an interpreter. "I always turn [the candle] on before the game, and then I say a couple prayers."
The L.A. Times ran a pretty impressive look at Major Leaguers and Santeria last spring, including among its practitioners White Sox skipper Ozzie Guillen, Angels pitcher Francisco Rodriguez and (then) Marlins third baseman Miguel Cabrera. From the story:
Santeria -- the name translates roughly as "the way of the saints" -- has long been derided (think Pedro Cerrano, the character in the movie "Major League" who turns to the gods to get out of a batting slump) and dismissed in Judeo-Christian society as a primitive cult based solely on bloody animal sacrifices and voodoo, both of which it has. But the syncretic religion is much deeper than that, focused primarily on the worship of orisha, or saints, who govern a specific area of life....
For the last couple of seasons the Marlins' Cabrera, like Guillen, has worn multicolored Santeria beads and kept a number of lighted candles and Santeria icons in his locker, frequently making offers of money and drink to them. Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria, an art dealer, even had a protective carrying case specially built so Cabrera could take his most imposing item -- the likeness of a carved skull on a four-foot stick -- with him on the road.
"First time I ever had to pack something like that," one clubhouse worker said with a smile. But Cabrera has refused to speak to U.S. reporters about his religion, ending a recent interview with two journalists when they asked about the things in his locker.
So there's that. Truthfully, although Chango made the lede of the Washington Times gamer, Martinez didn't seem all too anxious to discuss, so let's move on to....
2) Martinez's passionate post-goal point-and-dance. "It was an internal passion that I had," he said, also through an interpreter. I was glad I scored, and I was pointing at my family."
3) He also said that he saw the two Colombian flags that waved following his goal, including the one that was brought by Colombian national Sergio Guzman, a 25-year old native of Bogota who came to D.C. to go to George Washington, stayed here to work and was at only his second D.C. United game. This was the first time he had thought to bring his Colombian flag.
"Because Gonzalo is playing, and he was going to score," Guzman explained, promising to
bring the flag to every future match. "He dedicated that goal to us."
4) Quavas Kirk departed the locker room in the outfit pictured here. It's one of seven such suits he owns, although he recently bought that hat and several others separately from the suits.
"I'm about to get some more," he promised. "I need to find a suit shop out here. It was really easy to find 'em in L.A."
5) Before the post-game media could begin, everyone had to gather round and watch the final few PKs of Spain-Italy. Will Chang sat in the front row of easy chairs, with Bryan Namoff and Dane Murphy. Kevin Payne stood in the back. Italian partisan Santino Quaranta stared lightning. After Spain won, there was mild cheering. "What's everybody happy about?" Quaranta asked.
6) Ben Olsen's locker contained a players handbook onto which two notes had been taped. "You have been waved," said the first note. "Please clean out your locker - management," said the second note.
7) Zach Wells went to the Pearl Jam show Sunday night at Verizon. I dared to say that I had recently listened to an older Pearl Jam album and felt underwhelmed. I believe he will never speak to me again.
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