"Dance puppets, dance!" the popcorn man screamed from behind the third base dugout. A tub as big as his head rested in his right hand. His buttery left, a glistening metronome of caloric crime assaulted the popped kernels methodically and without mercy.
Near as I can tell, there is no official name for this thing. It's not being called a tour and it's certainly not a pre-season anything. It's just two matches versus a familiar foe. In America, we'd call this a double-header. Perhaps in a nod to local slang, Chelsea are also calling it a double-header. A "double-header in America" then. Creative.
"But please sire, my feetsies..." cried Oscarinho and Juanito. Miles too many to count lay behind them but their journey was not yet over. Metal studs worn flat, their shoes weren't fit for hobos. Every new step: a death by thousand needles.
Also creative was no doubt the marketing and financial muscle that moved behind this exercise in cash-grabbery. St. Louis tickets at $100+ apiece sold out in minutes. New York City did not lag far behind. Take that, Champions League final!
The trademark Sideshow smile had faded a long time ago. "Make us laugh," the devilspawn cackled, "or we pull David Luiz's hair again." Juanito tried a juggle, Oscarinho a clever turn. The children were not amused.
Having seen the Blues (not you, hockey team) play and practice first-hand in Seattle - in what seems like eons ago now - I can certainly appreciate just how hungry the overseas fan can be for actual, in-person contact with their beloved team. But whatever the reason, whatever the financial motivation, whatever fan-service excuse they may slap on, this is a wholly and unequivocally ridiculous event.
Date/Time: Thursday, May 23, 8:30 P.M. EDT; 01:30 BST (next day); 6:00 A.M. IST (next day)
Venue: Busch Stadium, St. Louis, MO
TV Information: ESPN (UK); ESPN2 (USA)
Perhaps we'll be treated to one extra hurrah for Darke & McManaman, too! Bonus.
Chelsea: Several absentees from the trip with John Terry the biggest name left off the plane. Ryan Bertrand and Oriol Romeu were also too injured, while Ross Turnbull - cute son aside - was too crap to include.
The club did not throw Florent Malouda a bone either, so he's free to be on his merry way. Paulo Ferreira, Hilario, and Yossi Benayoun, combined age 104, will most likely take their final bows in Chelsea blue as well.
Young bucks Andreas Christensen and Ruben Loftus-Cheek may see a few of their fellow academy or loanee standouts join up after this match as Frank Lampard, Gary Cahill, and Ashley Cole take early leave to prepare for England's upcoming international friendlies.
Manchester City: Roberto Mancini began his vacation early. So early in fact that it turned into a permanent vacation. His replacement, Manuel Pellegrini is not set to start until June so I have no idea who will actually manage the team for the friendlies. Not that it matters.
City are calling this a tour and with good reason. Having just launched a new MLS franchise in New York City (with Claudio Reyna - recognizable name alert! - in charge), yet still far behind other Premier League powers in terms of reach in the USA, City must blitz the market aggressively. To wit, except for the odd Scott Sinclair rib, they brought the cream of the crop and a few more over: 27 in total, to compare with Chelsea's 23. Not that it matters.
This will be the fifth (and then sixth) meeting between the Blues and the Sky Blues this season. Chelsea's record is a bit abject, three losses (Community Shield, Premier League away, FA Cup semifinal) and one draw (Premier League home). Not that it matters.
Please, no one get hurt. And let's have a good time. That matters.