David Hirshey writes regularly for Deadspin about soccer.
There are few things in life as eagerly anticipated as your 21st b-day. For many, it's the first chance to officially get so stinkin' drunk that you can throw up on your girlfriend's shoes and still expect her to stick her tongue down your throat. For others, it's an opportunity to walk into a voting booth, pull the curtain and write in Flavor Flav for President.
But how do you celebrate if you're Wayne Rooney, who, after all, has already done most of the things the rest of us can only dream of:
• shag a 48 year old grandmother, known as Auld Slapper, because she liked to wear a rubber cat suit during sex
• lose $1.2 million betting on horses and shrug it off to "bad judgment"
• throw a lavish birthday party for your fiancee that ends with a table-throwing, glass-shattering brawl between your parents and her family
• use an opponent's scrotum to practice your flamenco moves
• grow a beard that makes you look like a stunt double from "Gorillas In The Mist"
• sign a $5 million deal to write your autobiography in crayon — sorry, five volumes.
What's left? Oh yeah, score a big-ass hat-trick against Bolton just when people are writing you off as a pug-faced sociopath who is burying his talent beneath a blizzard of hookers, gambling debts and red cards. I mean, no less a blame-shifting weasel than Sven-Goran Eriksson was quoted last week as saying that if Rooney hadn't been sent off for stamping on Ricardo Carvalho's testicles, England would "probably" have won the World Cup. Yeah Sven, and that sheikh aboard the yacht in Dubai is about to ship you a dozen of his finest Arabian stallions. Honestly, the chances of England getting past Portugal, then taking the measure of France and Italy on their way to hoisting the World Cup trophy were about as likely as you being hired to coach in England again by somebody other than an Iranian gun runner.
As for Rooney, it's no secret that he has been struggling post-World Cup, failing to score since the first weekend of the season and, until a couple of weeks ago, generally looking like he had left his preternatural physical and mental strength in a sleazy Liverpool brothel. But on Saturday he was back to his old snarling self, which means that defenders were crapping their pants at the thought of stopping him in the open field. Early on, when Rooney broke from midfield on one of his signature sledgehammer runs, Bolton's Abdoulaye Faye, no wallflower himself, tried to slow him down with a Joey Porter-like arm tackle. Rooney shrugged it off, but when Faye hooked his leg around him, he ended up eating turf. For his part, Faye was lucky to escape with his swingers intact.
Not so Bolton's defense. His fury unleashed, Rooney tore Bolton's rearguard to pieces, starting with a rasping drive into the lower left corner at the ten minute mark, then six minutes later, pouncing on a loose ball at the top of the box and firing a curling shot thru a scrum of four defenders that skimmed the post on its way into the net. Finally, in the 89th minute, he latched onto another errant pass from the Bolton defense and made them pay again with his third goal. This time, he retrieved the ball from the net, held it out in front of the relieved and rapturous United faithful and kissed it. He might not have done so with the passion he reserved for Auld Slapper, but, on balance, it was probably a more hygienic way of marking his 21st birthday.