In the flash of a red card, MetroStars reserve goalie Paul Grafer
got out of the frying pan and into the goal.Grafer, a budding cook who began taking classes at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York in August, will start in goal tonight at New England (MSG, 7:30), with the MetroStars needing a victory or tie to secure a playoff berth.
"As a pro athlete, you have a lot of free time on your hands," Grafer
said in a rare admission by a professional athlete."You have no obligation, no responsibilities until the next practice.I just wanted to do something productive, spend a few hours a night picking up a trade.Some guys go into the city, some guys play video games.I can think of a lot of worse things I could be doing with my time."Grafer
, an erudite and engaging graduate of William & Mary
, finally signed up for six months of cooking classes in August, a decision he
had on a low simmer for a few years.He
has classes four nights per week.
Right now, "it's 12 hours of sitting there listening to lectures or cutting vegetables," he
said."We're just getting into knife skills.First, we're doing identification of different foods and then moving on to skills needed, and then soups, and we don't put together a whole dish until a few months down the road.It's fun, I love it."
For 2,463 Major League Soccer minutes this season, Grafer
sat on the bench like a dutiful Boy Scout: always prepared, with cleats on, sneakers tied, shinguards in place, gloves by his
In fact, Grafer
, 28, had yet to play in an MLS game since Sept. 15, 2000, when he
filled in during the playoffs because starter Mike Ammann was injured and then-backup Howard was with the U.S. Olympic team
quickly found himself looking for his
first touch in an MLS game in two years.No goalie likes to enter a game without at least gripping a ball, but Grafer
couldn't find one, so he
had to pry one out of the ballgirl's hands.
"My friends saw it on TV, and called me up and told me they saw me bullying some little girl for a ball," he
said."I guess they're not instructed to give balls out.It was interesting I was in a wrestling match with a ballgirl just to get a touch on the ball."His
season stats are amusing, yet impressive: one minute, one save.
But Garfer is no ersatz goalie.