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What The Hell Sport Is The Postal Service Singing About In That One Song?

Turns out there are not very many sports where a goalie would tend the net in the third quarter of a tie-game rivalry ...

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There is an unresolved mystery that has been plaguing this great country for TOO LONG now (12 YEARS) and it’s time for us to just face it and deal with it and own up to the fact that it is a huge, huge problem.

As you know, in his perfectly good song “Nothing Better,” from the 2003 album Give Up, Postal Service singer Ben Gibbard sings the following lyrics as part of a metaphor for a broken relationship:

I can't accept that it's over...And I will block the door like a goalie tending the netIn the third quarter of a tied-game rivalry

You know that. We all know that. But what the hell sport is he referring to?

The sport is not hockey.


Hockey is a very tempting option, because it has goalies, and the third session of play in a hockey game is also the last, which would add dramatic tension to the goalie’s plight in this scenario.


The sport is not soccer.


Soccer is another tempting option! It has nets; it has goalkeepers, and after 75% of play has elapsed, things might well get a little bit tense, given how low-scoring a typical soccer game is.



Soccer has halves. A goalie would only conceivably tend the net in the first or the second half of play during a soccer match. And, “match” is preferable to “game” in soccer terminology, so that’s a second strike against the soccer theory.




God, I so badly wanted this to be shinty, but it’s a two period sport, so we just have to be true to ourselves and cast it from our minds. Goodbye, shinty, you sweet, beautiful thing. I am sorry that the heartless members of The Postal Service have never even bothered to spend a moment of their time wondering about who won the last Camanachd Cup.

“But what about Bandy?" you're all saying to yourselves ...

Bryn Lennon / Getty Images

“Surely, it must be Bandy that Ben and Jimmy and probably Jenny Lewis were all thinking about when they penned the lyrics to “Nothing Better” in 2003. Perhaps they had just been on vacation in Arkhangelsk, and the nailbiting 5-4 victory of the Swedes over host nation Russia in the World Championship Bandy finals had captured their imaginations!"

But alas, Bandy is also a sport constructed of periods, not quarters.


Chinlone is more focused on the artistry with which a player dances and keeps the ball in the air, so there wouldn’t be sufficient dramatic tension to justify the metaphor, even if the game did have goalies.




Lacrosse has goaltenders, goals with nets, and four quarters.

The third quarter in a Lacrosse game is probably a little bit early to start really panicking about the result, but you could imagine a particularly anxious goalkeeper starting to get a bit nervous as the fourth quarter begins to loom, so we'll give Ben and co. a little bit of poetic license here.

But why did Ben Gibbard choose such a dumb, douchey sport to sing about in this otherwise very sweet and poignant song?

Kevin Winter / Getty Images

THAT … is another mystery, for another time. But at the very least, we can finally put this devilish problem behind us and begin, slowly, to pick up the pieces and move on with our lives.

Cold Case … closed.

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