Saturday, June 26, 2010

USMNT Julep

When I was in first grade, my parents signed me up for our neighborhood soccer team in the local community league. Didn't make a whole lot of sense to me at the time -- our family was and is much more baseball-oriented, and my grandfather and uncles had been throwing wiffle balls, tennis balls, and baseballs to me (and at me) since I was knee-high to a squirrel. I think the people in my folks' cocktail party circuit were getting their kids into soccer, though, so that's the way it went.


I wasn't very good. Middle of the pack speed, rudimentary ball skills, not willing to take a header. But that's the way it went, a Larchmont halfback in 1st grade, then 2nd, and on up. By 3rd or 4th grade I was markedly better, owing simply to playing season after season, and by sixth grade I was starting at forward. In my last game that year, I scored four goals in an 8-0 rout of league rival Ghent. Soccer was my sport, every autumn.


But then, well, our school offered junior-junior varsity football to grades 7 and up, so that's the way I went. I trotted off the soccer pitch at age 12 and never looked back. There was simply more allure with football, more American street cred and more potential for glory. For me, the move -- coupled with my growing to 6'4" by the time I was 16 -- led to a high school career littered with dozens, nay several touchdowns, some paltry Virginian-Pilot coverage, and a hearty sex life of backseat handjobs from one of the prettier cheerleaders. The gilded days, as they say.


Save for a pair of left-footed fluke goals in one of our Lumpless Gravy B-side soccer matches in college, my futbol playing days largely ended with my fellow 6th graders. (Oh, there was also an indoor match in which Mr. Truck and I played a man down and lost 15-1 after an own goal put us up 1-0.) But my interest in the sport was never fully extinguished, not by years of dedication to other sports, not by the nation's general apathy to it, not by decades of drinking heavily and forgetting everything I once knew.


In 1992, our comrade Cliffy and I, both in our bonus year at W&M, enrolled in Principles of Coaching, a Kinesiology class that reeked of "gut" more than a Mangino waistband. (We were scouring the curriculum for such classes by that point.) As part of the class, we coached the Comets, a 1st grade squad whose saga I won't bother relating but was filled with comedy, drama, and an uplifting final chapter worthy of an ABC Afterschool Special. Plus, we got A's, which I desperately needed. And the sport got its hooks in me once again.


Here we are, 18 years later (yikes), and my two daughters are both seasoned veterans in the community soccer league in the same town where I donned the Larchmont kelly green so many years ago. And now, with the United States poised to make some noise in the most watched tournament in the world (I need the YES network to spruce up that hyperbole), the sport has infected me like that itch I picked up in New Orleans. I'm still that same first-grade spazzy mcgee flailing about out there, but now I'm in a bar watching my countrymen excel.

So here's to this sport soccer, and here's to an American generation that has played and coached it now watching intently and hoping for national success.


















53 comments:

mayhugh said...

I've never been nervous for a soccer match before... but here we are.

Shlara said...

Igor--really with those photos? You're messing with a streak...could you find even a small Donovan image?

rob said...

my kids really aren't sure why they had to leave the beach in the middle of a perfectly beautiful day

rob said...

oh for fuck's sake. just abysmal defending.

rob said...

the fuck was jay demerit doing?

rob said...

'no, mick, i never fucked a dude'.

Mark said...

This keeps getting worse.

rob said...

dogshit is too kind a description

rob said...

yea, so ricardo, phone call in the bathroom

rob said...

more sloppy touches by the u.s. in this first half than igor in his prime

rob said...

can we petition for extra substitutes?

T.J. said...

Fuck. This.

rob said...

altidore's a step slow mentally and physically today

Shlara said...

Its a thousand degrees in this bar. Everyone is drunk, anrgy and chanting USA. When we score, there will def be violence--like the LA riots

Mark said...

The chances are piling up.

rob said...

feilhaber has made a difference every time he's entered a game. more of him please.

rob said...

landycakes!!!

Shlara said...

I love him.

T.J. said...

Someone tell Mick he's British.

Mark said...

Dempsey's been great. Ghana's defenders can't take the ball from him. Altidore, on the other hand, has displayed a stone mason's touch.

TR said...

We always leave ourselves vulnerable to the counter-attack. Our Achilles' heel.

And the subs were great, but I wish we had more than one left. Do we get extra subs if it goes to added time?

rob said...

no, but we do get a 30-second timeout

rob said...

anytime you boys feel like playing again would be fine

rob said...

lovely set piece that

Igor said...

Clint Dempsey: "You like me, you really like me!"

...and then, "Screw the fancy play, I'm just going to try to kick it through them.".

rob said...

the ghanaian forecheck is strong all of a sudden

T.J. said...

Nervous Pervis here at Baileys...

"We're not Ghana Take It...no, we ain't ghana take it..."

mayhugh said...

Tim Howard's wife is a little bit of alright.

rob said...

gomez for altidore. innnnteresting. paging messrs dempsey and donovan - we'll need you to do our scoring

mayhugh said...

YUCK

T.J. said...

Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck

rob said...

this is getting tiresome

Mark said...

That's a brutal way to give up a goal in extra time. Beautiful strike.

mayhugh said...

I've had enough of your rooting for Ghana, Mark.

T.J. said...

Fuck. Ghana.

mayhugh said...

THAT WAS A DIVE

mayhugh said...

FAKERS

T.J. said...

Ghana pussies

rob said...

save for the first 20 minutes of the second half, we got outplayed all over the field. we got the result we deserve.

Igor said...

This feels like the last 30 mins of Wedding Crashers. Such potential, but this is painful.

rob said...

it'll be annoying to hear all the 'now back to not caring about soccer' crap, but this was a fun few weeks.

Igor said...

Yeah, none of us will bemoan this as much as the heads of ABC. But that sucks, anticlimactic as hell.

Shlara said...

Wicked pisser.

T.J. said...

We got worked by Ghana. Plain and simple. I don't need to be an expert futbol fan to know those guys got to spots on the field/balls almost at will today. Sucks to lose when we had very good looks, but I'll see you in four years USMNT.

Mr. Truck said...

ghana scored world cup quality goals.

my friend's home-made beer eased my pre-game nerves and i think i suffered the loss with great aplomb.

go chile?

Mr. Truck said...

unlike igor, i prefer to forget that man down catastrophe in indoor and instead remember when we whipped KA 5-0(i had four goals in that one-- it's odd how memory works-- i remember that game much better).

Mr. Truck said...

i also LOVE remembering the long field goal i kicked at the end of the half to help us win in inter-mural football.

but i HATE remembering the guy that burned me numerous times for touchdowns after i did squats and then ate at wendy's superbar just before kick-off.

rob said...

did i ever mention the pk i saved to win an intramural a-side playoff game?

Mr. Truck said...

i remember it!

signed

place kicking champion 1992

rob said...

didn't dave win the intramural golf tournament?

Mark said...

You did a whole post on it, Rob.

rob said...

i was hoping someone would get the joke - well done, mark

rob said...

dustin pedroia broke his foot yesterday when he fouled a ball of it. today, clay buchholz strained a hamstring running the bases. you and your interleague baseball can fuck right off, mr. selig.