Monday, May 29, 2023

Examining a Life

The unexamined life is not worth living - Socrates, or possibly Thoreau (joke for one)

Professor G. Truck's recent two-part podcast series exploring the roots of individual musical taste got me thinking about a broader topic. I can tell you about my personal values and how that translates to my political views, but I've never really examined the genesis of those things. Until now. 

I can express my core beliefs in one of two ways. There's the instinctual, gut-first clarity of "I fucking hate bullies". And there's the more nuanced, socially acceptable version: I have a great deal of sympathy towards those who are marginalized, and have from a young age.

Back in the day, I thought that those views came to me through a sporting prism. Always loved an underdog. My first sporting passion was the Red Sox, who got sand kicked in their faces on a regular basis, and even when they had a modicum of success, got the prize yanked away in amazingly painful ways.

But as I thought more about it, I realized that just about everyone loves an underdog. So my underlying operating system must've been programmed by something else.

Being a small person has something to do with my makeup, I'm certain. I was very rarely bullied on any kind of persistent basis - I was pretty good at sports as a kid, and I had a quick wit. Those things bought me respect and got me out of most really lousy belittling. I also moved a lot, so I had to learn to make friends and fit in. But I was always conscious of the fact that if the shit hit the fan, the odds were against me if it came down to a match of physical strength, and so I did what was necessary to avoid that. You may notice that I have a lot of pretty large friends.

That underlying and oft-subconscious understanding of my physical place in the world had a lot to do with my taking up for the little guy. Pun absolutely intended. So did the way my parents moved through the world. 

My Dad was an Army officer. He was very circumspect about his personal political views. He was raised outside of Boston (a liberal stronghold) by a very politically conservative father - quite a mix, those. My Mom followed his lead when it came to talking politics at home. I honestly don't remember us ever doing it. Mom's become outspokenly liberal in recent years, especially since my Dad's passing in 2010, so I kinda think she was always that way. 

While Dad was outwardly neutral, I vividly remember two incidents that, upon reflection, give me some insight into how he was wired. When I was 10 or 11, he coached my soccer team. It was a coed team, because we lived on an Army base and there weren't enough girls to have their own team. Before a practice one evening we were fucking around shooting balls at the goal. I drilled one that hit a female teammate in the head and caused her to burst out in tears. I was mortified. Dad was apoplectic. He made me walk the mile and a half back to the house while he conducted the rest of practice. 

Five or six years later, we were watching something on television that featured a dorky Asian character. I laughed and said, "Look at that geek!" Dad yanked me off of the couch, pushed me against the wall and commenced yelling at me to never say that again. In retrospect, I think he thought I used an anti-Asian slur.

The common thread in both of those incidents, both of which are as vivid to me as any childhood memory, was my Dad's rage at his perception that I injured people outside the majority, the in group, the strong. I think we're starting to get somewhere.

I was on the dickhead end of bullying once when I lived in Norfolk as a 7th grader. My family lived on a very small military installation while my Dad attended a Joint Forces advanced school for six months. Kids from the base were bused to school in the city. I went to a middle school that was significantly majority African-American. My Mom likes to tell the story that I earned my classmates' respect because I was a pretty good basketball player. I honestly don't remember that. I do remember something I did, because I remain ashamed of it to this day.

On a bus ride home one afternoon, I got into a verbal altercation with a young Black kid. As it escalated, I mocked him for wearing the school's PE uniform outside of class, and implied that he was too poor to have nice clothes. I won't ever forget the pain in his eyes, and I knew as soon as I said it that I'd struck way too close to the truth. I think it's the cruelest thing I've ever said or done. And 40+ years later, it stings me to know I did it. 

That incident stayed with me more than any incident where I was bullied. Happened every now and again. Broke a tooth when some bigger kids dropped me in a garbage can at a baseball game. Had an asshole sophomore single me out for a while my freshman year of high school because I was one of the few kids smaller than him. That pain didn't last, but the helplessness I felt at the time did color my view of bullies for a lifetime.

I have a visceral reaction to people and institutions that punch down. One of the things that enrages me so about the modern GOP of Trump and DeSantis and Gaetz and Greene is the glee with which they seek to humiliate the meek while creating ever more advantage for the strong. The Atlantic columnist Adam Serwer published a collection of essays in 2018 entitled, "The Cruelty Is the Point: The Past, Present, and Future of Trump's America" that illustrates the phenomenon better than I can. Whether the subject of ire du jour be trans, gay, Black, female, it is overwhelmingly people in positions of power (or those seeking to align with power) forcibly holding down those they perceive as beneath them.

So it seems that there's a bit of nature and nurture involved in the formation and evolution of my values. How much of each, who's to say. And whether I'm even on the right path with respect to this self-examination. I could be completely deluding myself, merrily tooling along in the matrix, thinking I have individual will and self-determination.

In the end, this was a pretty quick stream of consciousness tour down and around the rabbit warrens (do squirrels have warrens?) in the part of my brain that controls what I value. Gonna do some sanding and polishing and come back to this topic, because it interests me. And maybe only me. You guys can thank Professor G. Truck.

Saturday, May 27, 2023

Footie Up Your Ass: Marble Collecting Time

[Editor's Note: This is a long one. Lotta words. Maybe print it out and take it to the crapper with you. And enjoy!]

If you're into sporting drama, the next fortnight is your cup of Earl Grey, even if you just focus your attention on what's going down in English soccer (with a brief German fling). Starting Thursday with Manchester United's Champions-League clinching win over an abysmal Chelsea, no fewer than 12 matches in England, two in Germany, and one in...Istanbul (?) will have either title, promotion, or relegation implications.

Let's get the gnarly stuff out of the way. Heading into the final matchday of the season, three Premier League teams are in full on crabs in a bucket mode, grasping at each others' ankles in an attempt to pull each other back down. Only one of the three (Everton, Leicester, and Leeds United) will survive, the other two becoming among the larger clubs in history to be relegated. Everton, who needed a final-day win last season to stay up, is in 17th place on 33 points, two more than both Leicester and Leeds - the Liverpool club has the current longest streak of seasons in the top division, with 70. The Toffees host already-safe Bournemouth on Sunday, needing a win to guarantee safety. Leicester have the best goal differential among the three sides, and Whitney's team will stay up if they win at home against West Ham and Everton loses or draws. Leeds has the longest odds, needing to beat Tottenham at home and losses by both other combatants. Squeaky bum time, indeed.

Turning to much more fun, if perhaps not more consequential stakes, let's go in chronological order. Each of the major Continental leagues has already crowned a champion (Manchester City, Napoli, PSG, and Barcelona) save Germany. Bayern Munich have won 10 consecutive Bundesliga titles (which, honestly, is one of the reasons the German first division isn't as popular as it might be), but their 3-1 loss at home against RB Leipzig last weekend opened the door for Borussia Dortmund to claim this year's championship. Dortmund lead Munich by two points headed into this weekend's final matchday, and host 9th-place Mainz needing a win or Dortmund loss or draw to clinch the title. Munich travel to Cologne to play the 10th-place side having to win and get help to keep their streak alive. Though they wear the colors of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Dortmund have historically operated more like the pre-2004 Boston Red Sox, so there will be some nervous folks on the pitch and in the stands at Signal Iduna Park today. If you have a heart and aren't a front-running dickhead, you'll be rooting for Dortmund.

Later this afternoon, Luton Town and Coventry meet at Wembley in the English League Championship Promotion Play-offs Final. The winner is promoted to the Premier League. The loser, a gutpunch and a return to the Championship grind for another season. We're pulling for Luton Town because, a) the Hatters have never played in the Premier League, having been relegated from the First Division in 1992, the last season before the advent of the current setup, b) because USMNT third-string goalkeeper Ethan Horvath is their starter, and c) because they have a Zimbabwean midfielder called Marvelous Nakamba in their starting lineup. Much has been made of the fact that Luton Town will have to spend £12.5m to make their quaint little ground comply with Premier League standards. As the photo below shows, away fans today have to enter Kenilworth Road through a pair of row houses. Brilliant, that.

Sunday afternoon, while we Yanks are tucking into our Memorial Day beers and brats, Carlisle and Stockport tangle at Wembley in the League Two Play-off Championship for the right to play in League One next season. Loser gets to play Wrexham twice in League Two in 2023-24, so there's some consolation there. Then, on Memorial Day, Sheffield Wednesday hopes to complete their storybook playoff run when they face Barnsley. Wednesday were left for dead after the first leg of their playoff semifinals when Peterborough whacked them, 4-0. Darren Moore's boys got up off the canvas and stunned Peterborough, 5-1, in the return fixture and won the match and the tie in penalties to advance to the final. Shit was capital B Bonkers:

Moore is one of the very few Black managers in English (European, really) soccer, and he's dealt with the predictable shit one might expect with more grace and dignity than he should have to display. We're rooting for John Harkes' former Wednesday side to come up to the Championship.

Couple amuses bouche in the midst of all of these big events, as Sevilla take on Roma in Budapest on May 31 in the Europa League final and West Ham and Fiorentina square off in Prague on June 7 in the Europa Conference League final. Hey, a trophy is a trophy. Noteworthy, too, that Italian clubs are competing in all three EUFA club finals.

We get a few days to rest
after a frenetic weekend before the big boys take the stage. On June 3, Premier League champions Manchester City take on their cross-town rival Manchester United in the FA Cup Final at Wembley. Pep Guardiola's Blues are considerable favorites, but weird things happen in derby matches, and City may well be focused on an even bigger prize.

And just one week later, they get a chance to take it. Manchester City take on surprising Inter Milan in Istanbul in the Champions League Final. City absolutely wrecked Real Madrid in the second leg of the semifinals, winning 4-0 on the day and 5-1 in the aggregate. Milan was impressive against their rivals AC Milan, winning 3-0 over two legs. As in the FA Cup, the imperious Manchester City are big favorites (-240 or so), but lots of weird shit happens in knockout soccer. It is no secret that the Champions League trophy is the only piece missing from Pep's run at City, and the club have never won the ultimate European prize. Pep's outsmarted himself before in big games (see the 2021 Champions League final loss to Chelsea for a recent example), and Inter's gonna play with nothing to lose. I think City will win (and I've got $50 on the Blues to win the Premier League, FA Cup, and Champions League treble), but it wouldn't stun me if Inter pulls off the upset.

Thursday, May 25, 2023

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

My quill-brain connection has been mightily fecund of late. Perhaps this is a sign that I should finally get around to getting a job. (If you have one on offer, please contact my agent.) Judging by the news I'm about to share, it certainly appears that I'm going to need one.

In 1989, a comedy writer named James Comisar started collecting pop culture memorabilia in a most innocuous way. He grabbed a pair of hand-painted title cards that said "More to Come" that appeared before commercial breaks on "The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson". From those humble seeds grew a lush garden of television's historical artifacts, simple and very much more. Comisar hoped to eventually curate his collection of more than 10,000 pieces and open a museum to display them. Instead, he's chosen to start auctioning some of them.

Until June 4, Heritage Auctions will accept bids on an incredible array of items from television's history. You want Captain Kangaroo and Mr. Green Jeans' costumes*? The reserve bid is $15,000. The tunic James Shatner wore when his Captain James T. Kirk kissed Nichelle Nichols' Uhura in the first televised interracial liplock? That one's gonna cost you at least $30,000. Got $20,000? That'll get you in the door for Wonder Woman's metal wrist cuffs from Season One in 1975.

If you've got your cash tied up in less liquid investments, like FanDuel accounts, you can find some lower-priced bargains in Comisar's collection. You want one of Roseanne's blouses? $3 will get you into the lead at them moment. Same bid gets you out in front of the race for Ms. Cunningham's hardware utility smock from "Happy Days". Couple of cue cards from "Late Night with David Letterman" are currently at $12. Kevin Arnold's "Wonder Years" bathrobe? $15. There's a lot of shit, y'all.

* Fuck yeah, though it might be hard to explain to my wife

Me, though, I'm setting up a syndicate to go after one of the big ticket items. Do you remember the "Seinfeld" episode when Kramer acquired the Merv Griffin set? This is even better. Way better, for the group of us for whom Sam, Diane, Coach, Carla, Norm, Cliffy, Woody, and the gang were integral to our college experience. 

Friends, the real, live, actual "Cheers" bar is on auction

That's the real deal. Six barstools, the taps, the back bar, prop menus from local establishments, the bar itself, with the names Ratz and Kirstie carved into it, the phone, the fucking history. And I know exactly what we'll do with it. Soon as our ship comes in and we procure the compound, the bar gets pride of place. Marls has the most bartending experience, so he'll be behind the bar when the big guy walks in and we all shout "WHIT"! OBX Dave will ask, "What's new, Whit?". "Should be my liver", will come the response. And we'll all laugh.

Bids are up to $150,000 at the moment. I figure it'll get near $7-800,000. Venmo me - you should have my information. 

We're gonna have a place where everybody's glad we came.

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

The Time Has Come to Say Fair's Fair

Racism, xenophobia, homophobia, hooliganism and any number of other social ills have blemished world soccer for far too long. Other sports aren't immune to inhumanity, but soccer seems uniquely and universally plagued. (Interestingly, the U.S. soccer community, especially over the past decade or so, has been one of the world's most open and welcoming national collectives.) While many in global soccer vocally denounce the perpetrators of the incident du jour, and public relations campaigns against racism are de rigueur, the dirty open secret is that governing bodies have heretofore generally been unwilling to put real teeth into their verbal pearl-clutching.

The issue once again came into sharp relief this weekend when Real Madrid's Vinicius Jr. was subject to grossly offensive racist abuse from fans at Valencia. Vinicius, and Afro-Brazilian and one of world soccer's most electric young stars, was visibly upset by fans chanting "monkey, monkey" in his direction. Per La Liga's protocols, the match was paused and the home fans warned, but officials levied no additional punishment.

After the match, Vinicius posted this on his Instagram account (click the translate link):

And then today, more graphic details of the treatment this gifted young man has faced (translate, again):

Athletes, commentators, politicians of all stripes have come to Vini's defense, as they should. The leadership of La Liga issued a strongly-worded statement. Which means fuck all. Valencia claims they've identified three people who will be banned from the stadium for life. Which means fuck all. Valencia's Mestalla Stadium seats 49,430, and nobody shouted down these racist cretins. Unless and until fans of every team in every stadium refuse to allow this kind of nonsense tarnish their club and their city, a few bad apples indeed spoil the entire bunch.

We're long past the time where words and hand-slaps can make any sort of difference. It's time for the nuclear option. At least a tactical nuke or two.

English soccer legend and SiriusXM FC commentator Rodney Marsh said this morning that a club that can't control its fans should be removed from all competition for a year. That kind of death penalty applied a couple of times would certainly get folks' attention.

I think Marsh's solution is a bit aggro, though it makes sense as a cumulative option for repeat offenders. My solution's a little bit less drastic, but designed to hit fans and clubs where it hurts. For a first offense, a team should lose four home games - league or cup. That doesn't mean they play at home in an empty stadium. It means they have to incur the cost to travel to their opponent and face the increased challenge of having to compete on the road. A second offense means half a season without home matches and a nine-point deduction in the standings. A third offense takes away home games for an entire year and another nine points docked.

And if those persistently racist fucks can't get it straight after that, I'm all for the Marsh Method.

As Edmund Burke is credited with saying (though it may have actually been John Stuart Mill), “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” For far too long, good men (or those who want to be seen as good) have done basically nothing in the face of egregious misconduct excused in the name of sporting passion. No more, says this humble blogger. 

In the words of a great man, it's time to stop talking about it, and do something. I'd rather be celebrating Vinicius for the amazing shit he does on the field than worried for him for the awful shit he deals with from submoronic assholes who aren't on it.

Monday, May 22, 2023

Gheorghe Realigns: A Modest and Pointless Proposal

It's been a seismic several years in major intercollegiate sports (almost literally - the tectonic plates have shifted to conspire to bring UCLA and USC adjacent to Rutgers and Maryland in sport scheduling terms). And the noise continues unabated, the Big Ten and SEC extending their inexorable manifest destiny and creating chaos in their wake, the other major (for now) conferences scrambling to pretend to compete. 

Will Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and Arizona state join the Big 12 to make the best hoops league even better and create false hope for football glory (probably)? Will the addition of SMU and San Diego State make the PAC-12 a viable commercial entity and stop the conference's bleeding (nope)? What can the ACC do to stay relevant (if you have the answer, they'd love to hear from you, stuck as they are in a rights deal with ESPN that handcuffs the league until 2036)?

As usual, we have the answer, but not the solution. Let's start by acknowledging that moneyed interests will never allow the people to prevail. But still we beat on, a dinghy against the current, borne forward ceaselessly by our own flawless logic and well-turned phrasing. We'll offer ideas for consideration, fully aware that mismatched incentives and entrenched interests will render them dead on arrival. Still, one's intellectual fires must be slaked.

These aren't necessarily original ideas. Common sense is often just that - common, shared by many. Some of these notions aren't even new - we've already trod the road less traveled in this very pixelspace as it relates to some form of conference realignment (do enjoy the commentary of the Gheorghies in that thread - we invent the Guido League and the Papist Conference). It seems obvious, though, that something must give. 

What should give, says this humble blogger, is everything. The NCAA as we know it should go away, replaced by the following three-headed organizational construct (let's state for the record that we're only talking about what we currently know as Division I athletics - the NCAA remains a useful model for DII and DIII competition):

The Collegiate Football Federation (CFF) would run major college gridiron activities, in collaboration with the networks. Effectively, this would be everything that fits within the current Power Five conference structure, with a few puts and takes to include schools that want to participate (and are willing to pony up the necessary funding) like Notre Dame, Cincinnati, BYU, etc. Let's say we wind up with 80 teams in a mega-conference with eight regional divisions to make it easy to get to a 16-team championship tournament by taking the top two teams in each division.

Non-Power Five schools and those that currently fit that description that might choose to deemphasize a money-loser like also-ran big-time football would participate in a new FCS-like entity (Hello, Vanderbilt! Nice to see you, Kansas football! 'Sup Boston College!) that would feature robust competition but less financial commitment than would be required in the CFF. This division would have 174 teams, which we'd spread out regionally into 16 leagues - once again allowing for ease of championship management. We might see some current FCS teams drop into DII or DIII, which is fine - the point of this entire exercise is to get colleges of the arms race treadmill to nowhere that's inevitably going to reward the rich and bankrupt the poor and return to a more balanced and rational experience for students that happen to be athletes. 

In this world, we would eventually see a William & Mary in the same league as Old Dominion, James Madison, Towson, Richmond, and Navy, among others - a sane return to a compact league. You could play the same game with Rice, who'd play SMU, North Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas State, Tulane and so on rather than traveling to Annapolis, Philadelphia, Boca Raton, and Harrisonburg to play roadies.

Hoops is a little bit of a simpler animal. We're just going to lift and shift the current Division One teams  into a new organizing body, empowered to continue to run the NCAA tournament while also creating a more rational divisional structure that maximizes competition and optimizes travel. Same 351 teams, both men and women. Same tournament setups. To a large extent, the same conferences (though UCLA and USC have to go back to the PAC-12 for hoops).

Every other sport (at a school like Texas, for example, that's 16 programs once you remove football and men's and women's basketball) is organized in the Olympic Sports Governance Council (OSGC - just go with it, man, I don't make up the names, just report them). We've already mooted a version of this, as seen in the link above. It makes absolutely zero sense for UCLA to send its tennis team to New Brunswick, NJ to play a conference match against Rutgers, and vice versa. Maryland's field hockey team, as good as it is, shouldn't need to incur the costs of traveling to Lincoln, NE for a league match when they can get great league competition in D.C., Chapel Hill, Charlottesville, Happy Valley, Philly, and Princeton. (Stanford competes in the America East in women's lacrosse. Stanford! The America East! They played away matches against Albany, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and UMASS - Lowell this season! Fucking bonkers, y'all)

No, the sports generally considered "non-revenue" in the accounting-driven parlance of the current NCAA will find a much more rational structure that emphasizes regional play, student welfare, and cost reduction, re-emphasizes local/regional rivalries, and still allows for national competition for the teams and schools that thrive in their leagues.

This is a hurriedly dashed-off musing about what a new system of intercollegiate athletics might look like. There are certainly flaws with the plan (the most glaring of which is the idea that any current athletics administrator or university president would willingly choose to move their football program "down" to an "inferior" division), and I harbor no illusion that it'll come to fruition. That said, I would not be surprised if the networks and major conferences break from the NCAA, at least as it comes to football, and in that scenario, those on the outside looking in would be well served to find a new model.

Winter's coming. At least if you're a middling ACC football program. Better put on your coat.

Saturday, May 20, 2023

Of GOATs and Fruitless Debates

We’ve entered the legacy-building portion of the professional spring sports calendar, when reputations are burnished and tarnished, and legions of humans who might have trouble locating their ass with both hands piously weigh in. No accomplishment or disappointment is judged strictly on its own merit, that someone or some team simply had a great season or a bad week. All of it must be inserted into a larger context. It must *mean* something, even if the meaning varies from one cerebral cortex to the next. 

Sporting debate is both pointless and vital, mostly unanswerable yet critical for engagement. Results temper some discussion because they provide actual winners and losers and accompanying statistics, rather than aesthetic taffy pulls related to topics such as beauty, music and Scotch whisky. But sports also launch conversations among those who are invested, psychically if not financially, about legacy and history and comparison. 

If sports weren’t consuming to so many, people might devote their energies to improving themselves and society, and where’s the jollies in that? Debates about Greatest This and Best That frequently involve baseball, but other sports figure in the mix. Which brings us to today’s chew toy: LeBron James. James and his band of Angelenos are in the Western Conference finals as he pursues his fifth championship. [We posted about a version of this narrative more than a decade ago.]

Did someone mention my pal LeBron?
A fifth ring may or may not tweak the narrative surrounding where he stands among the pantheon of GOAT-ness. It seems that most folks tilted toward Greatest Ever discussions are comfortably in Michael Jordan or LeBron camps already. One more piece of jewelry or a couple more productive seasons are unlikely to sway opinions. Inarguable is James’s sustained excellence. At age 38, in his 20th season, he became the NBA’s career leading scorer. He is averaging 28.9 points, 8.3 rebounds and 6.8 assists per game. He’s averaged at least 25 points per game every year since his rookie season. He’s 6-9 and 270 pounds and effectively banging away against guys 10 and 15 years younger. He isn’t the defender he once was and may have lost a half-tick, but you still wouldn’t bet against him. 

The case for Jordan over LeBron usually comes down to championships and Jordan’s killer instinct. Jordan went to six finals and won six rings. LeBron has been to 10 finals and won four titles. Though if rings are the criteria, then Bill Russell should be the GOAT, or at least in the discussion. I’d also point out that if the Miami Heat don’t grab a late offensive rebound and subsequently Ray Allen doesn’t hit an immense 3-pointer in Game 6 of the 2013 Finals versus the Spurs, or if Draymond Green wasn’t suspended for Game 5 of the 2016 Finals with the Warriors up 3-1, LeBron likely has two fewer championships and *still* should be in the conversation. 

For what it’s worth (negligible), I think the debate should include Jordan, LeBron, Kareem and Russell. Compelling cases could be made for all four, and I wouldn’t argue with any of them. Pushback against LeBron as GOAT also carries a whiff of nostalgia that’s most commonly found in regards to baseball. For example, no one credibly argues that Jesse Owens was faster than Usain Bolt, that Sammy Baugh was better than Aaron Rodgers, that Olga Korbut was superior to Simone Biles, that Mark Spitz was more accomplished than Michael Phelps, that Maurice Richard was a greater talent than Sidney Crosby, that George Best was a more gifted footballer than Leo Messi. 

Yet if one were to suggest that, say, Mookie Betts is better than Stan Musial, or that Max Scherzer is better than Lefty Grove or Bob Feller, the Guardians of Baseball descend on that notion with the weight of a dozen planets and summarily dismiss it as absurd, bolstered by favorable numbers and the sparkle of fairy dust. We’re supposed to believe that athletic evolution applies to every sport *except* baseball and that Mike Trout cannot possibly be better than Ruth and Mays. A questionable construct, to say the least. 

There’s a bit of that with Jordan and LeBron, though Jordan’s career is just recent enough that a sizeable chunk of the populace saw and grew up with it and are willing to champion it over the current wave. Not saying they’re wrong, only that the games and their participants change and evolve. Enjoy and marvel at them all, whenever they compete. Rank them if you must, you grouchy bastards, and if your criteria is cold statistics or the tug of your heart or some combination thereof, well, good luck and Godspeed. 

Let a thousand arguments bloom.

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

That's a Wrap

My first full season as the head coach of my school's junior varsity ended last night with a 3-2 loss to our cross-town rival. As was this team's wont, we played down to the level of our competition, conceding on a scrappy free for all in the box, a free kick, and a (very) dubious penalty and scoring a pair of true bangers of our own. The loss marked the sixth time this season we fell by a single goal, which is likely chalked up to bad coaching.

Overall, the kids finished 6-9-1 with 31 goals for and 21 against. At the JV level, the record is pretty immaterial. I made it a point to get every kid into every game. We had nobody who had goalkeeping experience, so we rotated players, which cost us a handful of weird goals. 

Nah, the record doesn't matter. What does is the fact that the kids had fun, and they acted as a team. Here's an example. One of our players was in the concussion protocol for several weeks. She's one of the weaker players, but she's got a great personality and is a terrific teammate. She was cleared on Friday by our school's trainer, on the condition that she participate in a full-contact practice. We didn't have one scheduled for Friday because the kids had played on Thursday and had a hard week of testing in school. I asked the kids if they'd be willing to come to the school on Saturday to practice so their teammate could get the necessary session in. Of the players that were in town and healthy, 70% showed up at the practice - and one kid who's got a sprained ankle and is out for the season showed up as well. We got the practice in and were able to get the kid recovering from her concussion her first start of the season in the finale.

I think I'm more proud of that practice than anything else we did this season - that's what I was telling them in the huddle below after the final whistle last night. Here's to next year.