2006.06.14 Soccer-ates

Written by David Green.

Soccer-ates

By JEFF PICKELL

In honor of the World Cup, which I’m sure few around here actually care about, I’ve decided to share three soccer-related vignettes this week. I’ve been a waxing and waning soccer fan all of my life; the amount of love I have for the sport is generally based on how much I enjoyed the last game I played in.

I imagine my love for soccer skyrocketed after we beat Mr. Neighbors’ team in the sixth grade. It was the final game of the season, and in our first match up, Mr. Neighbors’ squad had downed us 4-0 without winding themselves.

Mr. Neighbors was the coolest teacher at Highland Elementary. He played his guitar while he supervised lunch, organized nature hikes and kickball games, made up spooky stories during class camping trips, and did all sorts of other neat things.

The problem was that Mr. Neighbors was a traditional school year teacher. We were in the year-round program, so we hated his guts out. And we hated more his team—full of cheery, traditionally-schooled lads with fine hair cuts, fine smiles and sportsmanship their parents could be proud of.

I was carded for yelling at my teammates more games than not. Sean O’Rourke was famed for hawking loogies at the defense. Our coach was repeatedly reprimanded for swearing at us. He called it swearing “to” us, not “at” us, though.

Come to think of it, we were the bad guys. We deserved to lose. But I was fired up. We, the Falcons, were fired up. Probably by evil. Still, Mr. Neighbors’ boys came off the first half up 1-0, and things were looking pretty dire in the second. But this didn’t stop me from talking trash—and capitalizing on a good pass forward from midfield.

As I tore down the right sideline, I remember thinking to the defender, “You’re fast, but today, you’re not as fast as me.” When I got near the penalty box, I faked to the right, which staggered both the defender and the keeper, then sent a wobbler into the left side of the net, finishing with a favorite Calvin and Hobbes line: “Take that, you armored maggots from Mars!”

When the ref whistled goal, I screamed. At nobody in particular. I just thought it would be cool and extra cathartic to clench my fists and scream. We won the game 2-1 after O’Rourke lofted one in from beyond the box.

The next story is more bittersweet.

In seventh grade, I joined the Waterford Warriors as a right forward, but volunteered for back up goalie duties, even though I didn’t really want them. I thought I was going to get the starting forward position. I must have been smoking crack—the starter from day one was my close friend, Kevin Oakley.

However, I got the starting goalie job for the semi-final game of our first tournament—despite all his fancy gear, the original starting goalie was awful.

After the first half, I went to the sideline and took off my goalie shirt. I was angry the coach put me in the net for such an important game on such short notice. I was angry at myself for letting two goals in. I was angry because I wanted to play forward. I was stupid because I was in seventh grade.

“What are you doing?” asked the coach. “Put your shirt back on.”

“I’d rather sit on the bench than go back out there,” I replied.

“Fine,” he said.

Of all the stupid things to say to a coach.

I would call the final journal entry a return to form, but it occurs during my senior year of college and my physical form had deteriorated markedly since seventh grade.

I was again between the posts, this time for my intramural side, The Wolf. Somehow, we made it to the finals. Somehow, we made it to a shootout. I’d like to think it’s because of my net prowess, but it was mainly because my roommate and head defender, Pat Mobley, can dribble and kick, which are skills I lack.

But I can tackle, so that’s what I did.

Just before the shootout began, Ken, the resident muscle head, had misgivings about me and ordered me out of the net.

With a face of stone, I said, “No. I’ve taken us this far. I’ll bring her home.”

To my surprise, my teammates agreed with me. Talk about strengthened resolve.

We still lost, and the defeat was disappointing, but few things are more exhilarating than knowing you’ve won the faith of your teammates—finally.

– June 14, 2006
  • Front.nok Hok
    GAMES DAY—Finn Molitierno (right) celebrates a goal during a game of Nok Hockey with his sister, Kyla. The two tried out a variety of games Saturday at Stair District Library’s annual International Games Day event. One of the activities featured a sort of scavenger hunt in which participants had to locate facts presented in the Smithsonian Hometown Teams exhibit. The traveling show left Morenci’s library Tuesday, wrapping up a series of programs that began Oct. 2. Additional photos are on page 7.
  • Station.2
    STRANGE STUFF—Morenci Elementary School students learn that blue isn’t really blue when seen through the right color of lens. Volunteer April Pike presents the lesson to students at one of the many stations brought to the school by the COSI science center. The theme of this year’s visit was the solar system.
  • Front.leaves
    MAPLE leaves show their fall colors in a puddle at Morenci’s Riverside Natural Area. “This was a great year for colors,” said local weather watcher George Isobar. Chilly mornings will give way to seasonable fall temperatures for the next two weeks.
  • Front.band
    MORENCI Marching Band member Brittany Dennis keeps the beat Friday during the half-time show of the Morenci/Pittsford football game. Color guard member Jordan Cordts is at the left. The band performed this season under the direction of Doyle Rodenbeck who served as Morenci’s band director in the 1970s. He’s serving as a substitute during a family leave.
  • Front.poles
    MOVING EAST—Utility workers continue their slow progress east along U.S. 20 south of Morenci. New electrical poles are put in place before wiring is moved into place.
  • Front.cowboy
    A PERFORMER named Biligbaatar, a member of the AnDa Union troupe from Inner Mongolia, dances at Stair District Library last week during a visit to the Midwest. The nine-member group blends a variety of traditions from Inner and Outer Mongolia. The music is described as drawing from “all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified.” The group considers itself music gatherers whose goal is to preserve traditional sounds of Mongolia. Biligbaatar grew up among traditional herders who live in yurts. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.

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