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Soccer Poet



Monkey of the Day... children's book style...

A guy called me ‘sir’ today. And when I say guy, I mean like 30 years old. A thirty-something called me Sir. And not in that chummy, cheerful southern way. He called me Sir in that respect your elders way… and, well, it hurt me. It hurt me bad.

I don’t get this aging thing. It’s lost on me. Yeah, my body creaks and rattles more than it once did, and yes there are days (like tomorrow) when my spine needs to be twisted like a tray of ice cubes to free my vertebrate from their locked and upright positions. But other than the physical, I just don’t feel that much different than I did before the creaks and rattles began.

I am only slightly more responsible than I was ten years ago, which was only slightly more responsible than I was ten years before that. Okay, so these days when I go to the grocery store I leave with some vegetables other than the ones piled on my Italian sub. And I do a few grown-up things like recycle a can here and there, check the weather report (but not the obituaries) and take a daily vitamin, but beyond that, I’m more or less a smarter, slower 22 year-old.

I played a game of 4v4 today and I am still as nasty as I ever was. Still hate to lose. Can’t help it. Still yell at my teammates who dog it and still taunt opponents as if we had never met. I still have my man crush on Jimmy Buffett and visions of striking gold with that Powerball ticket I bought today. I still buy silly things – like the orange and green Florida A&M Rattlers t-shirt I picked up at a Marshall’s in Tallahassee for $4 that I’m currently wearing. I still sing way too loud when I’m in the car. I’ll still dress up for Halloween and if I wouldn’t get arrested for it, I’d still go trick-or-treating. Who does this guy think he is calling me, Sir? I’ve got half a mind to buy a cane just so I can beat him with it.

One of the more enjoyable subplots since our arrival in Athens has been ‘the bet’ – a little wager between Robin and Nooj about the upcoming Athens half-marathon. Robin’s a shoe-in to finish strong. I mean to practice the half-marathon she actually ran the course… all 13 miles of it. So for all intents and purposes she’s running two halves in the span of two weeks.

As much as she tries to disguise it, Robin’s competitive streak is boundless. Since May Robin has been referring to the half as ‘a run.’ The other day, without even noticing it, she began calling it a ‘race.’ 99% of the people will just hope to survive the half. Robin wants to win it.

Nooj is an entirely different story. He’s not quite the sure-thing. But he’s been training hard – running, lifting, biking – so I think he’s got a puncher’s chance at going the distance. The run is on October 24, the morning of our match with Auburn. I’ll keep you posted. On both.

So this past weekend the Dawgs faced the season’s most daunting road trip – away to South Carolina and Florida – two places that aren’t often kind to visitors. The one bright spot was that despite leaving points on the table so often in SEC matches, we were still by and large in control of our own destiny for an SEC championship. Yes, we’d have to pull the implausible (some would say impossible) double, but we were still in the hunt and that’s about all we could ask for.

We pulled into Columbia on Thursday afternoon and drove over to USC for a light training session. The practice field is about a five or six minute hike downhill from the parking lot. So we disembark the bus and meander our way down to the pitch with one eye on the thunder bumpers rolling in from the west. As soon as the players finished their jog & stretch, a flash of lightning lit up the sky. It was about a second and a half after that when I realized Robin would probably win the half marathon because she was in a dead sprint and already of the way to the bus. Robin doesn’t like lightning. By the time the rest of the team got back to the bus Robin was already in her seat and halfway through a DVD. Her mad dash to safety opened the door for brief barrage of jabs, the funniest being about her hypothetical bus ride back to Athens on an empty charter and how she would explain herself as the only survivor. If lightning strikes during the Athen's half-marathon I'm pretty sure Robin will set a new course record.

The match against the Gamecocks went beautifully. Lex scored a stunner in the fourth minute to grab us the lead. She corralled Baker’s punt at midfield, raced through a cluster of Gamecock defenders and from twenty yards unleashed a scorcher to the upper far post. It was a world-class strike and certainly SportsCenter worthy. It stood up as the game’s only goal and we took three big points out of Columbia.

Defensively it was our finest hour (or hour and a half). South Carolina has been scoring goals by the bucket so we knew we’d have to be close to flawless. But we put together a solid game plan and the players executed it well, bottling up some exceptional attacking players. And yes, as much as I enjoy the relaxation of a comfortable, three-goal win, there really is something especially satisfying about making one goal stand up for ninety minutes, especially against the nation’s #14 team.

Before we left the field we told the players to feel good about the win, to enjoy it tonight, but when they woke up on Saturday it was time to start thinking about the Florida Gators.