Soccer Poet

5 Days In The Life

5 Days In The Life

THURSDAY

Okay, this monkey thing has gotten entirely out of control. I know I don’t post a daily monkey despite a title to the contrary, but believe you me, the pictures folder on my PC has more monkeys than a Lewis Leakey biography. They’re coming in from everywhere. My sense of monkey consciousness has become so deep, so finely tuned that it’s downright scary. Plus we have an army of monkey hunting enthusiasts here in Athens, and when they see a monkey, it comes directly to me via MMS. I’ve become the hub of our monkey wheel. And that’s just with the visual monkeys. Since my introduction to the M.O.D., I’ve been literally astonished by the amount of monkey references I hear on radio and TV. How did it take so long for me to realize this? I musta been going through life with blinders.

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The other night at 8:30 P.M. I got a text from Jon Harvey who was concerned because he hadn’t yet had his daily monkey sighting. I wrote back telling him to turn on the Cartoon Network. About ninety seconds later he sent me this picture. Yeah, the Cartoon Network is a bit of a gimme, but desperate times….

Jon’s text reminded me that I too had been monkeyless for the day, but I was busy writing and forgot all about it. Plus, I never panic. I don’t know the last time I turned on the TV for more than 30 minutes without a monkey reference. Honestly, and I don’t know I this is just sort of cosmic monkey timing I’ve been blessed with, but I usually get a monkey within the first four minutes of turning on the television set. That’s no lie. It’s pretty frightening really. Anyway, Beth had DVR’ed American Idol that night so we sat down around ten to watch it. It was Elton John night and James Durbin performed Saturday Night’s Alright For Fightin’. Listen to that song for 20 seconds. Then believe.

A couple of nights later we rented two movies. On Friday night we watched Step Brothers. Sure enough, there’s a monkey reference. The next night it was The Fighter and even I was astonished when Mark Wahlberg says, “…you attacked him like a silverback gorilla.” That’s not just a monkey. That’s an Academy Award-winning monkey!

Since we were talking about American Idol I’m going to interrupt this entry to vent. Between the end of the last paragraph and the start of this one, I watched tonight’s elimination round only to see Pia sent walking. Are you kidding me! Freaking Pia??? Isn’t she, you know, the best singer? And by best I mean better than everyone else? Okay, so Pia’s immensely talented and beautiful and I’m sure she’ll land on her feet. That’s dandy. But what about me? What about my needs? I’m invested in this stinkin’ show now and this is completely unacceptable. I’m devastated. And I’m not sure why but I suddenly have this remarkable urge to beat the spray tan right off of Ryan Seacrest. Am I alone on this one?

Okay, since I’m rambling… are you interested in sharing my latest addiction? I recommend you say no, especially if you consider yourself to be 1. Competitive 2. Intelligent (and stuff) and 3. A Computer Owner. Back at Ole Miss, our other coach on staff, Ellen, stumbled onto a game called Word Bubbles at www.lumosity.com(it’s tabbed as a Flexibility game). In short, you are given a 3-letter prefix and then must come up with as many words as you can that start with that prefix. BUT! (There’s always a but, right?) You can only use three words from each word length. So let’s say you’re given the prefix SCA. You type in R (Scar), M (Scam), B (Scab). You’ve closed out the 4-letter column. You create words from 4-13 letters (words with more than 13 letters fall into the 13 column). Each round is one minute long. To have perfect round you must create 30 words. There are three rounds to a game. Make sense? Well you’ll have to trust me; it’s easy to get compulsive about this game, especially when you’re a competitor surrounded by like-minded souls.

So back to Ole Miss… At first all three of us would just plod along racking up scores that peaked around 2600 and feeling pretty good about it. Then one weekend Ellen breaks 3000. And now it’s on. Steve soon chalks up 3500 and now I’m like the odd man out and that was unacceptable. I needed my own little piece of Word Bubbles glory. That’s right about when I started throwing around the term ‘addiction.’ Word Bubbles was consuming entirely too much of my time and energy and I was on the short end anyway so I made an agreement with myself. I would be the first of our crew to break 4000. Then I would never play that stinking game again. And I did. I broke 4000 and quit cold turkey. I was walking away with a clear conscience – going out on top – and suddenly I had a lot more free time. Well, a week or so later Steve has not only broken 4000; he’s also beaten my score. But I was fine with that. I had officially retired. I really had. Or so I thought.

So for about a year I stayed away. But the thought that Rain Man had bested me in a word game was eating away at my insides. It was a festering wound that would not heal until I conquered Steve’s score (4200) – convincingly. It was an itch I refused to scratch. It took discipline but I stayed away. Then a month or so ago, Ellen posts a picture on her Facebook page. She had reached previously uncharted territory by scoring a perfect round - 30 words / 1800 points. None of us had ever mined perfection. It was the proverbial last straw. I was back to the bottom of the pile. I could no longer stay away. I went back to work.

After much ill-advised dedication to Word Bubbles, I am proud to announce once again my re-retirement.

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I have put up a score I am convinced will stand up for quite some time, and as a bonus, it included a perfect round. At this point I feel compelled to mention that I cannot type. Yes, that probably sounds strange coming from a blogger, but honestly, I’m 100%, two-finger hunt and peck – a severe handicap in Word Bubbles and if you must know, a handicap my cohorts do not share. As a celebration of my triumphant re-retirement, I invite you to send in a pic of your Word Bubbles scores that top 4000 points. But I warn you, you’re going down the rabbit hole. It’s okay though. I’m developing a 12-step program, so maybe I’ll see you in rehab. Cool?

Tomorrow is a big day so I need to go to bed.

FRIDAY

Today was ‘Golf For Kicks’, the annual fundraising golf tournament for UGA Soccer. 22 foursomes hit the beautiful UGA links under sunny skies. Robin and Jon organized this from top to bottom and it went off seamlessly. Goal Club president Jim Turner was not only a major contributor in putting this together,

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but he was also rode shotgun in my golf cart. Our compliance guy Eric Baumgartner and Steve rounded out our foursome.

Like any painfully average golfer, there’s only one shot I really care about – the first one off the tee. That’s the one shot where a whole bunch of people not in your foursome will watch you hit. And if you flub it, you’re going to hear about it for weeks. Thankfully my drive was long and straight-ish and enough to keep the peanut gallery at bay. I could golf the remainder of my round in peace.

The first time I golfed in a scramble was circa 1995 in Fort Lauderdale as a part of college soccer’s Senior Bowl festivities. By the way, the Senior Bowl was one of the best events in all of college soccer and if anyone ever wants to revive it, you’ve got my support. Anyhoo… so I’m with my old boss from Wheeling Jesuit, Jimmy Regan, who’s pretty decent with his clubs, but he’s no scratch golfer. We’re paired with a couple of guys who actually took pride in their golf game and had visions of winning the event. Jimmy thought it best to break the news before the round got under way. He said, “I’m sorry to tell you this, but I’m petty average and he (me) is worse. You guys may as well just enjoy the round because we ain’t winning anything.”

Their initial disappointment was soon mollified by the amusement of watching me try to get my club to actually make contact with the ball, which was about a one in four occurrence. On the fifth hole I was certain that I smashed my drive. Finally! It was a watershed moment. It made a loud noise on contact and left my club-face so quickly that neither Jimmy nor I could track it. There we were, looking in earnest at the great expanse of the fairway, trying to locate my drive. “You see it, Jimmy?”

“Nope. I lost it.”

Then one of the other guys calmly walks up with club in hand, and without saying a word, points to a spot in the ground where my tee had previously stood. There was my ball, 2/3 of it buried beneath the turf. I had somehow managed to hammer the ball straight into the ground. All four of us fell over laughing. It was at that point that those guys realized Jimmy hadn’t been kidding about our chances of winning anything and flagged down the beer cart.

In addition to the buried ball, there’s one other reason I remember that event. The rules dictated that you had to use at least one drive from every member of the foursome. When I hit a shot on 16 that was good only to the point that it made forward progress and stayed in bounds, they felt obligated to use it. It was the only shot I contributed to our foursome the entire day. I tell you that story to tell you this one…

Today we used at least one of my shots on 8 of the first nine holes. Don’t know exactly what happened out there, but for some strange reason I resembled a golfer. Of course when we made the turn I regressed into my natural existence as a total hack, but I’ll always have that front nine.

We finished a respectable six under. Yes, that was about nine shots out of the money but not a bad effort overall.

SATURDAY

Today was our alumni match and accompanying festivities. There really hadn’t been an all out effort to put together an alumni event in the history of UGA soccer, and again it was Robin who made all the wheels go round.

We planned a 10 A.M. kick-off for the match between the current players and their predecessors. Well, having been around college soccer for some time now, I can tell you it was no surprise when at 9:50 A.M., only one of the alums was actually on the field. Steph Ransom, the one true legend of UGA soccer, was short about ten teammates as game time approached. This is how alumni games go. Included in the list of factors that annually favor the active team is a good night’s sleep – or any sleep at all for that matter. Thankfully the alums did eventually straggle their way into the stadium and we had ourselves a pretty darn good game.

Our alumni team is no second-rate squad. For starters, most of them are under 25. Three of them are pros. Five of the girls just finished their eligibility in Novemember and still come out and play on a fairly regular basis. I’ll spare you the play-by-play (although there was probably a live feed on all-white-kit), but some fabulous goals were scored and the current Bulldogs defeated the Legends by a score of 4-2.

Alumni games are as memorable for their follies as they are for any flickering moments of brilliance. And no folly was quite so spectacular as Alex Thomas getting sat down by a Gibbo fake. As she fell to the ground for no really good reason, players from both sides were gasping for air between belly laughs. That little maneuver earned Alex the game’s MVP Award.

The match was followed by a BBQ out on the practice pitch for players, friends and families, and later that night the alums all gathered at the Foundry for dinner and some very cool retro highlight videos. I love alums.

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I love the perspective they gain the moment their careers end and in the years that follow. That’s when they genuinely digest how much their college soccer careers meant to them. And when they take a moment to verbalize that, well, that’s when you wish every current player could be there to hear it.

I should also point out that on Saturday we were introduced to someone who apparently has a laundry list of phobias. Phobia #1: Afraid of being buried alive. Any idea what Phobia #2 is? Sure enough… a fear of monkeys. No kidding.

SUNDAY

Spent the morning prettying up the lawn. Had to break out the mower for the first time in 2011. I enjoy yard work, but I gotta tell you, my passion for the task wanes considerably when it’s 80+ degrees and I’m not the one who owns the yard. Still, there is pride to be taken in a job well done and the lawn now looks pretty darn stellar.

Sunday’s highlight was our Over 35 league 7-a-side match. Steve and I are on the same team along with Steph Ransom and assorted others. If you ever have the chance to catch any of our games, do something else instead. Trust me on this. Geriatric soccer is not meant to be seen.

I try to keep these matches in perspective. It’s a way to have a little fun, play a little ball, get some desperately needed cardiovascular exercise and meet some people I wouldn’t otherwise meet. I don’t take it too seriously and my #1 goal is to leave the park uninjured. I compete under the motto of We All Have To Work on Monday. But not everyone shares my view.

Everywhere I’ve ever lived there are people who approach these games like it’s their stinkin’ World Cup. They’ll cheap shot any opponent who runs by them and argue every call from the referee. These are the people I fear because I’m at a point in my life where it’s just not worth it. I want to enjoy myself and then leave the field in one piece. These weekend hacks usually share two traits: they’re pretty bad soccer players and they’re always on the other team. So when Steve pointed out that our opponents actually had legit uniforms with their names screened on the back, well, it didn’t bode well. As for us… we’re wearing lime green t-shirts and we have one sub and one soccer ball between us.

Anyway, the game starts and after about 45 seconds I’m already half-gassed. And oh yeah, I’m playing center back – the position I seek out specifically because it involves the least amount of running. I used to be able to play this game at full speed for 120 minutes. How can I possibly be tired already? This is humiliating! One stinkin’ sub?

Anyone familiar with our sport knows that there is a clear difference between being fit - and being soccer fit. Anyone familiar with me knows that I am neither. I get it. But I can manage a decent bike ride or 20 minutes on a treadmill with relative ease. But in soccer, where you are constantly changing speeds and directions, well, those variables will gang up on you in a hurry.

I’m smart enough to know to pace myself. I’m so good at it that anyone inclined to watch me could make a pretty good case that soccer doesn’t actually involve exercise. But I’m also dumb enough to occasionally get caught up in the moment and go bombing forward on an ill-advised mad dash for glory, which I did about fifteen minutes into the match. Keep in mind that this a 7-a-side field, so it’s only about 70 yards long, and I received the ball about 25 yards in front of our goal. The point is, even at a sprint, I didn’t have very far to go.

So I start bringing the ball forward at a casual dribble, looking for passing options. As the opposing players move to cut off my passing options, a gaping hole opens up right down the center of their defensive shape. Next thing I know I’m going full speed at the defense, all the while the little voice in my head is telling me to abort this suicide mission because I’m about to crash the entire system. I get to the last defender, fake a shot with my right and cut it back to my left – a clear sign that rationale thought has abandoned me. I hit a weak shot with my left that, of all things, gets blocked by a defender. If it goes out of bounds or the keeper saves it, the play stops and I’m off the hook. A blocked shot is the worst possible outcome. It is my doomsday scenario. Since the ball is still bouncing around in their goal area and I’m in the vicinity, the smart thing to do is to chase, chase, chase.

Huh?

Yep. There I go, running around like an idiot pressuring enough defenders to eventually force a corner. I don’t remember exactly what took place. I may have blacked out. It was all sort of a blur – the ball pin-balling around and me in hot pursuit. I remember seeing knees and grass. From the time I took that initial shot to the time the ball went over the endline probably took a grand total of seven seconds. But it nearly killed me. My skin was on fire and my mouth was drier than attic insulation. I was dizzy, my knees were wobbly and I thought my heart was going to explode. I heard a voice telling me to go into the light. I waved on our one sub and then staggered back to our bench to feel much shame and then hopefully die.

Whatever happened to me? When did this soccer thing get to be so difficult? When did my legs completely seize up? I remember when the physical part of this game was a breeze. Once upon a time, there was this magical place called The Past, where I could run – really run – up and down a soccer field for 120 minutes and absolutely love doing it. And my hips… back then they, you know, turned. Now I’m like the Tin Man with a heart condition (ironic, right?). I run 5 yards that way and 4 yards back this way and I start scanning the complex for a paramedic.

Anyway, that was about where I peaked. In the second half I just couldn’t run. My tank was on ‘E’. Even when I told myself I need to start working harder, I just couldn’t. My legs refused to move. I did so little work in the second half that I never even subbed out. I didn’t have to. I didn’t run enough to be tired. Now that’s setting a pretty high bar for laziness.

Steve didn’t fare much better. As he said after the match, “I think that may be the worst game of soccer I’ve played since I was born.” Yes, we were that bad. And we lost 6-3. To their credit, despite their fancy uniforms our opponents were not hacks at all. Just a better team than we were. And by better I clearly mean younger.

MONDAY

Today was Staff Appreciation Day. The title is a topic we will assuredly revisit. It started out with a fairly posh Athletic Department breakfast at the Georgia Center. Following breakfast our entire department was broken into groups. Each group was assigned to a community service venue to do volunteer work. My group was assigned the North Georgia Food Bank.

I didn’t know anything about how a food bank worked, but I was under the impression that we would be stocking shelves in the warehouse. I was all for it. I was happy to get in a couple of hours of contributing to the greater good. As it turned out, our job had nothing to do with stocking a warehouse. Nope. As it turns out, the Food Bank has a big, fat yard and we were assigned to do some landscaping. More accurately, we were tasked with clearing an overgrown gulley that was about seven yards wide and 75 yards long and a wonderful habitat for snakes. Our tools? Yeah… sickles.

Really?

People still use sickles?

Yep, there were the seven of us under another scorching sun, swatting at giant swaths of head high saw grass and assorted other species of trees, shrubs and weeds like a prison work crew. Staff appreciation? We were on the danged chain gang.

Eventually we did complete our task and felt good about our work. Jim, the guy who runs the Food Bank is a super nice and he was awful appreciative of the job we did. Personally, I was plumb exhausted. I musta swung that sickle 500 times. My shirt was drenched in sweat and my shoes were soaked from the swamp water at the bottom of that gulley.

Then it was back to the office to plan the afternoon training session.

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Upon my arrival I saw that the landscapers had already begun tearing up our game field. We’re replacing it with brand new turf and a major upgrade from our drainage system which I think may have been no drainage system whatsoever. Regardless, come August our pitch is going to be as pretty as any in the land.

Monday’s training session was fantastic! The girls competed hard and worked their tails off. We’ve got a couple of games on Saturday and this is our last full week of training until August, so everyone is trying to squeeze the orange for every last drop of juice. When everyone is working that hard, a coach goes home feeling really good.

On Monday night Beth and I watched a DVR episode of Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Charlie and Dee are desperately trying to match the taste of the mystery meat they stole from Frank. Searching for exotic meats, Charlie suggests monkeys because, “Monkeys are nature’s humans.”

Yep.

updated: 8 years ago