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Soccer Poet

One Point and Nine and a Half Months

One Point and Nine and a Half Months
"I promise you one thing. A lot of good will come out of this. You will never see any player in the entire country play as hard as I will play the rest of the season. You will never see someone push the rest of the team as hard as I will push everybody the rest of the season. You will never see a team play harder than we will the rest of the season."
  • Tim Tebow

Let me begin by correcting any misguided assumptions about the hiatus of this blog. You’ve probably noticed that its absence coincided with a particularly dreadful season of college soccer for the Georgia Bulldogs. Let me state most emphatically that our woes as a soccer program had nothing to do with this blog’s sudden disappearance. The fact of the matter is that on August 2nd, Beth, Izzy and I bought and moved into our new house. And to make a long story short, we apparently moved into the only house in the United States that couldn’t get internet. Knowing that we would eventually catch up with the rest of the free world, I did in fact write some blog entries during the early part of our season, but eventually I gave up hope that our internet provider would arrive sooner rather than later and didn’t see the point of spending a few hours each week to write blogs that would be painfully outdated before seeing the light of day. So I stopped. Because I had no internet. That’s why. No other reason.

The move to an internet-less household also coincided nicely with the launch of Soccer iQ and I think it’s safe to say that I am the proud owner of the world’s worst marketing program ever. Here’s an idea... let’s spend two years writing a book, then publish it, and then have no access to the internet. Freaking genius! Well, despite my best efforts to keep the book from selling, Soccer iQ has managed to slowly and steadily sell, and more importantly, satisfy those who buy it. So I got that goin’ for me.

Anyway, back to the autumn of my discontent...

On the morning of Saturday, October 27th, I went into the office for no truly justifiable reason. Our season ended two nights earlier so there was no soccer to occupy my time. There were no emails to write or calls to make. There was nothing the least bit urgent there.  All I really could do was straighten up the papers on my desk and throw away some old scouting reports and hang up some shirts in our coaches’ dressing room. Just housekeeping really. It could’ve waited until Monday or Tuesday or December. I don’t really know why I went there or why I stayed there for nearly three hours other than that office is where I was supposed to be. I kept asking myself, “Why are you here.”

This is where you’re supposed to be.

A friend of mine had a father who passed away. For weeks after, every day at 5 o’clock, the family dog would sit by the door, wagging his tail, waiting for my friend’s dad to come home from work. I think I kinda felt like that dog.

I don’t know why, but out of nowhere, Tim Tebow popped into my head. So I got on Youtube and watched the speech he gave after Florida had fallen to Ole Miss in 2008.  Then I watched it again.  And again.

Look, I know I’m a Georgia Bulldog and that I’m supposed to hate all things UF, but there’s just something so genuine and so compelling in Tebow’s speech, and not just in what he says, but also in what he doesn’t say. He doesn’t offer excuses. He doesn’t blame his teammates. He just digs in and says count on me; I’m going to fix this. And I love that he says ‘I’ instead of ‘we.’

  • hard as I will play
  • ... as hard as I will push

He doesn’t get to ‘we’ until the last sentence. Why? Because he’s the leader and he knows that no one is going to jump off that cliff unless he does it first. He is saying that what has happened here is unacceptable and that he’s going to fix it or die trying. Which is exactly what he did. And that my friends, is a dude standing up.

Izzy loves to draw and she’s pretty good at it and sometimes if she messes up her drawing she’ll get really upset and frustrated because she has to start all over again. And I get that and I love that tinge of perfectionism inside of her. But the thing is, all she has to do is crumble up one piece of paper and start again, right then and there.  We don’t have that luxury.

The Georgia Bulldogs failed to qualify for Orange Beach. I must’ve said that to myself a few thousand times in the past five days. It’s hard to imagine that’s even possible. But sure enough, here we are in Athens, GA while the SEC Tournament has kicked off. We are the Georgia Bulldogs who didn’t make the postseason. We’re that team. And what makes this crappy feeling ever crappier is that unlike Izzy who can just start drawing on a new piece of paper, we have to wait nine and a half months before we get a chance to fix it. And yes, that’s two weeks longer than a full-term pregnancy.

It’s not even Halloween and our season is over. In 27 years of college soccer, I’ve never said that.

We were one point away from making Orange Beach. One bloody point. And the cost of that one point is a nine and a half month wait. Nine and half months to think about the grandness of our failure. Nine and a half months before we can even begin the process of proving that this season was some type of anomaly.  We have nine and half months to sit here wearing the label of being THAT team.

For years and years I’ve said that the game is just and that it rewards those who deserve it, and even in this most trying season, I still believe that. Yes we had some problems with injuries and there were some calls that could’ve gone our way, but in the end, we just didn’t do our jobs. We didn’t find a way to put the ball in their net and keep it out of ours. Even when we dominated territorially, we couldn’t produce the results (I said the game is just; not charitable.) We had enough chances to win, more than enough chances to find that one point, and until we stand up and own this colossal failure and unless each member of this program genuinely accepts his/her responsibility in contributing to it, we are going nowhere.

So I am starting with me. On Saturday night I told my wife that she’s going to see even less of me. I’m going to do whatever I can do, whatever I have to do, whenever I can do it to make sure this does not happen again. I am going to work as hard as I can work for as long as I can work because the current situation is unacceptable and I believe that I can do something about it.

I'm sorry to everyone who expected more from us. Best of luck to those SEC teams still playing soccer in 2012.