Skip to main content

Soccer Poet

Dogs and Cats

Dogs and Cats
Well look who’s been slacking again. Same ol’ story. Yeah, yeah, YAWN. You know, I’m not even sure if I should say this out loud, but the blog has been MIA for so long I doubt anyone checks in these days, so I’m gonna take my chances and confess: The worst thing that happened to me as a writer was publishing that book.

I once heard a story about dog racing that stuck with me; if any of those greyhounds ever catch the electronic rabbit (let’s say the rabbit malfunctions), those dogs can never race again. Achieving their ultimate goal ruins them for racing. It saps their spirit for the chase. I think that same logic can be applied to simple human nature. And it can sure as heck be applied to me.  Somewhere along the line I decided my life would be incomplete (and ultimately a failure) if I never actually saw my name on the cover of a book. So back in June I was sitting at my computer. Soccer iQ had been written and edited and re-edited and re-edited and re-edited; the cover had gone through change after change after change; all that was left was to click the Submit button on my computer and it was a done deal – my book would actually become... a book. I sat there staring at that button for ten, fifteen and twenty minutes, trying to remember any detail that may have slipped through the cracks. I had this overwhelming sense that clicking that button was going to change my life. Like a poker player who is all-in for his tournament life, I pushed back from the table and wandered the room, sweating out the unknown. Finally I made my way back to my desk, clicked ‘Submit,’ and PRESTO!, I was officially an author. I felt no sense of celebration, only relief.

The repercussion was immediate. I had scratched a real big one off the bucket list – the big one as a matter of fact. The weight of the world was off me. Not two minutes after I had made that click, I walked into the living room and told Beth that I didn’t feel like writing any more, like ever. It was the strangest thing and I couldn’t rightly explain it. It would be like a chain smoker waking up one morning and knowing that he’d never want another cigarette. It wasn’t that I wanted to be done, because to be honest, I genuinely enjoy writing; it was more like I had run out of words and it was time to move onto other things.

I forced out a few blog entries during the fall, but to be fair, my heart wasn’t really in it. I was writing because I felt a responsibility to keep the Poet active. Beyond that, it was nothing I enjoyed. But now that Soccer iQ is pretty well self-sustaining and there’s a lull in the soccer year, I figured I’d give it another go.  So… let’s do some catching up.

Ok.  From the category of things that caught my attention…

On the short list of people who should not be allowed near a microphone: X Factor co-host Khloe Kardashian.  There’s a lot in this world I don’t understand, but there is nothing I find more puzzling than this particular staffing decision. I mean the bottom line is that someone somewhere thought this was a good idea.  I don’t want to know who; I just want to know how. HOW???  If I can grow to understand this, I’m certain that String Theory won’t be lost on me.

Speaking of people on microphones… I hope you tuned in to hear Kevin Copp’s call of the SEC Tournament final between Florida and Auburn. It was the first time I listened to KC call a game between neutral parties and on my honor, it was the very best broadcast I’ve heard of any college soccer game EVER. I mean it’s not even close. There are two qualities a soccer broadcaster needs: a knowledge of the sport and a mastery of the English language.  Most of the current broadcasters lack at least one of them. If I was in charge of the legion of college soccer broadcasters, I’d make every one of them listen to Kevin’s call of that game. Flying completely solo, Kevin so outdistanced the competition in both style and substance that it’s either a miracle or a crime that ESPN hasn’t yet whisked him away. Yet. But trust me, it’s only a matter of time before we’re proudly saying, “I knew him when.”

In other news, you may have heard that we re-elected our president. I used to be pretty into the political process, but social media (and pretty much every other media) has ruined it for me. The daily bile splattered all over Facebook by my more politically passionate friends from both sides of the aisle just sucked the fun out of it for me. Every day I’d hop on Facebook and it seemed that every second post was some zealot proclaiming why his guy was a savior and the other guy was an idiot and that anyone who thought of voting for the other guy was an idiot by association and how the world was going to hell in a hand-basket if the other guy won.  It just doesn’t make sense to me. Has anyone ever actually persuaded an opponent to switch sides by insulting the things he cares about?  The whole debacle reminded me of an argument from my childhood.

In third grade my best friend was my next door neighbor, Steven. Steven’s family was a cat family and there were always three or four of them roaming around their house.  But the Blanks, we were a proud dog family. I didn’t hate cats; I just didn’t really see the point of them.  They seemed kind of boring. I’d never enjoy cats nearly as much as I enjoyed dogs.  And I LOVED my dogs. Well one day when we’re at his house, Steven’s older brother Anthony, who rarely socialized with us, started berating me about why cats were so much better than dogs. He said that cats were more intelligent with better hygiene (they still eat rats, right?) and on and on and on. Basically he was telling me why dogs were a stupid pet. It was strange because I remember thinking that Anthony was actually prepared for that argument, like he had actually done research somewhere along the line.  At the end of that debate, it was clear that Anthony had kicked my tail. His argument was perfectly rational and based on analytical facts. Mine was based purely on emotion: I loved my dogs more than I could ever love a cat.  And you know what, when I left their house, I still liked dogs better than I liked cats. As a matter of fact, I liked dogs even more than before that argument began. And that has never changed. But from that day forward I can assure you of one thing… I liked cats a heckuva lot more than I liked Anthony.

As I mentioned in the last entry, we bought a new house in August, on the first day of preseason no less, so a lot of projects had to wait until the end of the soccer season.  Now that soccer is finished, I’ve thrown myself into the rise of Casa Blank II. There are a lot of benefits to home ownership, but if you’re a guy, the only part that really matters is the chance to put holes in the walls, just because they’re yours, and just because you can. So I’ve  been making holes in walls like a team of Navy SEALS. I’ve been a hole-drillin’ machine and I’m only a few minor projects and some Christmas lights away from feeling any sense of home improvement urgency. Then it’s feet up time.

When Beth and Izzy first moved to Athens, we were living in a rental house, which really limits a kid’s chance to be a kid. Izzy showed remarkable restraint when it came to preserving the rental’s walls, but I hated that she had to stuff her closet full of things that were meant to be hung. Plus, in as much as it was a house, it would never be our home. So I set a goal of buying a house before this calendar year was out.  

There was one other major restriction of renting – no pets.  And Izzy shares her dad’s affinity for dogs. The kid is flat-out dog crazy!  She wanted puppies a heckuva lot more than she wanted to hang that Justin Beiber poster, so that had me even more motivated to become a homeowner. As soon as Izzy knew we were buying a house, the first question she asked was, “When can we get a dog?” It was a question I heard every day.  And every day I promised her at the end of the soccer season we would get a dog. Turns out I lied a little bit. Somehow we got two of them – puppies actually – Rio (a name Izzy thought up) and Utley (my selection, in homage to the Phillies’ second baseman). The pups are awesome and super sweet and Izzy is one very happy little girl and as far as I’m concerned, that’s how every story should end.

The Monkey of the Day continues to amaze me, particularly with regards to its prevalence in pretty much every movie I watch. Have you seen the movie Hunger, about Bobby Sands’ hunger strike in a Belfast prison for the IRA in 1981? Well I watched it last night and let me tell you, it’s no Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. It’s a pretty dark movie about some pretty dark times. The movie’s signature scene is a lengthy conversation between Bobby Sands and the prison priest. It’s a tense and moving scene, and it would be the last place you’d ever suspect to find a monkey reference, but sure enough, there it was. I consider it a victory for monkeys everywhere.

Sports Illustrated’s most recent Tweet of the Week: “So Notre Dame (football) and Indiana (basketball) are both No. 1. What time does the Cosby show come on?” Well, further evidence that we’re revisiting the 1980s could be found in college soccer where Indiana (men) and UNC (women) both added another national title to their trophy cases. I watched the UNC victory and couldn’t help but wonder what it must be like to be up by three stinkin’ goals in a national final with 20 minutes left to play!  On a soccer coach’s stress meter, that’s the equivalent of lying on a beach in Fiji with an umbrella drink in your hand.  But to be fair to the Heels, the sunshine score-line didn’t come gift-wrapped for them.  They went out and earned every bit of it through talent, speed and a disproportionately heavy dose of good old-fashioned hard work.  UNC can still grind away at you like nobody else. ‘Relentless’ is a word that commonly collides in the same sentences as ‘UNC soccer,’ and the title game made it easy to see why. The Heels came at Penn State in one merciless wave after another, summarily drowning their opponent and then refusing to let the corpse surface. Anson couldn’t have dreamt it any better.

My favorite moment, the moment that is a microcosm of that relentless mentality, came with just over 8 minutes left and the Heels enjoying an insurmountable three-goal cushion.  Kealia Ohai, one of UNC’s all-world talents, sprinted to chase down a Penn State player who then quickly pushed a fifteen yard pass up the sideline to a teammate.  Without breaking stride, Ohai at full gallop chased down that player too, resulting in the Tar Heel trademark: the forced turnover. I’m not sure it’s possible to overstate what a remarkable departure Ohai’s effort is from the comfort zone of human nature. This kid, fresh off a U20 World Cup championship (where incidentally, she scored the tournament-winning goal) and 8 minutes away from a national one, wasn’t willing to let the scoreboard dictate her effort. No one would have blamed Ohai for checking out right then.  Her work was done and her legacy cemented. Her ring was ready for sizing.  But instead of making plans about the post-game celebration and mailing in the effort, Ohai chased back another fifteen yards at a full sprint to pressure an opponent at midfield for no other reason than it was the way things are done. Getting some players just to chase is challenging enough. But getting players to commit to that relentless mentality of never taking their foot off the gas is one of the toughest obstacles in coaching because you are running headlong into a battle of wills against human nature, and no coach has won that battle with more consistency than Anson Dorrance. It’s no wonder the man has more rings than digits, and more rings than ACC losses. In both of those events the score is 21-20.

Congratulations to #9, Katrina Morgan, on her selection into the Embry-Riddle Athletic Hall of Fame! Speaking of people who don’t know how to give anything less than their very best, Katmo is at the front of that line.

I may post another entry before Christmas, but I may not. I’m unpredictable like that. If not, Merry Christmas everyone!
soccerpoet 616