I’m not even sure how to tell this story, but I’m going to give it a shot. A week ago today started out as normal as any other day. I had scheduled the day off to travel to St. Louis to see my friend Norb Thurmer, a fastpitch softball legend as a sponsor and coach who I think knows everything and everyone to ever play or watch a sporting event in St. Louis. A 1948 graduate of St. Mary’s High School, Norb is a member of the International Softball Congress Hall of Fame, the St. Louis Softball Hall of Fame, and I’m sure other honorary memberships he’s too humble to tell me about. I hadn’t seen him in a few years, and thought it was time to catch up with him.
In the course of talking to him on the phone and planning my visit, I told him it might be nice to have lunch on The Hill, St. Louis’ notorious Italian area where many good restaurants exist. He asked me what my connection was with The Hill. Simply put, I told him I had eaten there a few times and liked the area. Also, being a fan of both baseball and soccer history, I might like to see Yogi Berra’s and Joe Garagiola’s childhood homes. I also mentioned I was reading the book The Game of Their Lives about the USA’s upset of England in the 1950 World Cup, and through a little research determined Frank Borghi, the goalkeeper on that team, still lived in the area. If you’re unaware of this event, it is considered the greatest upset ever in the World Cup, and was the subject of the 2005 Movie by the same title, later changed to Miracle Match. Norb casually told me he had met Frank years ago when Norb sponsored a local soccer, and Frank was their goalie. We really didn’t discuss it much further.
The bus is scheduled for a 7:30 a.m. departure, and everyone is early or on time. Some board with pillows in hand. As is true of many college campuses these days, most have an iPod or similar digital musical device. Twenty active players shared most of the thirty seats, along with one hobbled player in a protective boot, a trainer, two coaches and a soccer fan disguised as a photographer. That fan was me.
The opponent this day was Webster University, with a scheduled noon game time. The drive is 187 miles. This is the life of a Division III soccer player.
I would imagine the trade off between leaving earlier to arrive earlier is a tough decision for the coach. Waking in the six o’clock hour on a Sunday morning is early for most college kids, and it was for this fan as well. Continue Reading
Note: The following was submitted by friend Roger Walker as he reflects on the end of his son Chance’s soccer career. Chance was both a college All-Conference and Honorable Mention All-American Goalie (in addition to numerous high school awards) at the University of Illinois at Springfield. As an student, he also made the Athletic Director’s Honor Roll and graduated in the standard four year time frame.
I think it was the fall of 1993 or 1994 when I attended my first youth soccer game. We had signed our oldest son up to participate in the Prairie Central Soccer League. I had over my years of driving around the Bloomington/Normal area seen all the kids dressed in their blue and yellow uniforms playing soccer, but had never really given it much thought. You see, I was a baseball player, and that was what my son was going be, or so I thought.
I remember my first soccer game very well for two reasons. One, I didn’t have a clue what was happening on the field, because I didn’t know anything about soccer. And two, I’m pretty sure the kids and the coaches were in the same boat I was. Wherever the ball went, so went 20 players, except for the goalie. He or she was most likely picking dandelions or swinging from the crossbar of the goal. The other memory I have is we were only there an hour. I remember thinking as we got in the car how thankful I was that attending my son’s soccer game had not eaten up much of my precious free time. For the next three or four years we continued to attend soccer games. Somewhere during that time my baseball player started to grow into a soccer player. That’s when the real trouble started.