As I sat watching the World Cup draw last Friday, like many others I’d hoped the United States would draw South Africa, a team that is clearly the weakest of the seeded teams. But when the United States were promptly placed in the same group as England, the storyline was one that jumps off the screen.
I had recently written about the United States’ upset of England in the 1950 World Cup, still considered the greatest upset in the international competition of all time.
This all came about when I was fortunate enough recently to meet and dine with Frank Borghi, the goalie on that 1950 team who still lives in St. Louis.
So I called Frank, and he hadn’t yet heard the news.
“Oh, that’s exciting,” he told me. “I know England is very good.”
A year ago today, my son played his final soccer game. It was the culmination of years of taking him to practices and games, and it was hard to see it all end. Quite frankly, it had been such a big part of my life that I wasn’t sure how I was going to handle it all ending. It was a significant life change.
This fall, I attended 37 soccer games (so far), including all but one of the local Illinois Wesleyan men’s team. It became an enjoyable substitution, and I found myself living and dying with their successes and failures. It’s not the same as watching my own son play (although one of the players was my son’s teammate all through club and high school), but at least it kept me engaged with the sport.
I wrote the following essay, ‘Reflections and a Thank You ‘ a year ago, the day after my son’s final game. It was therapeutic in a way, and a tribute to him. But it also contains a message that I hope parents of young soccer players will learn to embrace, and that is to appreciate the moment, and not get hung up on wins and losses at an early age. Look at your child’s personal development, both as a soccer player and a functioning member of society, and let he or she be the focal point of what’s good about the great sport of soccer. At a young age, individual skill development is so much more important than the outcome of a tournament match you won’t even recall five years from now. Unless your Little League trophies are still proudly displayed in your house (I sure hope not) instead of stored in a box in the attic or basement like mine (actually, I think most are likely in a landfill now), it should be easy to understand what I’m saying. We all want our children to experience the “thrill of victory” at some point during their formative years, but looking back, I’m more content at knowing my kids enjoyed their athletic experiences without dealing with self-esteem issues because their parents put too much emphasis on winning.
The road is a long one, yet we travel it way too quickly. Continue Reading
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.