Soccer….Family Style


My Story Behind Growing Pains
March 12, 2015, 10:20 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Oh…that awkward moment the internet tries to claim you’re a shameless self promoter and you realize you haven’t updated your blog since August. But that’s the thing. When I heard Noah Davis was working on a story about people who’d struggled with American Outlaws, I didn’t race to talk to him. Truth is, I discovered at MLS All Star game (my last post) that we are finally expecting our third child this April. This is not the time in my life that I need to create havoc for my family. But it’s been bothering me that I stopped writing about the game I love.

What’s not in the article is that when I announced my pregnancy to my friends via Facebook, someone took the time to create two Twitter accounts to harass me and announced my pregnancy on Twitter before I wanted it to be public. The account talked about my family in unfriendly ways, and at the game in Hartford last fall, and the breach of privacy left me feeling vulnerable. I got the account blocked, but the invasion of my privacy stuck with me and I didn’t want to write any more. It was only made worse when an Outlaw friend of mine private messaged me that the chapter leader (edit: I believe Drew is now ex president) of AO Knoxville was bragging that he’d been behind the harassing Twitter accounts. I sent AO national this information, but their response was that the account had already been suspended by Twitter (at my request). Here was yet another opportunity for AO to reiterate their own harassment policy and back it up with consequences, and they neglected to step up.

So I just stopped posting. I stopped promoting my book. I was exhausted from the pregnancy, so I told myself it was because I didn’t have time, but in my heart, it made me sick that a group I loved and helped grow for so many years had blackened my love of the game. My experiences at the hands of American Outlaws made me not want to talk about soccer…and that’s wrong. It was wrong of me to only talk about it via private message to national leadership. When Noah Davis contacted me and said the article was practically written, but requested a comment, I thought this was a way I could live with myself again. He assured me his message was not to tear AO down, but to talk about the issues that were weakening this growing organization in the hopes that the subsequent dialog would build a better soccer culture.

Flash forward to today. I read the first sentence and closed the window. The couple lines I envisioned in paragraph six was transformed into the reality that I was headlining the article. This is not what I needed at 35/40 weeks pregnant. It took several hours for me to work up the nerve to read it, bolstered by the quotes sent by friends reminding me why I spoke out in the first place….there were plenty of people who shared experiences off the record, but if people were going to harass me on the internet over a pregnancy announcement, I should at least put my voice to good use.

It’s not perfect. There are inaccuracies. But the overall message is on target. Love me or hate me… there’s no room for harassment in sports. Women, all women, should be comfortable being a part of AO. Davis spoke to me and I shared my real experiences. If that upsets you, I don’t know what to say. If your experiences are positive, I’m so happy for you. AO is so vastly different from coast to coast, and my great experiences have outweighed my bad experiences, but they don’t cancel the bad stuff out. How can we have #UniteandStrengthen as our battle cry and not want to do better at all chapters?

The one critical point I want to make is that my family is still AO active. What I said about leaving AO was regarding stepping down as a chapter leader. I didn’t feel like I could be a part of leadership when I didn’t feel like AO Nat’s had my back. I want a strong supporter culture for US Soccer, and there’s no arguing that AO has a place in that culture. We can do better, and I hope the discussion that follows this article is less about denial and more about what the best American Outlaws and the best US Soccer supporter culture looks like.



MLS Fans, Come Have a Drink Tonight and Let’s Talk Soccer

PSLPortlandI live in Des Moines, where local soccer means Des Moines Menace….the 2014 Regular Season National Champion Des Moines Menace that is. I have soccer friends in Iowa who are really into MLS who drive to Kansas City or Chicago to watch games. The phrase “soccer friends in Iowa” is a new thing for me. It’s only in the last five or six years I’ve had a group that inspired me to do more with MLS than catch a game when it was convenient. Last year was the first year I knew what the Supporters Shield was (this year I’m wishing it was awarded in the PDL), and with the 2013 MLS All Star Game in Kansas City, it was the first year I got to watch friends travel to the ASG. Major League Soccer is slowly sucking me in. Exhibit A: I just arrived in Portland for my first MLS All Star Game.

My morning has already been pretty cool (despite waking up at 2:15 AM Portland time). Once I made my connection in Chicago I was on a plane with a DC United fan and several Chicago Fire supporters (and the general counsel for the Fire, who looked like a business traveler until he unbuttoned his dress shirt to reveal a retro Chicago Fire navy jersey). It cracked me up, thinking about soccer fans from all over the country converging on Portland, each of us hitting our on moment when it’s OK to take the professional clothes off and reveal our true soccer loving selves. Personally, I left the house in my Portland Timbers jersey, although I don’t think it was noted by any neighbors at 4:30 AM.

I’m stoked to unlock another level of MLS Soccer this week and check out the MLS ASG festivities, but I really hope I get to meet some MLS fans from around the US so I can hear your stories about what life is like in full time MLS supporting. I’m doing a book signing tonight at the Cheerful Bullpen at 6:30 PM PT. I’ll have my book, Passionate Soccer Love, for sale and I’ll sign them and even do a reading if asked (maybe from one of the MLS chapters), but really I hope you’ll come out and help me learn more about the world of MLS: your supporter clubs, your songs, your rivalries…and help me continue to get to know the club side of US Soccer.

Pre-MLS All Star Game Passionate Soccer Love Book Tour

Cheerful Bullpen Bar

8/5/14 (Tuesday) 6:30-8 pm (beer specials start at 8, so stick around after!)

1730 SW Taylor St, Portland, Oregon 97205

Link to the Facebook Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1461676767416811/



Pregaming for Netherlands vs Argentina – Family Style
July 9, 2014, 2:18 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

My kids have been pretty low key after chasing around Brazil for three weeks. The three of us haven’t aspired to much other than unpacking, catching up with laundry and friends, and of course, watching soccer. My son, having found fame via his goal celebration, has been telling me he wants to become a YouTuber and make videos for the internet (yes, he’s still six). Well son, consider the gauntlet thrown. My friend, Elizabeth Vantre, posted this trailer for today’s semifinal that’s pretty freaking awesome. Check it out: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10204110052052439



Brutal Loss and Soul Searching
July 8, 2014, 11:59 pm
Filed under: FIFA, International Soccer

I’m a well established fan of the German national team, and yes, I enjoyed the game today. I’m happy for my second team and can’t wait to watch them in the final. But tonight made me think about all the friends we made in Brazil. As a US Soccer fan, I can certainly empathize with brutal, heartbreaking losses.

I was chatting with my friend and Portuguese teacher Thiago tonight, as he suffered in Sergipe, Brazil. I remembered for him the times the United States came in dead last in the World Cup (1998) or the time we lost brutally to Mexico in the Gold Cup (2009). But then I pointed out that if the US were to win every World Cup from here on out, it wouldn’t be until 2038 that we surpassed the number of championship stars on the Brazilian jersey. My daughter would be 35. I would be almost eligible for retirement. It’s brutal for Brazil to go out like this, but as I told him, it’s tough to feel sorry for too long for a country with that kind of history.

I’ve been struggling with what to say about our travels in Brazil, because I do not want to sound ungrateful or imply we didn’t have fun. It was a wonderful trip and I got to know my children deeper than I ever imagined as I watched them embrace a foreign culture wholeheartedly. I loved cheering on my country and felt lucky to see Brazil from the air and from the road.

But Brazil disappointed me in a way I’ve never experienced at the World Cup. I’ve been looking forward to coming to Brazil for as long as I can remember. On page 26 of my book, Passionate Soccer Love, I wrote about watching Brazilians climb to Sacre Coure in Paris in 1998 celebration of their team. I came to Brazil for that…the fervent passion of a nation of people raised on the beautiful game. But that wasn’t there. Brazilians weren’t obsessed with soccer. They were not glued to every game. In fact, it was often difficult to find a place to watch the games, something that had never been a challenge in previous World Cups. We drew the conclusion that Brazilians were perhaps only in love with Brazilian soccer, and even that, they were not so sure about this year. They wanted to win but couldn’t seem to find that sparkling joy they had in Paris sixteen years ago.

I can understand why. I thought I understood the Brazilian protests from here in the States. We all know FIFA is corrupt, we all know governments don’t always support the neediest. Traveling to Brazil, I was forced to reconcile the abject poverty of pothole-wrecked cobblestone streets juxtaposed with freshly poured concrete reaching out just two or three km from sparkling new airports…fresh pavement that never reached city center. I went to games in a stadium that has no corporate caretaker to manage its $250,000 annual operating cost after the World Cup leaves, and then fell, injured in the streets of Manaus because even basic infrastructure was neglected. I was terrified my kids would get hurt and need medical attention because the hospitals I saw were decrepit and frightening. I have traveled all over the world for soccer, but I’ve never been more grateful for my American life as I was in Brazil.

Brazil must now search its soul as a nation, as we all must come July 14. We live in a world where Costa Rica outlasted all her CONCACAF neighbors. Where England, Italy, Spain, and Portugal were sent packing from the first round, but the United States captured the world’s attention not just for escaping the Group of Death, but also rallying a hardcore and diverse fanbase in Brazil. We had more fans in the opening round matches than I remember at home game friedlies in the 90s. Heck…in the early 2000s. It was glorious…but then awful as I watched Brazil, the country I used to worship for its passion, tell my countrymen and women they needed to sit down for the game against Belgium. The United States discovered its passion for soccer, now we must see if that passion can fuel the revolution that will launch us to the next level of competition. Brazil seems to have lost its futbol soul somewhere in the broken cobblestones. Hopefully they can reclaim it and mend their hearts, and restore their beautiful game as they rebuild their streets and systems. Sleep well, soccer fans. Tomorrow is another day.



The Transitive Property of World Cup Soccer
June 22, 2014, 9:13 am
Filed under: FIFA, US Soccer
Manaus

The soccer field across from our home stay in Manaus.

You remember the transitive property? If a=b and b=c then a=c. Wouldn’t it be great if that worked in World Cup soccer? If Germany destroyed Portugal and we beat Ghana and Ghana tied Germany, the United States wins the group! WOOHOOO!! Ticket to second round please!

But the transitive property of World Cup is more like this: if a=b and b=c then the answer is yellow. I’ve said all along that I think we will go through, but it won’t happen the way we expect. With Germany and Ghana tying yesterday, it will be anything but what we expected. I’m so full of nervous energy and made the coffee WAY too strong this morning, but today we find out if we still got that 2002 swagger to take it to Portugal. I BELIEVE (we will be the second nation to kick Portugal out of Brazil!)



Day Off in Pipa
June 18, 2014, 3:43 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , ,

We had a day off of travel in Pipa after the US match, and decided to spend the day hanging out with friends. We slept in then walked into town for lunch, having already missed breakfast at our apartment. After sandwiches and coffee, we milled around as Doug and the kids went off in search of an ATM that worked and I wrote. We took a swim in the ocean before rejoining the gang at Tribus Cafe for Brazil vs Mexico.

The game ended in a frustrating tie, after so many scoring chances without result, but the crowd was anything but impartial. People were packed into every conceivable corner, standing or sitting on the floor to squish in. We drank Bohemia pilsners and enjoyed the atmosphere created by singing and cheering Brazilian fans combined with people jamming the streets outside, lighting off fireworks either in celebration or frustration. Brazilians are said to have the attitude that “everything will work out.” They certainly seemed calm after leaving what Americans considered important points on the table. It’s refreshing, after the incessant hand wringing of American soccer fans. Up next: Manaus!



Ghana – The Third Time’s the Charm – The End of Suffering for US Soccer vs Ghana
June 17, 2014, 3:03 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , ,
world cup fever

We beat Ghana, my son’s goal celebration went worldwide.

Last night was the perfect end to an eight year suffering. Leading up to this game, I was remembering getting eliminated by Ghana in Germany and South Africa. In Germany, I remember our daughter happily dancing around Kaela, Monty, and the rest of my soccer family as we bitterly drank our beers at a biergarten overlooking a river in Nuremburg. I was so disappointed in South Africa, knowing that we could have gone so much further in the tournament if not for a few errors in coaching the Ghana game. Now we have the coach I want, the team I want, and yes, the group I want.

We got to the stadium and found our place in the stands, so happy to have my family and our best travel buddies with us. When we scored in the first minute, I looked at Doug and screamed “this is going to be the longest 89 minutes of my life” making reference to what he screamed to me in the US vs Portugal game in 2002. No one can say it was a beautiful game, but last night, my children became real soccer fans. They no longer distract themselves for 90 minutes. Aviva was glued to the action, screaming at the referee, directing the players, and around the 75th minute grabbing me, screamed, “This is SO intense!” Raphael is only six, and he was exhausted from traveling, but he perked up when Ghana scored, and was engaged enough by the time the US went up again he is now “that kid in the goal celebration being broadcast non-stop and world-wide.”

It was deeply emotional for many of us who’ve suffered though getting sent home by Ghana twice in a row. The vindication was palpable and to share it immediately with so many of our lifelong soccer friends was amazing. But even better was having my children with me. I talked to Doug on the way home about comparing last night’s match to the US vs Portugal game in 2002. It may not have been a “shock the world” win, but watching my children fall more deeply in love with the World Cup will make this game rank pretty high in my list of best games ever. They’ve enjoyed going to games in the States, but last night, they got to experience the World Cup in person for the first time as players. I will never forget watching their transition to ultra fans.

UPDATE: I had no idea what was happening back in the States as we celebrated in Brazil. This YouTube video has clips of the Brooks goal celebration from around the USA. At 2:19, you can see my son celebrating on the big screen in Rio. Many lifelong USMNT fans were minted on that day.




Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,994 other followers

%d bloggers like this: