Soccer Revisited

I was a decent soccer player.

I got the nickname Freshman Sensation in highschool because I think the girl who gave it to me wanted to kiss.  She called me FS.  No else really did. 

I’m glad Putterass stuck.

Highschool was a playground for my and our team…a time of becoming soccer dudes. It was when we all decided which sports fit us best; we gave up on being four sport athletes and we all kind of fell into line with the flow of things, and my flow was always gonna be soccer.  I nearly went to Europe instead of going to college.

Ah, how decisions define us.

College was a wake-up call.  I was in the ocean, out of the fishbowl, and the second my new teammates got wind of my hometown stature they let me have it.  I came into the locker room one day and found an article about me taped to my locker, written by some nice old suburban ‘sports writer’ who claimed I was ‘something special’.  As holiday break neared our stud forward, CW, kept asking me when the homecoming parade would be.

That doesn’t even begin to describe the new game I found myself playing.  It wasn’t just about impressing your parents anymore, or being popular in your highschool…this game was the real game.  This game was all out war, and it was a lifestyle.  You ate right, you slept right, and you played hard each and every time you stepped on a field or you didn’t get to play, period.

I went to Stanford  and joined a program that was finally seeing some success after a pretty ‘off the map’ string of up and down seasons.  The veterans I joined, obviously an incredibly humorous group of kids, were downright determined to bring the program to the next level.  Our coach was and still remains a genius.  I had no idea, at first, what it was I’d gotten in to.

As the season wore on, I got my legs and fitness under me, and I ended up playing in nearly every game.  For a lot of people where I grew up, a statement like that would have surprised them; I was a starter and I was the starter back in the burbs.

We fought our way through a top notch season, and made the tournament easily.  We had momentum, we were scrappy, and we outworked everyone.  It was already so much more than I’d ever expected when I decided to go to a school I’d only seen once, and kind of thought I might hate.  

This was the beautiful game.  This was what the beautiful game felt like.

And it kept on.  We won two tournament games on the west coast, and were sent into the toughest place in the nation to play a perennial powerhouse; for any casual soccer fan the game was a write off.  University of Virginia was where college soccer at the time was being written.  They’d never given up more than two goals at home.  

So we beat them 3-0 nothing.

And found ourselves in the Final Four, on ESPN, and on the proverbial map.

This weekend I’m headed to Stanford to reunite with the 1998 Stanford Men’s Soccer team.  

This is a group of men that turned water into wine and did it purely through hard work.  A group of men who turned me into a real soccer player, a future Captain who saw two Final Fours and four dominant seasons.  

A group of men who, against all odds and all expectations won their Final Four semi-final before falling to the hands of this country’s oldest soccer powerhouse, Indiana University.

And yes, we’d like a rematch.

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