Monday, June 12, 2006


(Don't forget--over at Hoegbotton, our book sale is still going on...including additions, some of rare or unique editions, that I made tonight--check it out. And, of course, the original list if you haven't seen it.)

I'm going to call this blog post "Soccer Memories" instead of "Football Memories" because, unfortunately, "soccer" is what we call it in the United States. This could be one of the reasons we just got our asses kicked by the Czech Republic (along with a lack of intensity and imagination on offense, an inability to one-touch the ball to teammates with any kind of consistency, a flat-footed let's-watch-the-Czechs-play defense, and a coach who, as a friend of mine said, "always looks like someone just crapped in his ham sandwich").

But what are my soccer memories? I played left back for Buchholz High School back in the 1980s, first on the JV team and then varsity my junior year. (I quit my senior year because I hated the coach, who helped pressure an English teacher into changing a star players grade from an F to a D.)

And these are the top five moments from my completely unremarkable run of soccer, from Youth Soccer up through high school.

(5) Watching Ethan Bliss, the varsity sweeper, intimidate the hell out of opposing strikers. He'd paint a rising sun on his forehead before the game and then he'd talk to the strikers when they came down field. I'd swear he'd even bark at them. I think they all thought he was a bit nuts. Off the field, he was a thoughtful and cool guy.

(4) "Hutch," the keeper for our JV and then varsity team was a bit of a jerk. Total whiny bastard, actually. One blustery cold night he was amusing himself by trying to spit on the back of the referee whenever he got close. Then the wind shifted and the next time he spit, it flew right back in his face. Good times.

(3) Jorge was a kind of cocky player on our varsity team when I was a junior. We had a winter game in North Florida and had to wear sweats due to the cold when we were on the bench. Jorge was a substitute and was sitting on the bench in his sweats for about 20 minutes before the coach subbed him in. He took off his sweat pants, started to run onto the field...and then realized he wasn't wearing shorts. Classic moment.

(2) In one Youth soccer game, the field was wet and a big hole had opened up right where the penalty spot was. Lo and behold--we got a penalty kick. And the ref place the ball in the hole, which was so deep the ball was hidden in it. Despite our protests, our striker had to try to kick the penalty out of that hole. Which meant he had to try to get his foot under it and lob it over the goal keep. Which didn't work, of course. We hated that ref. He was extremely literal-minded and you couldn't make him budge. He was the bane of our existence for several years.

(1) Scoring on a penalty kick against rival Orange Park while on the Buchholz JV team. That was a sweet moment.



At 6:53 AM, Anonymous Chris Dolley said...

Here's my soccer memory. I was sixteen and playing on the right wing for my school on a blustery Saturday afternoon, when the other team's keeper raced out of his area to clear a ball downfield. The ball came straight to me. I was at the halfway line, a yard or two out from the right touch-line knowing that if I hit the ball first time on the half-volley there was an open goal fifty yards away. The keeper would never get back in time.

So I hit it. On the half volley as hard as I could. Wham. Old men in the crowd wept. Never had a ball been hit so hard. Or so high. Or so far in the wrong direction.

It ballooned towards the right-hand corner flag, a small speck in the sky fast disappearing into the clouds. Our forwards turned and started their slow walk back to the centre circle.

But I stayed watching. And then something strange happened. The speck froze in the sky ... and began to change direction. Slowly at first, then picking up pace as a strong wind got behind it.

It was moving back towards the goal.

I noticed that the game on the pitch alongside us had come to a halt. One by one players were stopping and looking up.

Their left back sprinted back towards the goal. It was a race. The ball and him. No one else was close enough to intervene. The ball growing in size as it hurtled earthwards, the defender positioning himself on the goal line, his neck craned skyward.

Surely it couldn't go in? Not from there? The ball was almost directly over the goal, falling from an impossible angle.

Thud. The dull sound of leather on a cranium rapidly losing consciousness. And goal. The ball found the only gap possible to find and still score. The gap between the defenders head and the crossbar. True, he managed to get his head to the ball but that only served to flatten him and catapult the ball into the roof of the net. So creating a win double - goal scored and one of their best players removed from the game all in one stroke.

I've scored many better goals, and more important goals, but that one's the one I remember most.


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