The Family That Kicks Together, Sticks Together

Every four years in mid June, the world unites.  Well most of the World.   The world unites to enjoy soccer, football for everyone outside of the US, on its biggest stage.  The World Cup.  I have seen qualifying matches in the states with my dad. (1997 USA v El Salvador)  And have seen World Cup matches with my sons in person.  (1994 Qtr Final Brazil v Netherlands)  I can recall the first game I saw live on closed circuit TV in 1970.  (Brasil v Italy finals)  And I recall the first movie I saw of the World Cup.  (England v West Germany 1966)  And they are all great memories.  But only the tip of the iceberg.

The World Cup also takes place during/on Father’s Day, here in the US.  And in my humble opinion, that is very fitting.  At least it is for me.  One who had three sons who have played the game, and with my soccer beginnings and playing career being influenced greatly by my father.  Nothing against the Mothers who have influenced the Beautiful Game, but I am speaking from my experiences here.  Although my Mother was one of the best cheerleaders on the sidelines for her sons and the teams they played on, it is the bind between my father and I that the game of soccer forged to make stronger.  And the same bond exists with my three sons, Blake, Drew and Tyler.

Yes, the World Cup, and the game of Soccer, unites.  The World.  And Families.

A few years ago on Fathers Day, the boys and I went to a field and kicked the ball around.  Small sided games.  “Three-post”.  Fun stuff.  Then we came back home, watched a World Cup game on TV, had a beverage or two, and Diana made us some snacks.  Perfect.  Perfect Father’s Day or any day.

We have played together.  Watched each other.  Cheered and jeered together.  Made lifetime friends and a few others who may hold a grudge for something that happened on the field.  Soccer has allowed us to celebrate wins, try to forget losses, and to this day we can laugh, cry and make fun of one another.

Last summer Drew and I kicked a ball on an amazing field in Brooklyn that jutted out into the harbor, surrounded by water on three sides and a net that was not quite high enough!  Oops!

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Then in the fall Blake, Tyler and I kicked around on a pitch in Oslo, Norway…with Jenn joining in as well.

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Soccer has taken each one of us to places we never dreamed of.  Physically and emotionally…almost spiritually at times.  (and perhaps it took us to the police station…at least a few of us)

And it also is partially responsible for my 37 years of a beautiful marriage to Diana!  We initially met when she drove her brother, Craig, to a soccer camp he was attending and I was a camp instructor.

A few years ago, Tyler gave me a book entitled, “More Than A Game”, by Chuck Korr and Marvin Close.  It is an amazing true story about soccer and apartheid.  And illustrates how the game of soccer can bring people together under horrible conditions.  And change lives.

So imagine what the game can do under more ideal situations.

Bring people together.  Bring families together.  Spread love and joy and happiness.

In his final game,  the legendary player Pelé gave a brief pre-match speech during which he asked the crowd to say the word “love” with him three times.

Makes a lot of sense to me.  Especially since the game can bring a lot of love to those who allow it to do so.

I have.  My family has.  And I am glad we do.

Go USA.  I believe!

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I Made My List, You Can Do the Same…Happy Father’s Day

It has been a while since I visited the blog-o-sphere to share something.  Unintentional…trust me.

There has been a lot going on.  Good stuff and some “not so”.  Visited Norway, and there will be much more about that wonderful trip with Blake and Yvonne later.

This is about Father’s Day.  This Sunday.  Tomorrow.

And while I want to go on record as saying that a Mother’s job may be one of the most difficult and challenging one around…I think being a Father is one of the best.  Along with being a husband, it has been the most rewarding position I have ever held.  Oh, sure, it has a few traps…got to be careful you don’t fall into them…they can be tough to  climb out of.   But for my money, ain’t nuttin’ better.

I often think about how other Pops think about this.  Do they feel as fortunate as I?  How can you not feel the blessing of having this privelege of being a father?  The opportunity to help make the world a better place?  Leave something for others when you move on…

My Dad is no longer around…since 2001.  I go to thinking about what he left us every now and then.  What he did to help me and the family and to make the world a little better…usually through example.  Here is a partial list I came up with, although I am sure it is incomplete.  I am also sure that each one of you reading this could do the same…make a list.

  • He taught us the value and rewards of hard work.  And that the rewards sometimes need to come from within.
  • Never give up…no matter.
  • Al showed me the importance to give your time to others.  To help, volunteer, coach.
  • He gave me my love for baseball, especially the Cardinals…
  • …and autograph collecting.
  • I learned how to keep score in baseball, on a real scorecard.
  • He showed me how to use a mitre saw and box, the proper way.
  • Al proved to me that “not knowing” is no excuse. He didn’t know much about soccer, but learned from others; He became an electrician by reading library books…
  • Dad introduced the “beautiful game” of soccer to me.
  • He made me use my left foot in playing soccer, and I am glad he did.
  • I learned a strong set of values from my Dad…be honest, be fair; don’t let anyone take advantage of you, and don’t cheat…yourself or anyone else.
  • I learned there is a God, and he is watching over us.
  • Al taught me the importance and meaning of family…blood really is thicker than water.
  • Dad taught me to commit to something is not a short term thing…it it a commitment.
  • A good martini is hard to find.
  • But a good scotch is a good thing to find.
  • I learned that there is no sacrifice that a Father would not make for his family.
  • Be courteous.  Be polite.  Be respectful.
  • Be there if needed.
  • I learned to enjoy music…especially the blues and jazz; Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk…
  • Al taught me how to appreciate his movies…Dirty Dozen, The Professionals, any Bogart or John Wayne movie, Bridge over the River Kwai…(even though I did not realize it at the time, I do know and I wish I could watch one of these with him now)
  • Love your wife…she will drive you crazy…you will drive her crazy…but love her.  “I do” is not a sometimes thing.
  • I learned that showing emotion is not a weakness, it is a strength.
  • He taught me how to play catcher, and why it is the best position in baseball.
  • He showed confidence in me.  He trusted me.
  • Dad taught me to find my own way…in every way…what I wore, what I ate, drank, stood tall…
  • I got my love of reading from my Dad…he was a voracious reader…I would read a book and pass it to him, he would read one and pass it to me…fun to share with your Pop.
  • We saw “Patton” together…We both cried when we saw “Brian’s Song”.
  • Dad took me to my first baseball game (Cardinals vs Dodgers) and to Stan Musial’s last game.
  • I loved to play catch with him.
  • He showed me to make the “best” out of a situation”, “what the hell”, enjoy yourself and do what you can.
  • Dad instilled the importance of “committment” in me.  Commit to yourself, your family, your team…once you do, you give it all you got until completed…and some things are never completed.
  • My father taught me how to live.  Enjoy life and those around you.  Have fun.  Smile and love.  Most things are good for you…in moderation…so don’t be afraid to try something new for a change…you don’t need to like it or stay with it.
  • And he taught me how to die.  Never complaining.  Head high.  Proud of yourself and your family.  Not asking “why me?”…but feeling that he may be able to leave the world a better place, whether through medical clinical trials or by simply leaving love for others.

A few years ago, Tyler made a video for me on Father’s Day.  He used our family photos and a song by Keith Urban, “Song For Dad”.  I think about that song often, and it takes me to Father’s Day and back to my Dad.

“The older I get
The more I can see
How much he loved my mother and my brother and me
And he did the best that he could
And I only hope when I have my own family
That everyday I see
A little more of my father in me”

Proverbs 23:24 says, “The Father of a righteous child has great joy; a man who fathers a wise son rejoices in him”.

I have fathered wise sons, and I rejoice in them and have great joy.

I hope I gave my Dad as much joy as he gave me.