See ball. Kick ball.
But they matter little if you lose sight of what came before, before you even learned that much.
Wait. There was something before that?
Yes. Fun. Before that, there was fun and only fun.
We saw a little of that tonight.
I know, I know. There are those for whom soccer is the entire world. Eat, sleep, breathe. I get that. (If you doubt that I do, try to have a conversation with me that doesn’t involve the Timbers or Gers. I’m adept at turning all subjects into soccer.) I especially get that when you add in the paycheck. Eat, sleep, breath, work. Pay your bills. Feed your family. It must become maddening to know that there was a time when you were what? Six? Seven? Younger? when it was just a game you played with your friends for fun.
But it is also an incredible gift. A gift and a burden. The hopes and expectations of thousands of people rest in you and in your ability to play a game you played as a child. When you fail, we all see it. When you fail, we all feel it.
Believe me, I’m not here to launch a pity party. Oh, those poor footballers. We put so much pressure on them to perform! It must be awful! So sad.
No. They know what they signed on for. After years and years of working toward a childhood dream, here they are.
And they aren’t having any fun.
As you may have guessed, I’m not part of the “So what if we suck?” crowd. I understand the sentiment but maybe I’m too new to buy into it. Strike that. I am too new to buy into it. I still harbor a naive sentimentality, an optimism bordering on absolute insanity. I believe that my boys can win any game against any opponent.
And I’m utterly confused when they don’t.
The friendly with Aston Villa tonight came down to penalty kicks and the Timbers lost. Didn’t matter. No points were lost. It wasn’t the end of the world as we know it.
Here’s what mattered: we had fun. More importantly, our boys had fun. More of that, please.
It pains me to say it, but my optimism is starting to fade. Will we make the playoffs? I want to shout an emphatic “YES!” but the last couple weeks have left me deflated. I know I’m not alone.
A couple days ago, there was a quote from Gavin floating around, something about how he’d coached all he could and he’s just an interim coach and it’s really up to the boys to put themselves together.
Meh. Mumble, mumble, bullshit, mumble. Whatever, Gavin. If you’re not going to step in with words of wisdom, I will.
Boys, play with heart. Play for the badge. Play for your teammates. Play for the Rose City.
Most of all, play for fun. We’re all better off when you do.