Saturday, June 26, 2010
Today did not deliver any miracles unless you came from Columbus, Ohio or Ghana. Our boys' team lost to the Columbus Crew Juniors and the USA lost to Ghana – one right after the other. Watching a defeat once from the stands in heat and humidity and watching defeat from our hotel room with air conditioning felt the same, although the first was more personal. Nevertheless, tomorrow is another day at the Region II Championships and we have two more opportunities for victory. The USA can only wait another four years for World Cup 2014 in Brazil. As Landon Donovan said in his exit interview, "Soccer can be a cruel game."
Despite a tough day for the spirits, the Region II Championships continue to be an exciting event. The fields we played on today were amazingly professional and the facilities beautifully groomed with rolling bluffs of grass, established and sapling shade trees, and a very efficient parking system. We are at the smaller venue, so there isn't the same traffic in and out, but any parking can be a nightmare if not well coordinated and controlled. Two of the three fields have bleachers, so I don't really need my chair, but we got to the fields early today just to be sure we got to the fields on time, so my chair came in handy as I waited for the start of the game in the shade of an old growth oak.
We did pass the other playing venue on the way to ours and it seemed to be running efficiently despite road work on the main highway in and out of the site. We had a small delay heading back to the hotel because of the traffic and construction, but nothing horrible. The only need for us to hurry was to make it back in time for the beginning of the World Cup game. We were in our rooms before the game had been playing 10 minutes, so imagine our disbelief to see the score USA 0 Ghana 1. Curse those early goals!
Part of the trip to the hotel was spent trying to order pizza for the game. With searches on the IPhone, the boys were able to locate a Domino's that would deliver to our hotel. Score! Then came the $64,000 question – what is the hotel's phone number? No one knew. Why would we? We all had cell phones and were therefore able to communicate without having to involve the hotel switchboard. After another cell phone search the boys acquired the elusive, but necessary phone number, called back Domino's, ordered the pizza, and accomplished it all just as we exited to the hotel parking lot. Score again! Those two goals would have to suffice for the day for our team. We had just left the soccer field with a defeat of 0-4. Tonight is an all-you-can-eat spaghetti buffet at the hotel, which based on the response I got from the players, is enthusiastically awaited.
Waxing a bit poetic at this point, I do have to say that what happened to our boys' team today does prepare them for all the other let downs in life. You learn that no defeat lasts forever. You can lose 0-4 in heat and humidity and then score hand-tossed pepperoni pizzas in your air-conditioned room 40 minutes later. You can study your heart out for a test and end up with a D but next week get all the pop-quiz answers right. You can be benched for a game one day and find a $5 bill on the ground under the bench the next day which happened to Bryce. Like the rolling bluffs at the soccer park, everything seems to undulate regularly. Soccer wins and losses are just some of the unknown rolls we take during our journeys.
So miracles or not, I'm still glad to be here sharing in the games, seeing old friends from my soccer family, watching kids so excited about a win and so stoic about a loss, and remembering why kids play soccer – to have fun. There's no glory in victory and no shame in defeat. These are just the natural consequences of competition. Kids compete because they love the game, they love the challenge, and they hope for success which can't be measured in just wins. Each time they play, they learn something new about the game, about their character, and about the bonds of team. In the end, all but one squad in each age group and gender will move on. The rest will return to their states suntanned, tired, and hopefully satisfied. Those who don't move on won't be able to claim any miracles, but they will be able to claim satisfaction for playing hard and to claim the hope that sometime soon they might have a miracle of their own.