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Parents Blog

Susan Boyd blogs on every Monday. A dedicated mother and wife, Susan offers a truly unique perspective into the world of a "Soccer Mom." 
Opinions expressed on the US Youth Soccer Blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of US Youth Soccer.


Let's think about something else right now

Susan Boyd

The Chicago Magic U16 Boys won their semi-final game today against Everest, a team out of Cleveland, Ohio.  I was born in Cleveland, but my loyalties weren't in question.  The boys played very well in awful heat and humidity.  They are now enjoying a movie in a dark, air conditioned theatre on the west side of Des Moines.  Tonight we will enjoy a team dinner and an early lights out as we will be meeting the Michigan Wolves at 8 AM.  Normally I would complain about getting up at 6 AM to arrive at the fields at 6:45 AM, but considering how brutal it was at 10 AM, a few hours earlier to avoid a scorcher would be just fine.  The only blip on the radar is the threat of thunderstorms both tonight and early tomorrow.

I am not really a superstitious person, but at this point I feel the less I think and talk about tomorrow the better.  It's a lot of pressure for these younger players to take on and I don't want to add to it by my obsessing about the event.  So I stayed quiet in the hotel room and watched ""Babel.""

""Babel"" was a bit of a puzzlement to me.   My brother is a screenwriter and his genre, for want of a better term, is dark social comedy (with the exception of Jurassic Park III which provided a lifelong income).  So he usually pokes fun at films that take themselves too seriously.  I haven't talked to him about ""Babel,"" and for all I know he didn't even see it, but I suspect he would have lots fun at the film's expense.

The movie isolates a rather dramatic incident, the accidental shooting of an American tourist in Morocco, and layers the incident with two other side stories of the American's Mexican nanny and the Japanese family from whom the gun came.  While I am usually willing to suspend some level of reality for the sake of dramatic license, this movie really challenged my ability to accept this microcosmic look at the world.  The Mexican nanny through a bizarre set of circumstances ends up wandering in the California desert with the American's two children.   She abandons the children under some bramble to go seek help, stumbles upon a border guard, and despite trying to recover the children, has no idea where she left them.  I thought immediately of Ralph Fiennes and Kristin Scott Thomas in ""The English Patient.""  Except in this film we find out from a rather brusque border guard that the children were recovered, are just fine, and the nanny is to be immediately deported. 

Meanwhile in Tokyo, the daughter of a Japanese business man is facing a psychological breakdown.  And no wonder.  First she is deaf - mute, second she was the first to discover her mother's body after she shot herself, and third, she spends a great deal of the film either nude or flashing someone.  The reason she is in the movie is because her father on a hunting trip to Morocco gave his Moroccan guide a rifle, which was then used by some children to shoot the tourist.  See what I mean by suspension of belief?

In the end the tourist is fine, the nanny is left on a curb in Mexico, and the Japanese businessman comes home to find his daughter naked on the balcony.  I know that there should be some deep meaning to Babel being the land from which all language was dispersed and there is a deaf – mute girl (irony), and even in the most remote of remote villages in Morocco there is a TV with CNN.  I am sure there is some commentary we could make on how small the world is with such coincidences occurring in three separate continents all interrelated.  But I really do chalk it up to imagination. 

In the real world…the one I live, work, and watch movies in…people are pretty normal with normal problems and normal connections.  While I could accept that an American tourist might be shot in Morocco by a gun left by a Japanese man and her nanny was from Mexico, I can't accept that they all have some complex, intense lives, with such complex, intense events.

The only real thing I saw in the film, which I think has to be true over most of the world, is that the Moroccan boys who shoot the rifle have soccer posters on the walls of their hut and the TV in the remote village of Morocco was showing a soccer game.  It makes perfect sense because we all know that soccer is life!


Population unknown

Susan Boyd

I've discovered something in my thus far four-day stay in Des Moines.  While I admit my study won't qualify as scientific, I think I have enough random samplings to satisfy most statistical analyses.  After my experience on my first day in Des Moines unable to discover if I was in a tornado warning county or not, I thought I might try to see if the citizens of Des Moines knew the answer to another common question.  I have asked waitresses, people on the street, cab drivers, police officers, players, and hotel desk clerks and no one in Des Moines knows the population of Des Moines.  No one can even hazard a guess. 

This is even more ironic given the fact that yesterday while watching the College World Series (Oregon State was playing and my husband is an Oregon native) there was an ad from the city of Omaha about 2 hours or so away from Des Moines.  The ad touts the advantages of living and working in Omaha.  I am sure they are advertising in the Des Moines market because they believe that no one in Des Moines will miss a few thousand citizens migrating to Omaha, since they have no idea what the population was to begin with.  In the ad, Omaha brags, ""We are a city of 890,000 residents"" and 890,000 is posted in bold lettering across the entire screen.  Therefore any observant Des Moineser (Des Moinesee – I have no idea) would be able to tell me the population of Omaha without hesitation.

Since I have not conducted my experiment in any other city, I need to be fair to those in Des Moines.  It may be that if I traveled to Nebraska and asked the citizens of Omaha what their population was, they would stare at me and mutter, ""I don't really know.""  And then I could pounce and shout…well the people in Des Moines know!!

Despite not knowing their population and the counties in their immediate area, the people of Des Moines are pretty sharp and definitely nice.  The restaurants in downtown Des Moines are fantastic, very continental and upscale.  I had the best tortellini soup ever at Centro on Locust and an amazing salmon sandwich at Raccoon River Brewing Co.  There's a Japanese restaurant I want to try tonight called Taki Japanese Steakhouse that looks incredibly tasty.  Every person I have bothered about the population was so polite and friendly.  Even the people at Jordan Creek Mall seemed to be right out of Pleasantville. 

Therefore, I am not trying to malign Des Moines at all.  In fact I highly recommend it.  There is a zoo, a very cool Japanese Pagoda on the river that I want to visit before I leave, lots of great little cafes and bars, parks galore, and some stunning architecture including a building that seems to be covered entirely in copper.  Although isolated, the city seems to have been able to attract some cosmopolitan businesses.  So there is a level of sophistication here that one might not expect in a ""corn belt"" city.  I do definitely sing the praises of Des Moines.

Oh, yeah…the Magic won today, so we are on to the semi-finals against Everest.  It was a must win situation and the team came through again.  I am proud and relieved.  I don't even want to dwell on it too much because we did come close to not advancing.  So I would rather be happy for the win, go to a nice restaurant, and see if I can find out the population of Des Moines before I leave.


Digging deep

Susan Boyd

What was it I said yesterday?   ""What a game!""  I think I spoke too soon.  Today's game against the Kentucky State Cup champions United 1996 FC International came close to one of the most amazing and hard fought games I've ever seen my son and his team play. 

United had some amazing players and the ability to step up the speed of play testing all of our offensive and defensive capacities.  Magic entered the game with energy and a strong will to emerge victorious.  Likewise, United pursued the same agenda.   Magic scored first (I'm a mom, so I'll brag that my son scored off a very well place header from Bobby Novak).   United worked hard to offset our attack, but Magic thwarted them and when we didn't quite succeed in stepping in front of their shots, United had the soccer curse of hitting the post.  Magic had a few shots of their own that sailed over the net, or landed in the keeper's grip, but they kept their momentum going.  Magic also subbed early in some cases, and often, but there was little change in momentum with new players on the pitch.  In fact the team mounted some excellent offense.  One of our early subs, Geoff Bowman, was responsible for our second goal.  We ended the first half up 2-0.  Then things got really interesting. 

Both teams came on to the field to begin the 2nd half with renewed energy and the hearts of warriors.  Despite some very heavy air and temperatures hovering around 77 degrees, the players on both sides ramped up their intensity.  Unfortunately for Magic, United's intensity overshot ours for the opening moments.  They scored a quick amazing goal off a set piece, and then were awarded a PK, which they nearly didn't make thanks to our quick moving GK.  But alas it skidded out of the fingers and into the goal.  Because of our tie with Nebraska Arsenal yesterday, Magic could not afford another tie.  It was time to step up and give even more.  The team dug deep, and found it in their hearts, their legs, their lungs, and their minds to pour it on.

With a long rip following a great run, Magic went up 3-2 and then on our own PK Kevin Bick slammed the back of the net with the clincher.  With the whistle Magic had won 4-2, but the score didn't tell the story of how hard and well United fought.  They made Magic strive harder because they raised the bar for soccer play.  United maintained a fast pace, and didn't give up one second.

What I loved about this game was that every Magic player contributed on the field to the win.  This was a win for the team and this was a win for each boy.  I love when that happens.  I know that a coach can tell the players that their support on the bench is as important as playing on the field, but I don't think anyone really believes that.  Today, each player was needed, each player met the challenge, and each player fulfilled an important role in the win.  I'm not sure I can take a game more intense than was played today, but I'm sure that if Magic expects to move on to US Youth Soccer National Championship they will find themselves reaching deep to muster the intensity needed to win.  How often can I say ""What a game""?  As often as I need to!!


True grit

Susan Boyd

What a game!  I mean that in general about soccer and in particular about the Magic U16 boys' game today.  They played against the Nebraska Arsenal, a great team with tall, strong players.  The tenor of the game became clearly established in the first half where the teams battled to a 0-0 tie.  Magic had far more shots, but Nebraska used their breakaways well.  

In the second half, Magic managed to score a goal that was off the GK's miss (at least that's how we saw it).  But the referee (and I am sure Arsenal) saw it differently, and the goal was nullified as the ball was deemed in the GK's grasp.  Two minutes later Arsenal scored on Magic with 20 minutes left in the game.

Now the true grit of these soccer players would be tested.  Arsenal wanted to prevent a goal at any cost and Magic needed to score a goal at any cost.  What an amazing battle between these two teams.  Each player dug deeper, tried harder, and refused to give up.  With two minutes left, Magic scored.  I don't think a team was happier to secure a tie than Magic.  Although they worked hard to find one more goal in the short time remaining, the boys were definitely relieved to earn a point and to take two additional points from their opponent.

Games like this are what I love about soccer.  Magic had far more shots on goal than Arsenal, but it was the classic frustration of not finishing.  Arsenal was gunning (forgive the pun) for Magic and when they scored you would have thought they won the World Cup.  The emotional roller coaster of the back and forth play agonized me, but for the players on both teams, they remained calm and focused.

I credit soccer with teaching my sons the tenacity to fight for what they want, and the civility to do so fairly.  I credit soccer with providing my sons with some of life's toughest battles so that they learn to be humble in victory and unbowed in defeat.  I credit soccer for giving them reasons to be proud without arrogance, because they know that the next moment, the next game, the next season may not be as successful.  I credit soccer with opening doors for them, while reminding them that any door can close if the gift isn't respected.  I credit soccer for giving them friends who are teammates and teammates who are friends.  I credit soccer for offering our entire family a bonding experience.

All I can say is ""What a game!""