The Gainesville Rattlers, 7 and under rec. soccer team lost every game they played in the summer of 1986. I recall one game where the entire team was on one end of the field, and my brother and I were oddly standing near the goalie, alone.
Why? I think we honestly didn’t know what else to do but stand and wait. Soccer was new to our lives and we had yet to fully grasp the rules and certainly did not understand positions.
When the coach yelled run, we did. When he said nothing, we did nothing. And so went our glorious season under the shadow of white metal goals and bright orange nets.
Although this was not the last time my brother played soccer, it was the last time he was on a soccer team by choice. My twin brother’s heart has always belonged to baseball, well, that was until a few years ago.
In or around 2006, my brother started paying attention to English football, or what we across the pond call soccer. The introduction was an easy one. He loves all things British, music, food, history and naturally began to express his Anglophilia by watching British football. He picked a club as all good football fans do, followed their scores, and picked a favorite player.
As you may know, many of these guys playing in the Premier League are Americans. As Brett cheered and yelled at refs, pint in hand, he started to cheer for one American in particular, Clint Dempsey. He admires Dempsey’s grit, his enthusiasm for the game, but also, his humanity.
And so began my brother’s love of US Men’s soccer. It started in England, with one ex-pat, and naturally lead back across the Atlantic.
In 2009 – 2010, my brother followed the US Men’s team across the United States to watch exhibition games. He dragged his girlfriend, recruited friends and family to join in, and scheduled time with family such that he would not miss a televised game.
He even named his first dog after his favorite player. Meet Dempsey, the Beagle puppy.
Last week my brother went to work with an Uncle Sam hat to express his excitement for the World Cup. He also bought a portable TV so he could watch the game with Algeria while driving. His loyalty knows no end. His enthusiasm is limitless, and contagious. And I get the impression that my brother is not alone.
With our economy in the pooper, men and women still in need of work, an oil spill ravaging our coasts, I understand the draw to the World Cup. Something pure, and good and based on skill, mixed with good old fashion National pride and competition.
At the end of the US win this week against Algeria, friends were posting congratulations on Facebook, Twitter. Apparently, everyone had watched.
My brother sent me a simple text message.
It read simply, “Next dog I get I will name Donovan.”
A suitable salute to the US Men’s team I think. Perhaps by the end of the Cup, my brother, the die-hard soccer fan will also have named his future children as well.