What Soccer (Football To The Rest Of The Civilized World) Can Teach Us About Life

Soccer’s a simple sport. That’s why it’s universal. Kick the ball into the other guy’s goal more than he kicks it into yours and you win. Now, throw a few off side rules into the mix, some great strategic thinking and some talent to pull it off and that simple sport becomes exactly what they call it: the beautiful game. Few things are as sublime as when eleven players hitch their collective will to putting a ball into the back of the other team’s net and then do it with surgical precision. Achieving that collective perfection might not be as hard as hitting a Major League fastball, but it’s not far behind. It’s absolutely do-able. But only by a few.

And yet — perfection aside — almost anyone can play this game and enjoy it for its own sake.

I’m a Tottenham Hotspur fan, I thing I came into being via marriage to a Brit whose family were Spurs supporters (well, my wife is and her brother is; their sister is a Liverpool supporter — splitter!). I’ve always loved soccer, back to when I first learned to play it at sleepaway camp when I was six. Growing up in Baltimore, I even attended Bays games (they played in the National Professional Soccer League for three seasons 1967 – 1969) at Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium.

When my son wanted to play rec center soccer here in LA (he was five), I didn’t just sign him up, I volunteered to coach. Then I created a club team (Silver Lake FC). By the time I stepped aside (my son unfortunately got injured), SLFC had six teams and almost a hundred players. So, soccer has already informed my life in plenty of ways.

But, something that happened Saturday drove home (a baseball metaphor being apt as the LA Dodgers are about to start the World Series today against the Tampa Bay Rays) a particularly important lesson at a particular time. On Sunday, the Spurs counted their chickens before said chickens had hatched. They put three points in the win column before finishing the game they were playing in.

That will almost always bite you in the ass.

After years of struggling to figure out who it was, Spurs have got an amazing new stadium, a new top tier coach (Jose Morinho) and, after picking eight new pieces in the transfer window (they just acquired Welsh international defender Joe Rodon from Swansea for eleven million pounds — when they could have gotten as much as twenty million), seem two-deep at every position for the first time ever. Two weeks ago, Spurs thumped Manchester United 6-1 (after thumping Tel Aviv Maccabee 7-1 in a Europa League game). With Gareth Bale now back in the squad (and with the other new signings finding their feet), Spurs walked onto their pitch to face West Ham this past Sunday, feeling a little like football’s next gods.

When they had West Ham down 3-0 within fifteen minutes, they were convinced: they WERE gods. And, being gods, they could rest on their laurels instead of playing the rest of the game. That worked out to a 3-3 tie, West Ham shocking Spurs with 3 goals in the last ten minutes including a dunderheaded own goal by Spurs defender Davinson Sanchez.

When West Ham took the field in the second half, they played as if the game still mattered. Having nothing to lose, they pressed Spurs — and Spurs let them. They figured, why spend any more energy than necessary? Their three point lead was insurmountable.

And therein is the Life Lesson. You still have to PLAY the game. Talent without effort is worthless. Assuming you have anything in the bag will end up with you IN the bag.

Donald Trump is not going to win this election. If he finds some way to “win” it, it will not be a legitimate win in any way, shape or form. Just like the “win” in 2016 was illegitimate. FFS, Trump himself kept telling us it was illegitimate; our news media to this day refuses to believe him.

The Democratic primary process drew from a deep, deep bench with plenty of philosophical heft. The candidates (for the most part) were authentic, their public servant bona fides genuine. While Joe Biden may not have been the embodiment of Progressive aspirations, the Progressive’s aspirations have already become the embodiment of the party’s ideals. The door will be open to the full Progressive agenda — socialized medicine, debt-free education, UBI; the only way out of this fiasco will BE through Progressive policies like those.

Conservatism after all is what brought us to the cliff’s edge.

The first goal West Ham scored against Spurs came during a set play — a free kick into the box that West Ham converted via a beautiful header. Set plays into the box — usually in the form of corner kicks — are perfect examples of how random chaos works. In essence, you can have twenty-one players moving in various directions, trying to anticipate the flight pattern of a ball and where it might land or bounce. Balls ricochet. Even a mis-directed kick can re-direct into the back of the net.

Our current situation, two weeks before perhaps the most important election in America’s history, is a lot like the chaos inside the goal box — as a corner kick flies toward it — as an important match expires.

Turns out We The People have way more players in the box than the Republicans do — and we’re poised to score and take the points. But the Republicans aren’t playing fairly. Their pal Vladimir is hiding another ball that he plans to introduce just as the official ball reaches the box.

Vladimir — and the Republicans — will insist that THAT ball’s the real ball and the one we’ve been chasing — the real ball — isn’t.

Vlad, Don and the Re-thug-licans plan to run their fake ball to the other end of the field and literally throw it into our net, claiming an incredible shock-victory. They’ll insist that they absolutely followed the rules to a “T”.

Unfortunately for them, that “T” also stands for Trump. To borrow again from baseball, America needs to keep its eye on THE ball.

Life Is Like Standing In A Batter’s Box — And The Pitcher’s A Sadist

I’m not the first person to visit this analogy. But I feel that analogy every day like I’m standing in a batter’s box and whatever’s out there pitching at me is seriously off their meds.

As metaphors & analogies go, life compares best to baseball (as opposed to football, basketball, soccer — or archery even). There’s a clock in baseball (9 innings) but it’s a flexible clock. There are no ties. The game will end eventually even if it takes an extra long time. And then there’s that feeling of “one-on-one-ness”. Yes, we’re all part of a team, but whereas in American football, a quarterback may hold the ball but he can’t possibly win one vs eleven. He can score from his one-yard-line all by himself with no one’s help but it’s pretty damned unlikely. He needs blockers. He just does.

In baseball, it’s pitcher v batter. A single batter can homer – produce the only hit, only run in an otherwise perfectly pitched game & all by him or herself, defeat the pitcher. The rest of the team has to pitch & play defense almost flawlessly to keep that 1-0 victory alive but — if they all struck out every time at bat, it wouldn’t matter; the win would still theirs.

So — there we are — bat in our hands, catcher and umpire behind us, Pitcher out on the mound staring us down. We’re all looking for the fastball right down the middle. Forget about it. Life doesn’t throw that pitch — ever. That’s not to say those pitches don’t exist — but Life doesn’t throw them. There’s that funny baseball-tinged saying that the wonderful Molly Ivins used to describe George W. Bush (or was it the equally wonderful Ann Richards?) — He was born on third base and thinks he hit a triple. That’s exactly right. Life never threw any pitch that W had to hit to get where he got. He was born there.

Life does throw fastballs. Life throws them hard — right at our heads. Every day. Life lives to bean us.

The trick — avoid getting beaned while looking for something we can hit. The problem — Life’s not going to throw anything to hit. If it isn’t hurling high heat at hour heads, it’s throwing off speed junk and Uncle Charlies. Especially the Charlies.

The off speed crap usually hits the dirt before reaching the batter’s box. We swing at it anyway, looking foolish. The curve balls however — that’s where our hope lies. Learn to hit Life’s curveballs and you might not only get on base a few times, you may even park one right in the bleachers. Maybe even the parking lot.