Thursday, July 24, 2014

Taking Your Daughter to Work Night

Last night the San Jose Earthquakes played the Chicago Fire in Santa Clara (fill in your own 'natural disaster vs. natural disaster' line here).  It was a great crowd (seemed like full capacity in the 'charming' Buck Shaw Stadium... I'm still looking for the right euphemysm that doesn't come right out and say old, small, and fan-unfriendly).  If you had Earthquake in your Natural Disaster Fantasy League then you are a lot happier today than if you had Fire - Quakes 5 and Fire 1...

I thought that the last game in New York (or more accurately Harrison, New Jersey in the 'modern' Red Bull Arena ... I'm still looking for the right euphemysm that doesn't come right out and say - hey that stadium is in an old abandoned field in New Jersey) ... showed an Earthquake team that was vastly improved and solid.  The result in New York was a tie but the Quakes were on the upswing.  Now - catching Chicago on the road in a mid-week game - optimists will be happy.

More importantly last night - I took my beautiful daughter-in-law and my even-more-beautiful grand-daughter to the game.  They sat with me in our field seats because my beautiful wife decided that a mid-week game crosses the line of her soccer passion.  There is something about taking children to the game ...

When the boys were young (my boys - Chris, Stephen, and Matthew) -- I used to take them everywhere on the weekends.  I can accurately claim that I have changed diapers in every stadium and sports arena in the Bay Area.  Back in the day (when I dragged them to Candlestick) Chris had his favorite Giant - Candy Maldonado - and Stephen had his - Will the Thrill Clark - and Matty being the youngest probably had his favorite but I am sure his brothers told him he was wrong.  (Side note - Matty now bench-presses more weight than his two older brothers combined and they spend a lot less time telling him he is wronng).

Back to the story -- last night A Pequena Chefona - Emersyn was sitting with Lindsey and me.  Well --- Mr. Emersyn's Dad ... scored a goal and then came over to give his little Angel a kiss.  As luck would have it - Emersyn signed off for the night about 10 minutes before the goal.  There are two lessons in this ---- first - kind of cool if your dad is a professional soccer player and scores a goal and comes over and kisses you on television --- second - it would be cooler if her dad had scored a lot earlier ... like when she was awake.

So - take your daughter to work day ended up pretty fun for the Younger Wondo Family last night.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Quakes Tie - plus - Fresno and Cleveland Square Off

The San Jose Earthquakes are reaching a point in their season where wins are the only thing that they can be happy with ... but ... if you do not get a win then getting a tie by scoring a goal in the final five minutes on the road is the next best thing.  It was really interesting to watch the game yesterday (San Jose vs. New York Red Bulls) --- when a Penalty Kick was awarded to the Red Bulls the Bay Area Announcers were convinced it was a completely horrible missed call --- watching the highlights later that night (from the New York Feed) the New York Announcers were convinced it was a completely black-and-white correct call.  That just goes to show you that officiating live play is tough (I will say that the way the ball bounced I would bet it hit Cahill's head rather than Lenny's arm).  I think my son agrees with me but unlike Chris - I did not get a yellow card arguing my point of view --- I just screamed at the Big Screen loud enough to wake up my Basset Hound, Mildred Penelope.

This week I have taken my talents to Northeast Ohio (I don't know if that line has been used before but I am thinking of trademarking it).  I am sitting in Cleveland, Ohio this evening (I wrote that just to make you envious).  My professional life is a tapestry of glamorous metropolitan culture ... I do not want this to come across as bragging but not only was I able to fly all day Sunday to go to Cleveland but last week I was in Fresno.  I cannot help but do a comparison of Fresno and Cleveland (and I do not mean to upset anyone --- I am just trying to find humor after sacrificing my Sunday to THE MAN).

Fresno has roughly twice the population of Cleveland so if you like more people - Fresno wins that category if you like less people - Cleveland wins.

Cleveland sits on the southern shores of Lake Erie (a bit north of Akron and a bit east of Toledo).  Fresno hasn't seen actual water since the current drought started a couple of years ago.  If you like water - Cleveland wins.

The Cleveland Indians are two games above .500 (after today's game) while the Fresno Grizzlies are 3 games under .500.  Some might give that edge to the Indians (especially since they are Major League and the Grizzlies area AAA) but I call that a draw because the Grizzlies are my Giants farm team.

Cleveland has the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame while Fresno has 287 jukeboxes within the city limits that can play Rock and Roll.  The edge here goes to Cleveland.

Cleveland has LeBron - (again) - Fresno never had LeBron but they did have Jerry Tarkanian coach the Fresno State Bulldogs.  The edge goes to Cleveland.

After this analysis -- I should be very happy to be in Cleveland.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Deep Analysis of the Recent FIFA World Soccer Rankings

The FIFA World Rankings came out today (Soccer’s Governing Body doing their impersonation of the College Football Top 25) – and the USA dropped two places to number 15 in the world.  At the same time the Netherlands and Costa Rica jumped up double digits in the new rankings.  Scotland at number 27 and Egypt at number 36 were the only teams in the top 50 to not change rankings at all in this first post-world cup ranking. 

There are countries that have tried to combine together to get stronger – and the results indicate that does not work well. 

In the new category of “Combined Countries”  - Bosnia and Herzegovina are ranked highest at number 19.  Trinidad and Tobago are ranked 84th.  You have to go all the way down to St. Vincent and the Grenadines (number 135) to find the next highest ranked combined country.  I think the lesson is clear – even if you combine countries and your name sounds like a Reggae Band --- FIFA Rankings are still harsh on you.  By the way --- in a manner somewhat like T-ball --- there is no clear-cut last place … number 208 is inexplicably shared by Bhutan and San Marino.  Bhutan is a small country in the Himalayas and San Marino is a little piece of land that somehow is surrounded by Italy but is not Italy.  But before we feel bad for San Marino … they have the highest per-capita standard of living in Europe with the lowest unemployment rate.  Maybe soccer is not that important after all.

Final observation of the FIFA World Rankings … putting “Republic” in your name is not a big accelerator.  The Czech Republic is ranked 35 and Korea Republic is ranked 56.  If you thought that leading with “Republic” would help – just ask the Republic of Ireland who holds down number 70. 

The big controversy in these rankings is that people have no idea how Andorra could move up two slots to number 198 while Papua New Guinea moved down three slots to 199.  Most people point to that and blame it on the East Coast Bias. 

So that is it on the current FIFA rankings --- but people it is summer time --- go out and enjoy some summer without soccer if you can.  There are County Fairs in July in most locations and I understand that on Saturday night the 8pm show at the Sonoma County Fair is going to be St. Vincent and the Grenadines – covering Bob Marley and the Wailers.  Should be awesome.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Top Five Signs that Soccer is Becoming Popular in the United States

Top Five Signs that Soccer is Getting Popular in the United States:

5.  My blog got 1000 views per day when I was in Brazil … I have – like – 3 friends – (Ok- probably 2 and 1 acquaintance)  -- that many people are interested in my blog because my son plays soccer and I am in Brazil for the World Cup??? – crazy.

4.  Jimmy Fallon gets 1,000,000 views on Youtube for his bits on the World Cup and the U.S. World Cup Team.  This is equal to the National Geographic Youtube video on Platypus Evolution:
Tell me people … did any of us really ever imagine U.S. Soccer as popular as platypus evolution????

3.  The wives of the U.S. Players are so hot that it honestly hurts to look at them – just wait for their vacation pictures to start showing up on  is all I’m saying.

2.  USA fans purchased more world cup tickets for games in Brazil than any other country- (not funny but true).

1.  I don’t really have 2 friends … I like talk to a guy at the gym once in a while and a girl who works at Safeway and call them friends … and still my blog got more than 1000 views per day – so there you go.  And the USMNT won an ESPY last night and one of my favorite players – Kyle Beckerman was there – so that is my number one sign that soccer is popular in the United States.  Now … if the Williams sisters rang my doorbell and wanted to meet me because my son was a soccer player --- that would mean we really made it. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Post World Cup Blues

The 2014 World Cup is over (you probably did not hear that first from me) – and now the next big International event will be Euro 2016 (European Championship) in France in June of 2016.  Qualifying for that starts in two months.

Many of us ‘soccer people’ have a bit of a letdown this week as we did have nearly a month of great soccer competition.  For those of us who were lucky enough to spend a couple of weeks in Brazil to enjoy the tournament first-hand … we all have to acclimate back to our real lives.  I may be luckier than most in that my real life includes daily workouts at the Renaissance Club Sport in Walnut Creek, California.  If you cannot be in Brazil – then Club Sport is not a bad alternative.  I am pretty sure they have a ‘minimum attractiveness test’ that they apply to people who want to join – because the place is full of beautiful people.  Fortunately for me – I joined about 10 years ago … prior to the institution of the ‘minimum attractiveness test’ and I have been grandfathered in. 

Another non-World Cup thought is that there are a few things I have heard in my life that just never really make sense …  for example some are:  “Oh she is a Basset Hound – what trouble could she possibly get into?” … and there is:  “Your children already paid for that.”  … and the most recent one is something that I am saying today:  “My son is going to Los Angeles this week because of his third ESPY nomination.”  -- I can tell you that if ESPN had never been invented – I would have invented it.  The fact that Chris has been nominated for ESPY awards is something that I cannot really get my head around.  In my world I can only equate it to the day where the Wall Street Journal has a front page article above the fold describing my business executive brilliance.  But unlike good basset hounds, children paying, and me being a model business executive --- the ESPY award is not a fantasy. 

If you think I have trouble getting my head around it … consider my family.  Of course Chris’ brothers will say:  “Oh – are they giving an ESPY to the guy who blew the far post volley at the end of the Belgium game?”  (all those people who tweeted death threats - you cannot compete with his brothers in terms of criticism) … and then there is my wife --- she has watched ESPN roughly 2 times in the past 3 years … both times she watched the ESPYs when Chris was nominated so that she could (1) see if they did shots of Chris and Lindsey in the crowd during the show and (2) see what was in the SWAG Bag that Chris and Lindsey took home.  Four years ago my wife would have thought ESPN broadcast Masterpiece Theatre – but now she is a regular viewer (you know … 3 times in four years counting tomorrow).  I don't know what she thinks they broadcast the rest of the time - probably game shows. 
I am so proud of Chris and so glad that he and Lindsey get to go - two other people who are ecstatic are the two grandmas who will be in a "Spoil A Pequena Chefona Contest" for the next two days. I predict a draw. 


Sunday, July 13, 2014

Sunday at Pebble Beach (Oh - and apparently Germany Won)

The day at Pebble Beach was fantastic…  and quite surprisingly –I didn’t suck at golf.  In fact – I was on the green putting for birdie four times (ok – so my putts did suck).  Chris was solid, Matt hits the ball so hard that it makes you think that they will just explode on impact --- it is like he really hates the balls --- and Lukas was good, bordering on great.  And --- this is with Lukas hitting LEFT HANDED! --- I cannot even imagine how good Lukas would be if he hit from the right side.  (Note – if you are Lukas’ partner – who I was – don’t borrow his wedge – it faces the wrong direction). 

     Stephen Wondo missed the event due to Earthquakes Academy Try-outs … and when he hears that I was not embarrassingly bad – he’ll toggle between the emotions of denial and reluctant acknowledgment.  Lukas, who pinch hit for Stephen, ended up with an expensive free round of golf since he grabbed breakfast, dinner, club-cleaner-tip, and some adult beverages on the course --- thanks Lukas.

     I did learn a couple of lessons golfing today …

-          Apparently walking right in front of someone else’s ball on the green (between the ball and the hole) gets frowned upon (not just at hole 3 … but also at holes 8, 13, and 16).

-          You can be as awesome as possible on the practice greens … that does not translate to these sadistically tiny and contoured greens at Pebble Beach.


-           If you happen to hit a lucky tee shot that outdistances the other three members of your foursome – your best and perhaps only action is to just shut the f#%@ up (learned that lesson the hard way with Matt)


-           Apparently putting is an important skill


-          If you have 5 hours on a Sunday afternoon – you could do a lot worse than hanging with the Wondo Boys and Lukas on what just may be the most beautiful place on earth … because everyone was serious and while 3 of the group broke 90 in strokes … we all were over 100 in laughs.


Saturday, July 12, 2014

Weekend Soccer - and Men Being Idiots

It has been a tough week to be a Brazil Soccer Fan … and there are very few Brazilians who are not soccer fans.  But – they are resilient and their love for the game will help them move forward.  Having a week go by where you are outscored 10 to 1 is difficult for anyone.

Last night we were at the ‘intimate’ confines of Buck Shaw Stadium in Santa Clara for the Earthquakes game.  And with ‘intimate’ I use a euphemism that basically means “how quickly can we get to a real stadium???”.   I know I should be a huge supporter – and I am on every front ... except for that stadium.  I will say – the field is nice and the game production is nice – and everyone is friendly … so you could have worse.  I am counting the days to the new stadium.

Stadium aside --- the San Jose Earthquakes feel so much like ‘home’ and ‘family’.  I would have wanted nothing more for my son in his professional career than to play for this team and their fans.  I may have wanted more points-per-game … but I am pretty convinced that those will come and the second half of the season will be different.  I see these guys play for each other and that is the most important element to the game.

Even though … last night the crowd was warm and supportive of my oldest son and for that I am eternally grateful.  In fact – it really was a fantastic night for a dad. 

Tomorrow I hope for the same warm and supportive environment for my round at Pebble Beach … I am sure that won’t happen though.  My final thought for tonight is that --- really … are women that much smarter than men???  Last night we are driving down to the Quakes-United game and my wife asks out of the blue --- “how much were your new golf shoes today?” – now I used my own credit card that she has no access to and I hid the shoes in the trunk of my car so there was no way that she could possibly know … but all I could come up with was:  “do you mean list price or what I paid?”  (I paid list price by the way).  I am hoping that one day in our lives we husbands may someday realize that we are really in charge – but so far … those facts are not in evidence.  

Friday, July 11, 2014

It Sucks Being my Son ... and Unisex Hats (relatively unrelated topics)

Central Garden and Pet

It was great this week to catch up with a few people from my old company – Central Garden and Pet.  I worked at Central’s Corporate Headquarters for about 9 years (depending upon how you count) and struck up great friendships.  During this World Cup apparently they set up a big screen in the CafĂ© and watched games there – with many of them knowing Chris and feeling connected to the USMNT.  I understand that there is one Executive Assistant there who clearly won the title of craziest soccer fan ever when the games were on (which is great because she was getting paid for it!). 

It Can Suck Being My Son

I’m going to the San Jose Earthquakes game tonight and it dawned on me that I always wear my lucky hat (which is an old Adidas hat).  Since my son is sponsored by Nike this is one of many things that pretty much drive him crazy.  But here’s my thing … Nike has “Unisex Hats” --- I’m sure somebody up in Beaverton did extensive research to determine that the “Unisex Hat” will sell.  I suspect it is selling --- but it is not selling to me.  I don’t want a “Unisex Hat” … I want a hat that was made for guys.  Trust me – I understand that there is no difference in all likelihood – but there is a difference to me.  Maybe I am simply not confident enough but my fear is that someone will come up and say:  “Oh – do you like those Unisex Hats?.”  So no Unisex Hat for me.  I even told one of the Nike guys who was with the US Contingent down in Brazil when he asked why I had an Adidas hat … he said he would get me a non-Unisex hat – but so far that hasn’t happened – he is probably back in Beaverton telling them that old-crazy-guys are not in their hat demographic. 

I should also acknowledge that the longer one of my sons lives – the more he is subjected to the same repeat stories that I tell.  Years ago I did not realize I was repeating the same old stories – now I vaguely do but don’t care.  I figure that if they sponged off me for 12 years of Catholic School and 4 years of College then the least they can do is listen the same old stories.

The good thing about Sons-in-Law is that they are relatively new to the stories.  Plus – I take them on a fishing trip each summer and we have the unique bond of having both lived with their wives – so they know that I know what they are going through. 

Third Place Game

There is really nothing about the Third Place Game that is usually interesting.  But this year – the bounce back that Brazil really needs to have is a good storyline.  Still though – I will probably be in my garden rather than watching.

The Championship Game

Because my oldest son is a genius … our round at Pebble Beach on Sunday is precisely when the Championship Game is being played.  I shall DVR it and then watch it after knowing the result.  My prediction is that Germany really is as good as they have looked.  I was impressed by Argentina’s midfield in their game vs. Belgium … but Germany may really be that good that this is a result decided by more than one goal. 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Really (really) Random Thoughts ... between WC Final and Earthquakes vs DC

These are really, really random thoughts after being back in the USA for enough time to acclimate.  For reasons I cannot begin to explain – I have gotten a couple of dozen notes from people to continue this blog (at least until it really begins to suck even more…).  I knew you would not believe me so I have asked for affidavits from each of those people –  in the meantime … reflections on soccer and things that may or may not relate to soccer.

And I’m not talking about goal-line technology.  I recorded today’s game (Oranje –vs – The Messis) – because “THE MAN” had me under his thumb in meetings this afternoon.  I got a text from a friend just before game time that I should go to “THE CITY”  (that’s what we cool people call San Francisco) and watch there – and I was diligent in explaining that I was recording the game for later so please don’t tell me the result.  I listened to Sirius in the car to avoid news and game results --- I got home and told my son Matt that I had not yet watched the game --- I told Mildred Penelope that I had not yet watched the game – but before I was going to turn on the game I had to catch up on my email.  One thing led to another – the next thing you know I was clicking on a browser and my home page came up --- and before I watched the game I already knew the PK result.  (PK is Penalty Kicks for anyone who thought that was profanity).  Some might be upset … but since the game was not very exciting (as I understand it) – technology saved 2+ hours of my life.

Consensus among experts that I trust (and verified by my own exhaustive research) – is that the fans at the World Cup are ranked like this – (in terms of beautiful women of course) –
1.        Tie – Argentina and Colombia   
a.       (Note – Argentina wins since they are still there)
2.       Brazil
3.       Belgium 
a.       (Note – I was surprised too … but you cannot argue with facts)
4.       United States

The two most important inventions of our time are (in no specific order) –
·         Water
·         The Big Green Egg
I don’t need to bore you with the details on those because I am sure that every living being on earth relies on both of those every single day. 
My new goal in life is to invent the third most important contribution to our time.  I was thinking that it should be an invention that makes sure your newspaper does not get wet from rain or lawn sprinklers in the morning … but we have a drought in California and I don’t want the local Water Board to think I have my lawn sprinklers on in the morning (Just a heavy dew neighbors … nothing to rat me out about)… So I am now focusing on a dishwasher where the racks, slots, etc. … actually fit the dishes-glasses-utensils that you use on a daily basis.  Moreover – I am going to invent something where you just load the dirty dishes and glasses into the dishwasher like you do garbage in the garbage can and then close it … turn on the switch … and everything is clean and not broken.  I’ll let you know how my prototypes go on that.


I am still slated to play at Pebble Beach on Sunday – Chris gave me the tee time for my birthday.  New update is Stephen can’t go so it will be Chris, Matt, and Me … and Wondo-Friend Lukas.  I went out to the range yesterday after watching 2 hours of You Tube Golf Instructions the night before and I have proven empirically that watching 2 hours of You Tube Golf Instructions does not improve your golf game.  Rather than watch another 2 hours of You Tube Golf Instructions tonight I am going to Dick’s Sporting Goods and buying 60 new golf balls – fully expecting to come back with maybe 1 after Sunday’s round. 

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Best (or Worst) Birthday Gift

I believe that every single one of my friends - without qualification - would love to play golf at Pebble Beach.  Unfortunately for me ... my son Chris is not taking my friends to play golf at Pebble Beach this weekend - he is taking me.  My wonderful birthday gift from Chris is to play Pebble Beach (I am not nearly good enough at golf to simply call it "Pebble") with a foursome consisting of my three boys (Chris, Steve, Matt ... and me). 

There are countless things in this world that I really suck at (and that doesn't even begin to count my wife's list of things I am really bad at) ... but golf does enjoy a single-digit standing in what I am worst at.  Of course my boys are good, they play frequently (those who saw the video of Chris with the USMNT at Sawgrass are going to have to take my word for that) - about once or twice per year they take me to play with them in their unending effort to humiliate me more than I have humiliated them in their lives.  Looking back - I wish I humiliated them less when they were younger. 

So this weekend I am going to be "that guy" at Pebble Beach who every single golfer there tells stories about for years and years.  But I have two things going for me - (1) I wont keep score I will simply bring 62 golf balls and never go after one of my shots - and (2) my sons will devolve into a cut-throat competition by the second shot and they will ignore me.  With 18 tee shots I suspect I will be ok on 4 and maybe even semi-good on 2 - other than that I am going to disappear into the landscape. 

Sunday, July 6, 2014

A Warm and Fun Weekend

Today my twin sister celebrated her 56th birthday … I have known her for all of her 56 years as I was a member of the human race 11 minutes before her 56 years ago on July 6th.  I’m pretty amazed that I am 56 years old – mainly because it is really freaking old.  If you had asked me when I was 23 if I was ever going to be 56 I would have probably said – oh god no.  If you had asked me when I was 53 I would have probably said – I sure hope so.  I guess I would have hoped that after 56 years on this earth that a little bit of wisdom might have trickled down to me … but no luck there.  I can only share a few shallow and probably stupid thoughts.

My wife and I have traditionally had very close friends over for July 4th weekend where we just take it really easy and have a great time … this year was no exception (on the great time).  One of the curses of raising children and having them not sue you in court is that they tend to come over for food, drink, and pool on  hot summer days.  This past weekend was hot in Danville, California and there was food and drink so there were children visiting us to make us feel like we are connected with them.  I love my kids and I love my friends’ kids – but when I say they are over for food and drink you can multiply that by 10x in your own mind.  A Saturday night of 8 people turned into a Saturday night of 35 people – but honestly a fantastic and wonderful Saturday night (except for our neighbors – sorry about that neighbors). 
But – in my continuing effort to make people stop reading this blog … here are my top five observations of planet earth after surviving 56 years as an inhabitant:

-          Your family is your family – don’t ever try to change that just try to deal with it (or if you are lucky then try to enjoy it). 
-          Your friends are priceless
-          I cannot explain it but I really like P!nk – I even think she is gorgeous – don’t argue with me … I’m just saying we all have a strange side to each of us
-          A weekend without a trip to either the Hardware Store or the Lumber Yard is a vacant, wasted weekend
-          When you are grilling sausages always use the 3 to 1 rule ---- Mildred Penelope will usually eat 2 of every 3 you take off the grill

That’s it – I hope you had a great July 4th weekend. 

World Cup Semi-Finals ... some MLS ... and Golf

Some familiar teams passed into the Semi-Finals this weekend – Germany, Brazil, Argentina, and Netherlands are all probably pretty common picks for fans across the world.  I would guess that the Dutch Coach is feeling pretty happy today – not just for the win but also for his last second substitute of a goalkeeper specifically for the penalty shoot out --- in which the sub saved two shots and Orange jerseys and hats will continue to dot Brazilian cities for another few days at least.

Major League Soccer has kicked back up with games each day for the past few days.   Our San Jose Earthquakes are looking to get some familiar faces into their roster as the World Cup and injuries have caused some problems.  But – one thing I have learned about MLS over the past 10+ years of being a very close observer is that if a team can win three games in a row they will typically dramatically change their position in the standings.  Of course getting the first win is a prerequisite to the three game winning streak so we will be at SJ-D.C. United game this Friday night hoping to witness that first game in the winning streak.

The three Wondo boys – Chris, Steve, Matt – all suffer from the same addiction to golf.  They play together frequently (which makes a father happy) but if brushing your teeth had a scoreboard these guys would compete in tooth brushing --- they are scary competitive.  I always know who wins when they play because the winner will always either phone me or swing by the house to make sure they taunt their brothers. 
I like golf but I don’t play much.  Life has taught me many different ways to humiliate myself in front of friends and strangers and in that regard golf becomes redundant to me. 

Looking forward to the semi-finals this week … 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

World Cup - View From Home

The Fourth of July at Casa de Juando will include St. Louis Style Ribs on the Big Green Egg for 6 hours – Beer Can Chicken on the Weber --- probably a Cerveja or two (or definitely a Cerveja or dois) --- and family and friends … and a couple of amazing World Cup Games.  Think about it from a geographic standpoint not just from a four great teams standpoint … Germany-France and Colombia-Brazil.  After two weeks in Brazil … my heart is definitely rooting for the Brazilians.

I started with sports when I could walk … every sport – I was one of the three guys on planet earth who was watching competitive Miniature Golf on ESPN in 1980 when ESPN first aired.  I fell in love with all sports but madly in love with soccer at age 7.  Each year since then (and there have been dozens and dozens … and well … even more dozens of those years that have passed) – I cannot extricate myself from soccer.  This same guy who lives and breathes the San Francisco Giants … this same guy who bleeds Oakland Raider Silver and Black (I really do Chris, Steve, and Matt – just hard to not be cynical these past several years)… has never been able to look away from the sometimes-train wreck that is soccer.  Of all sports – soccer can be the cruelest.  Since I was 16 years old I have coached at least one soccer team each and every year.  I have always found it to be a tough teacher that sometimes is a perfect meritocracy. 

The USA had a chance to win the most improbable – absolute cruelest victory against Belgium in the closing moments … and it did not happen.  I know my son will replay that opportunity in his head forever and ever and ever and never lose the vision of what happened and what could have happened.  AND I THINK THAT IS GREAT!  --- because I think that may validate all of the passion, money, time, effort, and attention I have ever paid to sports.  Because if you are willing to completely own your input into a competitive game – then you implicitly own the result --- you only have control over your input and you have no control over the result.  When you are completely happy with your input you accept the result.  If any game came down to one specific touch – you would not have to play all 90 minutes and then the sport would be perfect for television – it would simply be an ESPN Top Ten highlight to watch.  If I was a dad (well actually I am) - the most important lesson I would want to teach my children is to own the input - that way you own the results (even if you don't like them) - and then if you don't like the results ... figure out how to adjust the input going forward. 

That leads me to my favorite thing about soccer … I learned when I was very young that the etiquette of soccer is to “Accept the result”.  That means that when the game is over whatever the score is – is what it is – you cannot change it.  You shake hands and realize that you had 90 minutes (or more) to influence the outcome and the outcome is the outcome.  Those who know me certainly know that during the 90 minutes I can be the most impossible coach to be next to on the sideline (I am working on it people) –but after the final whistle … you accept the results and shake hands and figure out how to be better next time. 

I have loved soccer since I was 7 at St. Michaels School in Livermore, California when Father O’Farrell came to the parish and taught the second grade soccer in our Physical Education Class (I think we were kicking a basketball at the time).  In my wildest dreams I never imagined the two week adventure in Brazil that not only was I able to take – but I was able to spend it with my son Stephen.  Having met the fans from all over the world in person – I love soccer even more than I did before.  This coming season I vow to be a little less obnoxious to the referees … a lot more reflective about the lessons being taught on an even playing field that is almost a perfect meritocracy … and smile a lot more about the potential that someone on the field I am watching may someday be able to have the experience that my oldest son did (or even if not that --- the experience that I did --- which was freaking awesome). 
For those who have read this blog - thanks!  It started out as a way to keep in touch with family and friends while I was in Brazil.  If you are a masochist - you may want to keep checking it out from time to time because it will be like 1000 monkeys with 1000 typewriters --- most of it will be useless but someday we might bang out Shakespeare.