Friday, September 25, 2015

Wondo Boys Fantasy Football ... and random sports stuff

Wondo Family and Friends NFL Fantasy Football Update

     We are two weeks into the 2015 Wondo Family and Friends Fantasy Football League and there is already a lot of action.  First of all – we added two new Wondo Friends as expansion teams (welcome Mike and Droid) – second of all (just to catch everyone up) The Fighting Basset Hounds are the reigning league champions.
     So far … very early into this season … it has been another opportunity for a father to be proud.  Both Chris (Wear that Green Lacy Thing) and Steve (L.A. Brown-Rice) have won their first two games.  And Matt (Discount Double Check) was edged out in his second game but is still 1-1.  The Fighting Basset Hounds have shown tremendous resiliency in dealing with setback after setback (Dez Bryant injury, Deflategate… Jeremy Hill forgetting how to hold a football) and while their record does not reflect their character --- their character is in first place.
Quakes Playoffs

     It is great to be pressing for a playoff spot in the closing weeks of the season.  I have long said that the way MLS is --- if you can put 3 wins together then you change everything as far as your place in the standings.  This would be the point in the season when putting 3 wins together would be a pretty good move.
     Avaya Stadium is so great – it would be absolutely wonderful to have a playoff game at Avaya in its inaugural year.  I also think it might be so loud that the passengers on the jets landing at SJC would be complaining when they get off the plane.

Random (mostly sports) Thoughts

MLS MVP:  Kei Kamara … no doubt in my mind – great kid, great attitude, and amazing ability. 

MLS Rookie of the Year … most think it has to be Cyle Larin – and it is hard to argue against that --- unless you have seen Fatai Alashe game after game – and in person.  If I could pick any rookie to be on my team (and I love goals) – it would be Fatai.


-          Going to Raider Home opener with by three boys and hooking up with the Moody major-tailgate.  Game was tough – but anytime a guy can be with his three boys???? And talking about the same topic in the same way??? – pretty cool.  And the Raiders have a 1 game winning streak which I like to call - RETURN TO EXCELLENCE. 

-          Seeing my son on the coaching staff bench during a Division I College Game.  That made me smile – what a great accomplishment.

-          Seeing all of my sons start out their fantasy NFL Football year well.  God knows I didn’t have that experience to savor last year … it gives me hope for the next generation.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Soccer Dad's Thoughts - as the Summer Begins

     I have spent the majority of my life as a soccer dad.  I try not to think of my age too much – but the simple math is that for more than half of my life I have been a soccer dad.  We “Soccer Dads” don’t get to be called a political voting group like “Soccer Moms” … but if you hang with it long enough – you may get to go through what I have gone through lately.

     With three boys and coaching each since they were 6 years old (fortunately for them abdicating that role once they reached 14 years old) – I drove my share of minivans and SUV’s to tournaments hundreds of miles away --- and then cleaned out the cars late on Sunday evenings when we finally got home. 

     Now compare that to now when I get to travel with the US Team families in Brazil, I get to sit at Avaya Stadium – 40 minutes from my house – and watch my oldest play.  I get to watch my son, Stephen coach the Earthquakes Academy teams, and so much more.  My soccer dad life today is something I could have never imagined and something that I will be forever eternally grateful.

     But I don’t mind thinking back to Sunday evenings when I was cleaning out the car and fishing French Fries out from underneath the seats so that I could drive my commute down to work on Monday morning in a car that was not a rolling junk yard after a weekend tournament that included 400 miles and an overnight in a charming motel in Fresno.  

    Today – I was thinking about my life as a soccer dad.  A role that has lasted longer than most roles I have ever played in my life.  And last night I watched my oldest son score his 10th goal for the United States Team in International Competition.  Most people would say it was not the most brilliant of goals – but most people would not be talking about their son scoring his 10th goal for the United States Team in International Competition.

     Chris’ first goal in soccer probably happened about 3 minutes into an Under-8 game when I had him playing Under-8 at barely 6 years old.  But for reasons that only I will ever understand – this 10th goal for the United States Team in International Competition is my favorite. 

     But the point to this blog (if it had a point at all) … is that last night as I went to sleep I started thinking about those Sunday nights of pulling all of the stuff out of the car after a weekend tournament – and realizing now what I should have realized then --- the wise soccer dads embrace those times because they will be some of the best memories they will ever have.  More than the goals and more than the wins … the crazy routine family moment matter – to everyone involved.

     And … because my son Matt always tells me that (a) he does not read what I write and (b) he is never mentioned.  He was our star goalkeeper for the Mustang White Buffaloes when we won State Cup 14 years ago.  Shutout 2-0.  Chris and I were the coaches and we rode Matt to the championship --- well, like a Buffalo. 

Monday, June 15, 2015

Warriors or Quakes - and Why Being a Father Makes That an Easy Choice

The Wondo household (at least the male contingent) has always been (a) interested in all sports all the time and (b) ardent supporters of the local teams.  With that thought … I offer the current dilemma of the Warriors playing tomorrow night in a game where we hope they win their first NBA Championship in 40 years – versus the Earthquakes Open Cup Game.  For me, there is no dilemma.  I saw the Warriors beat the Bullets in a clean sweep when I was in grade school.  In fact, I saw their coach get in a fight on the court during one of the games … so I’ve seen it all.  But I have not seen the Earthquakes play Sacramento in the Open Cup in my entire life – so I will be in my usual seat watching my favorite team. 

     Of course, finding someone around the Wondo household who will go with me to the Earthquakes game has become about as difficult as winning a header against Clarence Goodson.  It looks like I am flying solo but hopefully will hook up with The Best Thing to Ever Happen to Chris and The Little Diva and we can sit together.

     It makes me think about being a dad (it is Father’s Day coming up for anyone who hasn’t rushed out and purchased a bbq utensil for their dad yet).  Nobody ever really told you the truth about being a dad … for some reason there is this perpetual cycle of dads who spread this one-sided story that being a dad is just absolutely rainbows and butterflies.  I think it would be unfair for me to say that I have not seen my share of rainbows and butterflies – from each of my three sons and two step-daughters.  But I have given up a piece of my sports heritage in the process.

     One time, a few years ago I was at a Quakes game where Chris ended up scoring a hat-trick against Chivas USA.  It was great – except … the Giants were playing a playoff game that same night and I spent the night shifting between the Quakes game and the Giants playoff game.  Only to jump up and down when I checked and the Giants won and those sitting next to me said:  “Dude – that was on the scoreboard five minutes ago”.  I just said:  “Oh, thanks, I guess I was too wrapped up in this soccer game.”

     Last year, Chris looked at me in pre-game warmups to give him a sign on how the Giants were doing --- unfortunately I gave him a thumbs down (because we just popped up with two outs and runners in scoring position in the 8th inning).  He took that to mean that we lost – the G-men ended up winning.  I failed as the messenger. 

     Fortunately – with the Giants and A’s successes … and now the Dubs successes … there have been many times that I have been at a Quakes game and been somewhat distracted by post-season games for our other teams. 

     My point to all of this babble?  … no point really – except that I would love to watch the Dubs tomorrow night … but nowhere near as much as I will love watching the Quakes tomorrow night.  It’s great when it looks like fatherly-sacrifice … but it is nothing even remotely like sacrifice.  And last Father’s Day??? Oh … I was sacrificing in Natal, Brazil with my two oldest sons ready to watch the USA play Ghana the next night … so that perpetual cycle of dads who spread this story about being a dad is absolutely rainbows and butterflies – I’m now one of them. (And – I need to mention my youngest son Matt because he always tells me that (a) he never reads what I write and (b) I never mention him).  And being his dad has also been rainbows and butterflies.  

Monday, May 25, 2015

100 Goals ... Wow

     Chris Wondolowski scored his 100th goal in Major League Soccer yesterday and it made his father tremendously proud.  The thing about a Penalty Kick, when your son is taking the Penalty Kick, is that there is a short process … but a long enough process to make a dad completely nervous and crazy.  When Jordan Stewart earned the penalty, I promised myself that I would not jump out of my seat and thrust both arms into the air if Chris scored (basically I promised myself that I would not make a fool of myself).  That promise went into the category labeled unfulfilled unfortunately (sorry people who have to sit next to me).    

     I wish we won the game, but it ended up being about the most enjoyable evening after a home game tie that I have ever had.  Mrs. Wondo got a cake and Chris brought A Pequena Chefona and the Best Thing to Ever Happen to Him (his wife Lindsey) – along with his mother in law and David Bingham for a low-key celebration.  Even though it was low-key it was pretty fun for this blog writer. 

     In sports, numbers of specific outcomes become milestones for careers.  In baseball, 500 home runs or 3000 hits become significant milestones.  In football, 100 touchdowns or 10,000 yards gained become milestones.  In Major League Soccer, at least for goal production, 100 goals is a significant milestone.  As a father who also happens to be a lifelong soccer fan, to see my son’s name in the record books next to Edson Buddle, Taylor Twellman, and Dwayne DeRosario is honestly something that is hard for me to comprehend.  To see him do this for the team that I used to drive him and his brothers to watch when they were young – is beyond comprehension for me. 

     So yesterday I watched my oldest son reach a professional sports milestone that ended up being much more emotional for me than I would have ever imagined.  Maybe spending a few years traveling the country to watch him sit on the bench, warm up, and usually not go into the game ended up making his eventual success a sweeter accomplishment than it otherwise should have been to me.  After all, I was the guy who told Chris when he made the Earthquakes roster his rookie season that he could be Taylor Twellman (it is amazing how skewed a man’s opinion can get when the subject is the capability of his offspring).  To see him reach this milestone with Dominic Kinnear as his coach was really special ... to have Mark Watson in attendance on the opposite bench is bittersweet - but great.  I imagine Frank Yallop might have been watching ... and I hope those three coaches took as much pride as I did in the moment ... they did the navigation, I only did the spectating.  

     The 100 goal milestone for me, and I suspect for Chris, really is a measurement of his longevity in the league.  That is relevant because the most important thing to any professional athlete is to be respected by his teammates and trusted by his coaches.  When you get to hang around a league for enough years to score 100 goals, I believe that is an indicator of a player’s success in achieving that most important thing.  The fact that 96 of those goals have been scored for the Earthquakes is hopefully an indicator that he has earned the respect of his teammates, the trust of his coaches, the endorsement of the team’s management, and the support of the fan base who sacrifice their time and money to support the team.  No man could ask for more than that – as a player or as a father.

     I don’t know what is next, but I will be there watching the future unfold.  There is the next goal that ties him with the best pure forward ever to play in MLS (Taylor Twellman).  Or, coincidentally his 100th goal with the Earthquakes that would tie him with his former teammate, mentor, and friend Dwayne DeRosario.  

    I will finish with some inside family information.  Lindsey keeps Chris down to earth and I think Chris is a pretty humble guy to begin with … together they are a delightfully humble couple.  But I believe that skips a generation.  A Pequena Chefona has seemed to grow quite comfortable with the spotlight (my wife and I simply call her Diva now).  If you ever see The Diva on television or at the stadium with Chris holding her … just know that 50% of that is because she is madly in love with her daddy and 50% of that is because she is madly in love with the spotlight. I am hoping that The Diva's enjoyment of the spotlight will be good positive motivation for continued success.  

Sunday, May 17, 2015

99 Goals - Purely from a Father's Perspective

From a father’s standpoint, 99 goals in a professional soccer career creates three issues in your mind that are really hard to get your head around.  First, the fact that your son has played soccer for a living long enough to score that many goals.  That was my dream for me, and just about any boy’s dream for himself, and now a dream come true for Chris.  Truly a blessed career.  Second is the fact that the 100 goal milestone is now 1 minute, 1 game, 1000 minutes, 20 games, or even a season away.  In fact, it could never happen – this same guy who is now a Top Ten MLS Goal Scorer of All Time – netted only 2 in his first four seasons that included 8 starts and more than 600 minutes of playing time. 

     But, as the best pure-forward that every played in Major League Soccer (Taylor Twellman) says from time-to-time … ‘right place, right time’.  It would appear that there actually is something to ‘being in the right place at the right time’ and doing it 99 times is probably more than a collection of lucky moments. 

     I should point out that 99 goals do not happen by one person being in the right place at the right time … you need a coaching staff and 27 other guys on the team to make that particular place and time a goal-scoring opportunity.

     Following my son for 11 seasons has been a magical experience.  When I think about the fact that he started by signing a contract that paid him less than $1000 per month, there is something to be said for following your passion and pursuing your dream.

     This has surpassed the wildest father’s dream that could have ever been dreamt.  I saw two of my sons playing together with the Houston Dynamo (of course that was early Sunday mornings in Reserve Games … but pretty cool nonetheless).  I have been able to see him play in person in just about every MLS City over the past 11 years.  I went from (pre-soccer) not liking Houston to absolutely loving the city and the people (that alone was something that I would have never predicted).  My favorite moment is a night in Charleston when a goal in stoppage time tied the game for the Houston Dynamo against the Charleston Battery in an Open Cup Game.  That goal was scored by my son Stephen and his brother Chris was the first to jump on top of him in celebration.  That’s a pretty cool dad experience. 

     When Chris was drafted by the Earthquakes ... he found out when he was walking on campus at college in between classes.  He found out from a long-time friend who had also been drafted by the Earthquakes.  He drove home from college, began to try-out, ended up getting a roster spot, and started his career.  Only to have his world change significantly when in December after his first season in San Jose he was told that he could move to Houston if he wanted to – and try to gain a roster spot the next season in Houston.  So he did … but … without the best thing that ever happened to him – his future wife Lindsey stayed in California to get additional education and teaching credentials.

     Fortunately for Chris, Lindsey eventually followed him to Houston and they got married.  They bought a nice home near Houston and were establishing a life together.  Chris’ brother Stephen was signed by the Houston Dynamo and the boys were able to have what is probably a brothers’ dream of playing professionally together.  And then … Chris was traded to San Jose.  They had the house in Houston – Lindsey had her career there – and now it was back to California. 

     NOBODY on planet earth would have ever written the next chapter in the young Wondo Family’s lives.  Chris thrived – Lindsey moved back to California – and eventually they were able to settle into their own home in the East Bay and create Emersyn.  (Add to that – Stephen now coaches for the San Jose Earthquakes Academy … and things have worked out pretty well). 

     So … this dad that used to fly to Houston to watch Chris play in Sunday Morning Reserve Games – now gets to sit at the most beautiful soccer stadium I have ever seen – with my granddaughter on my lap – and watch Chris score his 99th goal right in front of us. 

     Obviously I hope he gets to 100 soon … but what a fool I would be to not simply relish 99 goals and what those have meant in the twists and turns in his life.  And how great it has been to have a pretty good seat to all of it.