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.