When Love and Loyalty Intersect
At the risk of getting too dramatic, the announcement yesterday about Chris’ new contract with the Earthquakes is a fantastic testament to love, loyalty, and doing business the way it should be done (in my opinion). The arc(s) of Chris’ career are, in many ways, amazingly symmetrically balanced and, in all ways, improbably contrived story book plots.
On Love – Chris was an Earthquakes fan long before he became an Earthquakes player. Playing for the Earthquakes affords him the opportunity of playing in front of friends and family – and in addition he has shown that his definition of “friends and family” extend to everyone who steps into the beautiful Avaya Stadium (especially those who sing for the entire game). Being with the Earthquakes allows his little Emersyn to waddle-run out at the end of the game and jump into his arms while his wonderful wife and youngest daughter watch (Lindsey doesn’t waddle-run she sprints and Brynlee doesn’t waddle, run, sprint, walk, crawl, or do much at games other than bundle up). But the first thought I had when I knew the new contract was a done-deal was that in a couple of years Emersyn and Brynlee will both be sprinting out on the field trying to beat each other to their dad’s arms. That is cool for a Grand-dude and cool for all family and friends.
On Loyalty – One of the things about Chris that I am most proud is that he has approached professional soccer with the mindset that he will do as well as he possibly can, put the team first, passionately support the team and the community … and the loyalty will be reciprocal. I realize that is more of an ideal than a realistic strategy in today’s world – but with the Quakes Ownership and the Quakes Management … it has been the best strategy. The Quakes Management and Ownership has been as fair to Chris as any player could wish for or expect. And, as dad, I have to mention how proud I was yesterday when the Quakes did the announcement about the new contract and Chris found out that he had made the USMNT roster for the Copa next month … after all that he simply got in his car and drove up to San Francisco to make two appearances for Street Soccer USA in San Francisco. (more about Street Soccer USA in a bit).
On Business – I would like to believe that you get paid/rewarded for the value you create for an organization. You don’t live more than a half-century without realizing that this belief is not consistently fulfilled in the real world. But I still cling to the belief that good business is win-win and appreciation of the value that each side is able to offer (and has offered). In my view Chris’ business dealings in his professional soccer life have always reinforced my idealistic belief. Maybe an agent could have crafted “better deals” … but I don’t think so.
On Career Arcs – the unlikely chance that Chris ever got to break into the MLS was given to him by John Doyle (then Assistant Coach for San Jose) and Dominic Kinnear (then Head Coach for San Jose). Somehow, improbably, they offered Chris a professional contract as a rookie. Then – more than 10 years later – after relocation for Dominic, Chris, Quakes to Houston – and after the return of Dominic, Chris, Quakes, John Doyle to San Jose – Chris is fulfilling a professional dream and his father is living a soccer-loving-father’s fantasy.
(WARNING – A LITTLE BIT OF ADVERTISING HERE)
Finally – on Street Soccer USA. (www.streetsoccerusa.org). About 8 years ago Mrs. Wondo read an article in the San Francisco Chronicle (sorry Elliott but it was not in the Merc) about this organization that was using soccer as an outreach to homeless. This group had a remarkable success rate and an amazing force of two brothers driving the organization. I reached out to the reporter who wrote the story who put me in touch with Rob Cann (brother of Lawrence Cann – the other amazing brother). We connected Chris and SSUSA and the partnership has been great. There were years where Chris and Lindsey donated $100 for each goal he scored and Soccer Silicon Valley matched the contributions (along with other fans). And each year Chris will find his way up to San Francisco a few evenings and meet with the soon-to-be-not-homeless-people in the SSUSA program and play with them at their Street Soccer Training. SSUSA believes “sports can be a primary tool in building safe, healthy communities, where everyone has a place to call home”. I think we can all agree that there is not one cure-all for homeless and anything that works is a thing that should be treasured and nurtured. SSUSA works.
I can tell you from personal experience that three years ago at the SSUSA Cup in San Francisco Mrs. Wondo put together a corporate team from her company and yours truly put together a corporate team from his company. We both played in the SSUSA Corporate Cup and had tremendous fun. But we also enjoyed watching the SSUSA players who were just inspirational – the entire organization is honestly – the most inspirational team that I have ever seen.
Please consider visiting www.streetsoccerusa.org and put together your own team to compete at their Cup in Union Square on July 16th and July 17th. If you can come by on Sunday July 17th – the Earthquakes are teaming with Chris to put together a celebrity Street Soccer Game at 2pm in Union Square. Even if you go to watch – I promise you will leave with a smile on your face and happy you went. But go to play and watch – and maybe your team will win the championship of their bracket (like my team did by beating Mrs. Wondo’s team in the final).