The Heart And Soul Of Heart And Soul – Iniesta’s Farewell Comments To Xavi At His Retirement

Longtime readers will note that the male players who most interest me in the pro game are Iniesta and Xavi at Barcelona. So when the club held a ceremony to mark Xavi’s decision to leave the club, and Andrés Iniesta stepped up to the podium, I took notice.

Iniesta is no orator. He does not possess skills in public speaking. But, the words he said to his teammate and friend were so spot-on, I felt moved to tears. Note that there is not one mention of any game, any play, any moment on the field. Iniesta’s heartfelt words center on what Xavi has done as a leader in the clubhouse. And in that spirit I am repeating them here with my loose translation:

“The occasion is such that I prepared a few remarks, said Iniesta in the Auditorium 1899. The heart of Barcelona CF was gathering to say farewell to Xavi Hernández, who couldn’t repress tears before the emotional comments of his colleague. Here are the verbatim comments the Manchego (region where Iniesta hails from) dedicated to him in his farewell:

“Captain, companion, friend, “machine” (He was nicknamed ‘La Máquina’ [the machine]

Xavi was 11 when he arrived,

Xavi was 11 when he arrived,

because of his perpetual motion and metronomic precision passing.  — Ed.) . . . it’s up to me to speak in the name of everyone who has had the luxury of sharing a locker room with you.

Who would’ve said this day would ever arrive, you who has always been here, 17 seasons in Continue reading

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Preserve the Park or Let Kids Play: Pick One

Here in San Francisco we just voted (again) on whether to convert one of our grass field complexes to turf. There were two measures, Proposition I and H, one in favor of going ahead (I) and one trying to prevent it (H). The pro-conversion side prevailed.

The policy argument for artificial turf reduces to supply and demand. Grass fields have to rest and are unplayable in heavy rain and turf is playable all the time. The economy is clear: more turf, more hours, more people play, more fun. The unspoken and incorrect assumption is that the two surfaces are of equal quality. They are not. Turf is a poor second to playing on grass (but clearly better to a poorer third – fields closed due to rain). Even now, professional clubs avoid playing on it except in the US. Women players across the world are suing to prevent their 2015 World Cup from using turf fields – because it is an inferior playing experience and athletes experience more pain, soreness, and skin damage on it.

I wonder why voters are not more concerned about athletic field quality. Look at the opposition people have to sweetened foods and corn syrup. GMOs. Iceberg lettuce. We voted on soda taxes and the majority here were in favor. I would think that by the same standards, worried parents would carefully weigh the benefits of Kentucky bluegrass vs

Falling is more pleasant on grass

Falling is more pleasant on grass

Zoysia in a series of painstaking Parent-Groundskeeper meetings (7pm in the auditorium, coffee, wheatgrass, light snacks). Why the concern with what kids eat and drink, but not what they play on?

  • Organic food costs a dollar more. Grass field cost calculations go into the millions.
  • Parents eat the same food, they usually do not play on the field
  • Adults and kids watch pro and college athletes play on turf and it gains credibility

An event that took place shortly before the recent San Francisco election highlighted the issue. A group of adults went to Park & Rec and obtained a permit to play, paying the

Tech Bros have a permit

Tech Bros have a permit

required fee. When they arrived they found a game in progress and there was a brief dispute before the guys on the field agreed to get off. But when it hit the paper it turned into “tech bros” against local Mission kids and controversy ensued. The matter got spun into “if we only had more fields, and turf fields, there’d be fewer disputes over space.” Some commenters were appalled that fields were ever rented. But the fees from rentals help pay for the field, and SFRPD policy states that some fields are available for open play. (Depending on your definition of “some” because at times these are rented too.) To me this is nothing compared to SFRPD renting out all of Golden Gate Park for concerts like Mostly Strictly Bluegrass and KFOG’s Outside Lands, or foot races like the Bay to Breakers. No one seems to think twice about losing the whole park for three days. But the principle is the same: the public park is for all people, unless the City decides to take money for a specific group to use it.

The SF Chronicle had this to say about the skirmish: “For many San Franciscans, the viral video showing a group of Dropbox employees trying to kick kids off a Mission District playground struck a chord because it’s a stark depiction of how little seems safe from the tech money pouring into the city — not housing, not retail space, not bus stops, not even neighborhood soccer fields.

“But for the people who play soccer in San Francisco, the surprising thing was that the conflict was so civil and understated. Marcelo Rodriguez, a longtime soccer coach who lives in Bernal Heights, said he has seen much worse behavior dozens of times at fields across the city. Part of the problem: Too many people want to use too few fields at the same time.”

“You have a great little neighborhood field now that everybody wants to play on,” Rodriguez said. “It could have been a bunch of Russian guys. It could have been a bunch of taxi drivers. It could have been anybody.”

On the ballot measures we just had:

Many hope the election’s results will settle a years-long turf war (Ed. Note: really?) between proponents of

 

A solitary protester attempts to stop construction after Prop I passes

A solitary protester attempts to stop construction after Prop I passes

 

the (measure) and a group of environmentalists and residents who have ardently opposed the project, alleging the turf in the city’s plans is toxic and that nighttime lights would disrupt bird migration.”

San Francisco’s inability to keep the decision simple made it into the New York Times:

“Here we have a project that is probably the most vetted soccer field in U.S. history,” said Phil Ginsburg, the city’s commissioner of parks and recreation. San Francisco’s planning commission, its board of permit appeals and the California Coastal Commission have all signed off on the plans. The project’s environmental impact review has been upheld in court. Mayor Ed Lee, Senator Dianne Feinstein and Representative Nancy Pelosi all support it.”

The ballots are counted and San Francisco will finally begin converting Beach Chalet fields to turf and add floodlights. The highest opposition votes were from the areas immediatelyWalk No on I results

next to the fields — the Sunset and Richmond. People may not want the extra traffic. Or it may be concerns about the “elements” who play soccer. That has happened before. The vote when you look at it does not look like people concerned for athlete’s safety, or the quality of soccer, or preserving the park. To my eyes, it is a NIMBY movement where people don’t want more soccer in their neighborhoods.

 

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Walk the Fields of Gold

“You can tell the sun in his jealous sky

When we walked in fields of gold”

Soccer, like American football and baseball, is a sport designed to be played on grass. But football and baseball expanded into professional stadia where the weather was inclement and grass could not grow. The Astrodome was one of the first covered stadia and the grass in it died. And artificial turf, re-labeled “Astroturf” was born in 1966.

Walk Athena Gray Polo

Turf’s incursion into soccer has been slower. English clubs like Luton Town tried it but ended up removing it due to concerns about injuries and unfair disadvantage to the home side.

The biggest differentiator here is that the playing surface in soccer is hugely important because that is where the ball tends to stay. In baseball, the surface doesn’t matter for pitching, catching, or hitting. It only comes into play for fielding ground balls and somewhat for running. American football is the same: usually if the ball hits the ground, the play is dead. But soccer depends on a good surface that is level and receptive to the ball. And turf still cannot match grass in this regard. On turf the ball bounces higher, rolls further, and it’s harder to get it airborne because you can’t get your foot under it like you can on grass.

I have a lifelong scrapbook of memories of grass fields. As a goalkeeper I was always diving and could hear the grass give way as I landed. In the mornings when the field was wet I could smell the grass as I landed. It would stain my clothes and the moisture got into my uniform. Sight, smell, sound, and touch.

But it wasn’t always jake. The goal area is the first spot on the field to erode because people love to shoot on goal, and the center of the goal area quickly loses grass, and the dirt can even become concave. Sometimes the crossbar is several inches higher that regulation because I’d basically be standing in a hole. Diving on packed earth is less fun, scabs and blood replace the herbal scents and green stains.

One morning I was running around a grass field at West Sunset to warm up. As I passed behind the goal, an errant shot bounced near me and came to me at head height. I raised one hand and cradled it, feeling its topspin slowly die as the dew from the ball ran through my fingers. When the ball had come to rest I tossed it back to the coach who’d kicked it. He said, “Thanks, keeper.” I realized the way I caught it showed where I played on the pitch. On a turf field this wouldn’t have happened. The bounce would have been different, and my hand would have been full of little rubber pellets.

“Cast my memory back there, Lord,

Sometime I’m overcome thinking about

Making love in the green grass artificial turf

Behind the stadium” — Van Morrison, Brown Eyed Girl

This week San Francisco voted on whether to go ahead with the planned conversion of Beach Chalet fields to artificial turf. I have made a separate post regarding the election here. I supported the measure because we already voted on it a couple of years ago and I believe those opposing are now acting in an obstructionist manner, one that goes beyond reasonable democratic process. The city officials have decided, the voters have decided, let’s go forward.

But I will miss the grass. We are replacing something that is organic and alive with something manufactured and dead. When we stand barefoot, sit, lie on it, we will not touch the planet, and soil, but instead polymers and ground-up tires. There will be no scent of chlorophyll in the air and no grass stains to wash out. It won’t be romantic or sexy to recline there – can you imagine love scenes from movies on turf?

DF-01792.JPG

I love you but these little rubber pellets are getting everywhere.

Ultimately the attraction in a grass field is like what Maya (Virginia Madsen) says about wine in the movie “Sideways”: A soccer field is alive, it changes every day, it links us  to those who played on it before us. And it feels so fucking good.

“How (wine is) a living thing. I like to think about what was going on the year the grapes were growing; how the sun was shining; if it rained. I like to think about all the people who tended and picked the grapes. And if it’s an old wine, how many of them must be dead by now. I like how wine continues to evolve, like if I opened a bottle of wine today it would taste different than if I’d opened it on any other day, because a bottle of wine is actually alive. And it’s constantly evolving and gaining complexity. That is, until it peaks, like your ’61. And then it begins its steady, inevitable decline. And it tastes so fucking good”

Other links:

http://www.sfweekly.com/thesnitch/2014/11/07/woman-arrested-while-protesting-beach-chalet-soccer-field

http://uptownalmanac.com/2014/10/bros-try-kick-kids-soccer-field

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A Place To Play

A good photo can tell the story of a life. Or maybe it takes two.

I think in the Bay Area, there are many, many people who are feeling something that we can’t shake: the loss of Robin Williams.

What people through all the country may feel, in fact the entire world as well, is the loss of a transcendental entertainer, the improvisational genius of the century, and a successful movie actor. But here locally, we mourn the death of a neighbor, a local, and somehow, illogically, one of us.

I feel him everywhere. Across from a mansion in Sea Cliff where he used to live, there are two benches. One commemorates his parents, the other is for the parents of his second wife, Marsha Garces. I like to run to China Beach and the benches are on the way. I always think he’ll be in the window of that house or something, even though he hasn’t lived there for years.

People bumped into him in nearby Laurel Village, buying groceries. My wife Anne once saw him in the famous Green Apple bookstore on Clement Street. In the Richmond, my part of town, it was like he was in the air.

Comedian Marc Maron put together the cleanest, purest look I have found into the mind of Robin Williams on his podcast WTF. Around minute 29:00, they talk about the comedy culture in San Francisco where Robin got his start: the Holy City Zoo, The Other Cafe, and Cobb’s. I didn’t see Robin at The Other, but I did see Paula Poundstone and the late Jane Dornacker once. I remember Paula did a joke about her shower curtain being so slimy, it was like Velcro against the tiles. Had I accidentally chosen another night, I would’ve seen him, pre-Mork days.

But the part of his life that sticks with me like a burr in my sock is the little-known fact that he was also a soccer player. His Wikipedia page says he “was a student at the private Detroit Country Day School. He excelled in school, where he was on the school’s soccer team and wrestling team, and became class president.”

“As Williams’s father was away much of the time, and his mother also worked, he was attended to by the family’s maid, who was his main companion. When Williams was 16, his father took early retirement and the family moved to Woodacre, California. There, Williams attended Redwood High School in nearby Larkspur where he graduated in 1969.”

Somewhere in that period, he attended a soccer camp in Stanford where I would work some years after. The link between Robin’s participation there and mine is Michael Keohane, a friend and mentor. Michael was always the guy who was a couple of years older than me and who would meet me at West Sunset on a Saturday morning to kick against the wall, or give me a ride to San Jose to watch the Earthquakes play, or any of a hundred other favors. I don’t think I’d have been a player in college or a coach today if it weren’t for Michael. He’s also been responsible for getting me to Brazil a couple of times. And he is perhaps the only living person who remembers Robin Williams played soccer here in the Bay Area:

Top row, fourth from the right: Robin Williams. Middle row, fourth from teh left: Michael Keohane. Top row, second from left: Coach Feibusch.

Middle row, last on the right: Robin Williams. Middle row, fourth from the left: Michael Keohane. Top row, second from left: Coach Feibusch.

Continue reading

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Hamburgers und Frankfurters

“I will always have the half-side of Germany in my heart, but all of us half players—and the coach, too—we will try to win this game for America. We want to get to the next round.”

Jermaine Jones battles v. Costa Rica in a WC qualifier played in Denver.

These were Jermaine Jones’ words when he was asked about facing Germany on June 26.  Jones is referring to the fact that he and four other teammates grew up in Germany with a German mother and a father from the US military. As offspring of GIs, they were guaranteed immediate US citizenship. But English is not their first language and all only joined the USMNT fairly recently. The article goes on to say that they also go through challenges to their commitment and sincerity in playing for the US: “Are these guys really Americans?

“Some of Klinsmann’s German-American players say they have seen comments on Twitter suggesting that they aren’t real Americans. To this they can only shake their heads. The same goes for U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati. ‘The thought that the sons of American citizens who are overseas because they are serving their country in the armed forces have less of a right to play for the United States than someone else is just absurd,’ he says. ‘That sort of thinking is everything America shouldn’t stand for. [These players] were American citizens the day they were born.'”

I was born in an Army hospital in Japan. My father was an American GI and my mom a Japanese national. Like most of the German-Americans on the National team, my relationship with my dad was hit and miss, with more miss than hit. Again similar to many of these players, my parents split up, but my mom and I had moved to the US when I was very little. While I have always considered myself to be an American, I have to say that there were many times when I felt less than fully accepted, and to be honest, it’s something I’ve never fully moved past. When you are the product of two cultures, on good days you can partake of either or both. But on other days you can feel like you have neither.

I thought about this connection with the National Team players after seeing this Tweet from a New York City sportswriter:

And there it was: more American than. It reminded me that there is a scale, and certain people will appoint themselves the arbiter of how American we all are, and the actual metrics will be secret but the results clear.

H&F Germans

(from L to R) Fabian Johnson, Julian Green, Jermaine Jones, and John Brooks

The World Cup is not that different from any game. There are two sides, and as a player I have teammates and I have opponents. An in-group and an out-group. Scrimmaging at practice, it’s easy to go from playing with someone to playing against them as the coach changes the sides and the rules. We automatically adjust; one moment you’re trying to make the other guy look good, and the next you’re trying to crush him into the ground. We understand that with me and against me are mutable concepts and we change behavior accordingly. But at the World Cup, the in-group is basically a mix of citizenship, birthplace, and parentage. The guys from Germany — Jermaine Jones, Fabian Johnson, John Brooks, Timmy Chandler, and Julian Green — qualify to play for us under the rules FIFA has set up. But that isn’t enough for some. As Noam Chomsky said,  “Sports plays a societal role in engendering jingoist and chauvinist attitudes. They’re designed to organize a community to be committed to their gladiators.” And so we suffer from differing definitions of where the lines of our community are drawn. Is it only those “born and raised” here, or do we expand to acknowledge our laws that grant citizenship to guys like these five?

Many of the teams in the World Cup have done the latter and expanded the player pool. An article in the Global Post, whatever that is, illustrates which teams depend more on players born outside of their country. Some nations like Spain, Brazil, and Ghana are 100% made up of native-born players. But others like Germany, France, and Switzerland have rosters much like ours, for example:

Mesut Ozil's father was born in Turkey; Sami Khedira's in Tunisia; Miroslav Klose was born in Poland.  Jerome Boateng has roots in Ghana; Shkodran Mustafi's parents are Albanians born in Macedonia; and Lukas Podolski was born in Poland.

Mesut Ozil’s father was born in Turkey; Sami Khedira’s in Tunisia; Miroslav Klose was born in Poland. Jerome Boateng has roots in Ghana; Shkodran Mustafi’s parents are Albanians born in Macedonia; and Lukas Podolski was born in Poland.

While some like Frank Isola start to pick at the hem of our National Team, what is the contribution of the players born in Germany? (If we fully applied the “no immigrant” rule, we’d lose even more guys like Diskerud, Tim Howard, and Altidore).

  • Jermaine Jones: probably our best player, assisted Dempsey’s goal v Ghana, and author of the best US goal of the tournament vs. Portugal
  • Fabian Johnson: solid presence and right back, always a threat to get forward, cracking goal v. Turkey in the run-up
  • Timmy Chandler: has not played

    H&F Brooks goal v Ghana

    John Brooks just beat Ghana with his last-gasp header

  • John Brooks: late sub v. Ghana, scores the game-winning goal
  • Julian Green: has not played SCORES VS BELGIUM WITH HIS FIRST TOUCH

These players have been involved in the key plays that put the US through to the Round of 16. Klinsmann has done an outstanding job using his knowledge of the Bundesliga to mine these five nuggets for our team. There is no question about their nationality, allegiance, or belonging. They’re as American as I am, and as American as Hamburgers and Frankfurters.

 

 

 

 

Also useful for this post:

As Jermaine Jones embraces U.S. role, critics embrace World Cup play

World Cup 2014: How John Brooks suddenly became an all-American hero with winner against Ghana

 Jermaine Jones, USA’s ‘Fighting Pig,’ Wins Over His World Cup Critics

 Jermaine Jones Decides to Switch Allegiances from Germany to USA (June 2009)

 Is Jermaine Jones misunderstood?

 

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The Unraveling

 

 

marca portada

Everyone’s asking what happened to Spain. My answer: not much. I think they are about as good as they were four years ago. Why the crash out? Primarily luck. I know you aren’t liking this and I look forward to your comments but before you do, here is a recap of some of the key turning points for La Roja in South Africa 2010. I’ll start with the group match vs. Chile.

Spain v Chile 2-1

David Villa scores the first goal, a one-touch, empty-net shot from 40 yards when the Chilean keeper comes out of his area and slams a clearance, which lands at his feet. Watch it here.

Spain v Portugal 1-0 (round of 16)

Iker spills a shot, much like Akinfeev does in 2014. It squirts through his hands and rises high in the air. He barely manages to slap the ball away. Then he fails to handle a Ronaldo free kick and allows the rebound to fall centrally, about 12 yards out — just like he did vs Chile in 2014. The difference? In 2010 the ball falls to his defenders instead of a Portugal attacker.

In the second half, Puyol almost scores an own goal, missing by a foot. Villa scores the winner but is arguably offside, see this Zapruder-quality investigation: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f0JN5YQbmkk

Spain v Paraguay 1-0 (Quarter final)
Iker saves a PK. Xabi scores a PK, it’s annulled for encroachment, he misses the follow-up. On the winning goal, Pedro (#18 shoots and hits the post; it rebounds to Villa, his shot hits the right post, left post, and goes in.

Spain v Germany 1-0 (Semi-final)

A tight match, the only goal is from a Puyol header from Xavi’s corner. It’s a play they ran at FC Barcelona.

Spain v Holland The Final 1-0 a.e.t.

Holland should probably have won but Iker saves from Robben with the bottom of his foot.

CasillasvRobben

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Iker had this to say after they crashed out this week:

 “When you don’t have luck on your side and you don’t perform well enough at a World Cup, this is what happens. This is football. Four years ago everything went our way and now it’s negative.”

There is a tremendous amount of random chance in every game: crossbars, posts, errors that don’t cost you, errors that do. Referee decisions, line calls, yellow and red cards. Spain’s players were not as sharp as they were four years ago, and their opponents all seemed more prepared to face their style of play. But to me a lot of the reason they are going home is just the luck of the draw.

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World Cup – the Best Commercials

Mark Rechtin favors this one, of Nike‘s. Or was it this one, with animation?

A quick web search locates this from Chile, featuring the miners who escaped death several months ago.

Lisa Cooke, sentimentally likes this one from McDonalds, made without famous stars:

ring that bell

I already shared this from Spain, showing how their stars don’t think they work harder

"I think it would be impossible;e to have that patience every day"

“I think it would be impossible;e to have that patience every day”

than anyone else.

I have to go for Beats by Dr Dre. Most authentic to me.

Enjoy.

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The Butcher, The Baker, the Quarterfinals maker?

On Thursday May 29th, Jurgen Klinsmann announced his 23 player roster for the World Cup and rocked the soccer world. The former is a normal duty of all national team coaches — all 32 teams must do likewise no later than Jun 3. Like a good German, Klinsi is prompt. Throughout the world, as soon as the names hit the media, pundits everywhere go to work on two pieces:

  • Who was left out and why this is a mistake
  • Who is in, and what does it mean?

Some huge names fall into the “snubbed” category, like Tévez for Argentina and Nasri for France. But Jurgen’s decision to leave Landon Donovan at home became one of the biggest stories worldwide. I think if you exclude our goalkeepers and asked people

Sponsors go for the big names, the ones who are certain to remain on the team. D'OH!

Sponsors go for the big names, the ones who are certain to remain on the team. D’OH!

around the world to name a pro from the US, they’d say Landon, Bradley, or Dempsey. Landon is a poster child for our team. He has endorsements alongside Hope Solo for Seiko watches. He scored the biggest goal in US history* most people would say.

So why is he out?

There is not one answer. Here are three. Perhaps the truth is among them.

* = I think Caligiuri’s goal to get us into Italy ’90, scored November ’89 was the biggest in our history. (click for the video) We’ve been to every WC since. But that year it hinged on his long-distance bomb on a windswept, bumpy pitch in Port-of-Spain.

One: The Butcher

“Jurgen is not a friend of compromise,” says Bernhard Peters, a German sports executive who has been close with Klinsmann for more than a decade. “He wants to do it his way.” Faithful readers of this blog, both of you, will recall previous posts on Jurgen’s personal style. He completely understands that as the coach, he will be judged on outcomes. At the same time he will be subject to an endless chorus of second-guessing. All coaches, and in fact anyone who has to make decisions for a living must go through this. Try to build consensus by listening to those involved, or put your individual stamp on matters? Continue reading

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Michael Sam

One of the things that impresses me about the Positive Coaching Alliance is their ability to take breaking events in sports news and craft a valuable message that parents and coaches can use to teach youth athletes. I haven’t seen them publish anything about Michael Sam but am sure they will.

I think this weekend’s events, when the openly gay Sam was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals, was history in the making. We know that professional sports desegregated racially with pioneers like Jackie Robinson, but I wasn’t alive to see it. But we were there yesterday when Sam got word that he had a job in the NFL, and through social media and services like YouTube we were able to see him get the news, break into tears, and finally kiss his boyfriend.

It is common knowledge that there are many lesbian athletes in sports. Billie Jean King was among the first pro tennis players. The LPGA has several out golfers. And in our national soccer team, the all-time leading goal scorer, Abby Wambach is open about her orientation, making her announcement shortly after the talented Megan Rapinoe did the same. And their coach Pia Sundhage was openly out as well. It’s different with women athletes.

But with men this process is moving much more slowly. Robbie Rogers broke the ice* in soccer but he did it as he announced his retirement, for fear that no club in England would accept him. Fortunately the LA Galaxy signed him and he’s doing OK there. At the same time, sportswriters point out repeatedly that there were no openly gay players in the “Big Four” of the NFL, baseball, basketball, or hockey. To me that’s what makes yesterday so fascinating.

Rapinoe Wambach

Women athletes can be gay and remain role models. It’s different for men.

Why is this something I write to you about? Well, statistics indicate that 3 – 10% of adults identify themselves as gay. That means on a full soccer roster of 18 players, it is possible that at least one player is gay, assuming that sports doesn’t have a lower incidence than the general population. In other words, as your kid continues to play it is likely he or she will have a gay teammate. (I have two children and one is gay, and she was an outstanding athlete through high school.) In light of this I think the Michael Sam story gives all a great chance to talk about what it would mean to have a gay teammate, how we could support him / her, and what feelings your child might have about it.

I have coached teams where I found out later that my players were gay and I was pleased to hear they were comfortable sharing the news with me. I have coached a Vikings team where I am pretty certain I had a gay player but they have not come out yet, to my knowledge. But when I coached that team I made it a special point to talk about acceptance, diversity, and the importance of keeping an atmosphere free of harassment. All teams are made up of players with flaws and shortcomings. Boys can be extremely cruel to each other, usually face to face. Girls can be even meaner, and in an indirect fashion that is harder to confront. Regardless as a coach I try to make it clear that when we bully a teammate, we weaken our team and help the opponent. We can only play our best when everyone is welcome and supported. If you want to win, you have to accept your teammates. It couldn’t be any simpler. If you and your family believe in accepting all people regardless of their sexual orientation, I invite you to have a conversation with your child and talk about what happened yesterday in the NFL. You could ask things like:

  • How would you feel if you had a gay teammate?
  • Would you make them feel welcome, and if so, how?
  • What if it were you? What if there was something different about you that you were afraid of not being accepted?

It’s historic. Here’s something I found on Twitter that I believe captures the moment:

* Rogers was the second player in England to announce he was gay but the first, Justin Fashanu, had a much tougher life and died by his own hand at 37.

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The Deuce is Loose in Manaus

The draw for our national team in the 2014 World Cup came out last Friday, and people are saying it will be harder to get out of Group G than the Red Wedding.

JUNE 16: United States vs. Ghana in Natal.
JUNE 16: Germany vs. Portugal in Salvador
JUNE 21: Germany vs. Ghana in Fortaleza.
JUNE 22: United States vs. Portugal in Manaus.
JUNE 26: Portugal vs. Ghana in Brasilia.
JUNE 26: United States vs. Germany in Recife.

There’s a lot of fear and awe about the difficulty of the draw, reasonable because Germany is a clear top four team in the world, Portugal has the  best player in the world at the moment, and Ghana is a team that has eliminated us from the cup by beating us twice in a row. But there are a lot of ways to look at this, and when a situation allows multiple interpretations, the competitor must choose the one that gives the best chance of prevailing. Here are a few thoughts to counter the “stinkin’ thinkin'” making the rounds:

We have the most travel of any team, almost 9,000 miles.
This is apparently calculated by taking the distance from our headquarters in São Paulo to each game site. While not convenient I don’t see how the flights are a huge factor. We can Continue reading

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