Friday, May 28, 2010

You don't give up playing football because you get old. You get old because you give up playing football.

With the World Cup just weeks away, all the pundits are polishing off their best soccer quotes. For example: “Some people believe football is a matter of life and death. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that,” (said by Bill Shankley, a Scottish football manager). Or another favourite: “You don’t give up playing football because you get old. You get old because you give up playing football,” (said by Sir Stanley Matthews, a winger). Because I spend so much time playing soccer, to the detriment of my career, my family, my knees, and perhaps my future ability to walk unassisted—I am always looking to these soccer quotes and trying to find one and use it as a metaphor for my life. It makes me seem less like a golden retriever who just likes to play fetch with a soccer ball, and more like a philosophical footballer.

The above quote about getting old has been especially important for me lately. On Monday night I played 7 on 7 with some very young quick players, and twice towards the beginning of the game, a fellow on my team passed the ball forward for me to run onto it, but about 50 yards too far forward. Both times I ran, but there was no way I was going to catch it. The second time, I just turned and looked at him and laughed. “Think slower,” I instructed.

Way slower,” said Mike, on the other team. We all chuckled. But inside, I began to picture myself like that grandma from the Sylvester and Tweety cartoons. And then I realized that referencing Sylvester and Tweety cartoons makes me seem even older. Dang. Aging sucks.

I may not even be the slowest or worst player out there. Some nights, Tom and I will stand on the sidelines together and when we choose pinneys to see which team we will go on, we are careful not to choose the same color. “We don’t want to saddle any one team with the both of us,” is how Tom put it, I believe. But at least we know we’re bad. There’s this other fellow who is always all kitted out in a FIFA jersey who is really terrible—he plays left wing. I’ve seen kids do better crosses from the corner than he can. He shoots like he is wearing slippers instead of cleats. And when he misses (notice the ‘when’ not the ‘if’) he crouches down and covers his head with his elbows as though perhaps a bomb might go off, or he drops to his knees dramatically, looking up at the sky in a kind of a ‘why me?’ pose. (People have started to snicker.) If he gets a breakaway, no one bothers to run up the field with him because they know he can’t cross it in the middle, or that he will flub this wimpy little shot that the goalie will stop handily.

All this is fine—not everyone can be great—except that this fellow thinks he is really good. Every time someone takes a throw-in that might be less-than-perfect in form, he groans and loudly comments about how he is going to start a throw-in clinic to try to teach everyone a thing or two. He yells at people when they screw up. When someone else on his team scores, he never congratulates them, but he loudly tallies up all the assists he thinks he has made.

So, anyway, back to the metaphor thing— when I think about creating a soccer metaphor for life, I think that maybe I don’t want one anymore. I mean, this guy’s a soccer player too, and even though soccer is ‘the beautiful game’, some guys who play it are just jerks, and I don’t want him using any cool quote or metaphor I can come up with and applying it to his life.

Besides, I might be over-thinking it a bit. I bet if I asked one of my soccer friends if he had a way of looking at soccer as a metaphor for life he would probably say this: “Yes, Cathy, I do. Would you like to hear it? Listen closely. The metaphor is this: Do not pass to that numbnuts on left wing.”


  1. futbol!

    -Man of spellcheck mystery

  2. Soccer philosophy... I like it. I can't wait for "The Yoga of Soccer".