Saturday, December 31, 2011

Far Post

This is my 100th and final blog post on Kick Soccer Mom (at least for now). Thank you to those kind and faithful souls who read, reposted, commented on and liked my blog these last two years – I truly appreciate and value the time you took out of your busy lives to read my silly stories. Who knew that something I started on a whim one day after reading a newspaper article about how there are no funny women out there would become 100 blogs long? Here’s some stuff I learned along the way:

Not all blogs get famous and turned into books. Julie and Julia was the model for me – the story of the woman named Julie who blogged about cooking all of Julia Child’s recipes and then got her blog profiled in the New York Times, got a book deal, and had her bestselling book made into a movie starring Meryl Streep. I figured I’d probably follow the same path....I mean, sure, Meryl is a little old to be playing soccer, but so am I-- and I know she likes to tackle challenging, different acting roles. Alas, it was not meant to be. But it doesn’t mean I can’t turn my blog into a book. Forcing myself to write something every week for almost two years means I’ve got loads of material written already...and then when my book gets famous and Meryl comes crying to me, wishing she had found me earlier-- I can give the movie role to some younger actress. Suck it Meryl, with your phony baloney foreign accents. I don’t need you after all.

The internets like pictures, not words. According to my stats, my blog has been looked at 16,640 times since I created it, and if I had to break that down, I’d say that roughly 40 of those times someone was reading it, 600 times someone was looking at a pictures of Jesus playing soccer that I illegally used last year, and 16,000 times was me looking at my blog to see if anyone else had looked at it.

Playing drop-in soccer with men is more fun than playing soccer in a women’s league. Of course I may be biased on this point, because both times after university that I played in women’s leagues, I almost immediately tore my ACLs. But regardless of that, the most joy I’ve felt playing soccer was when playing drop-in games with mostly men. I suppose it is because I would much rather play with people who are better and faster than me-- their passing is so good that it makes me look like a much better player. I’ve found most of them to be unfailingly generous teammates, and they tolerate me by treating me like that untrained pet that it’s hard to stay angry at. We have a lot of laughs. It feels like high school gym class – or maybe cutting class-- we’re all shirking our responsibilities with our jobs and kids and running around getting a little fresh air, often in the middle of the day on a weekday. Indeed, it is so much like gym, that if we ever chastise each other for being late, the response is usually “It’s okay--I brought a note from my mom.”

Physiotherapists have a lot of power. Turns out telling your physiotherapist about your blog after writing about how mean and demanding your physiotherapist is can be very, very punishing indeed. Even other patients were like “Wow, you have to do 3 sets of 50 squats? Whoa. Why?”

Time can go by really fast. When I started my blog I used to worry my dad would see it and be angry at some of the personal stuff I was making public, but now his dementia is so profound he can’t read the word ‘Vancouver’ on a Canucks poster and doesn’t know who my sister is. We were never close, and he never told me that he loved me or was proud of me, but he is still my dad- - the only dad who repeatedly showed up with a truck to help me and my friends move all those times while we were in university, and who took me to Holland after I endlessly pestered him about it when I was ten years old, the way some dads will break down and take their kids for ice cream. (Why Holland? Who knows? I think clogs were popular and windmills seemed cool at the time.) Instead of writing silly soccer blogs, I need to sit with him when I can and listen to him tell the story, once again, of how he hit two home runs in one baseball game. Each time this story is more fantastical than the last time he told it and it is hard to hear. Is this me, in 35 years, telling tall tales of soccer goals I scored? I hope my daughters will sit with me and listen patiently.

My husband is a very tolerant person. I know it’s not normal, this constant running off to play soccer at my age when and I could be advancing my career and earning more money, or I dunno, at least cleaning out our closets or something. But sometimes when we have tons to do and the kids are being psycho and the house is a mess, but the sun is shining, I will slip guiltily downstairs in my soccer gear, and look worriedly at Steve, and he always, always just smiles at me and says, “It’s okay. Go play. Have fun.” I know, ladies, that I’m playing with an unfair advantage. He is my biggest score.

Soccer is everywhere. Not only is soccer the most popular sport in the universe, it may, in fact, be the universe. Several years ago, a mathematician published an article in the prestigious journal Nature, which claims that ”the universe is small and spherical, consisting of curved dodecahedrons that together create a shape akin to a soccer ball.” That’s right people, in my very last blog post I decided to casually drop in the word ‘dodecahedrons’. I’m that good. Enough said.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Still Kicking

Instead of the usual request for money from its alumni, last week when I opened an email from UVIC, I received an invitation to a special ceremony to celebrate this year’s men’s varsity soccer team because they won a national championship. The team is called the Vikings, or Vikes, and apparently I am a special guest of Vikes Athletics for this event. It’s because I used to be a Vike myself, for the women’s varsity soccer team. I graduated from UVIC over 20 years ago, and this is the first time anyone has ever acknowledged that I used to play there. I’m totally going.

I don’t know anyone else who will be there, but I’m wondering if I’ll see any of my old teammates. I was only 17 when I played there, so along with many, many other mistakes I made back then, one foolish error I made was not to keep in touch with anyone from the team. We shared a lot of sweat together. The field and hill where we used to run sprints and take shots now has a building on it. I doubt that the same chain link fencing we had to climb over to run the stairs of the men’s stadium is still there either. (I do not miss that chain link fence; it earned me the nickname ‘Alpine Groome’ since I was so terrible at scaling it. Where the hell were all my teammates from, anyway, that they were so good at climbing tall chain link fences and dropping effortlessly to the ground on the other side? Curious. Also, couldn’t anyone have given our coach the keys so we could enter the stadium the normal way? Grrr.)

Those same girls I played with also concocted elaborate fake ID schemes to get me into the bar for our rookie player initiation, held up my 80s David Lee Roth style hair so I could throw up more efficiently, and probably paid for my taxi ride home too. We shared hotel rooms together on road trips and they taught me that if you eat fast food almost exclusively, your food per diem can also pay your bar tab later. Why can’t I remember more of their names? Many times I’ve both wished that Facebook existed back then so we could still be in touch, and simultaneously been so thankful that Facebook did not exist back then to forever document our dodgy exploits.

Many other UVIC soccer memories came flooding back too. I was known for always walking in and out of the first year residences carrying my cleats, and was once introduced by one fellow to his out of town friend thusly: “This is Cathy - she’s a soccer player. Check out the bruises on her shins. Can you believe it? They always look like that!” Once back in my room, my roommate was always bemoaning the fact that our garbage can was filled to overflowing with used, stinky, white athletic tape from getting my weak ankle taped before every practice and game. And then there was the fact that twice a week my practices were scheduled for the exact same hours the residence dining room was open for dinner, which meant my dinner was late and consisted of either air popped popcorn I made in my room, or kraft dinner made in the tiny ‘hot pot’ my friend had for boiling water for tea. (Oh carbs, we had some good times, didn’t we? I think I miss you most of all, carbs.)

I realize the acceptance of this invitation is directed at the elder, stately me. They are going to raise a banner in the gym in celebration at half time at the Vikes Basketball game at this event, so I imagine me and all the other former soccer players who go will be herded into one section of the stands and will at some point be asked to stand and be acknowledged. When this happens, we’ll all struggle to stand up on our crappy knees and half wave to the crowd, and people will think look at all the old farts. Am I ready to be identified this way, as one of the grand dames of the Vikes soccer past? I’m 42. I googled pictures of UVIC soccer girls now and they look impossibly young. There’s no way I could deal with slide tackling anymore. Perhaps I am ready.

But...I did score two lovely goals this week in a pick-up game where I had some sweet give-and-gos with a few superfast teenage boys that joined our game. I’m not quite done. I don’t need a cane just yet. Can I be the stately elder who still takes a sweet corner kick?

Maybe I am only ready-ish.

Friday, December 16, 2011

RIP Hitch

Feeling melancholy on hearing that writer and critic Christopher Hitchens died yesterday. He was a formidable intellectual who I didn’t always agree with, but I will miss seeing him stumble onto talk shows in a rumpled jacket with a cigarette, a glass of whisky, and an attitude. In recent years, he has been known mostly for his staunch atheism-- a complicated thing to write about, especially in America-- but no matter what your religious views are, there’s something everyone can take away from this Hitchens quote I saw today:

The only position that leaves me with no cognitive dissonance is atheism. It is not a creed. Death is certain, replacing both the siren-song of Paradise and the dread of Hell. Life on this earth, with all its mystery and beauty and pain, is then to be lived far more intensely: we stumble and get up, we are sad, confident, insecure, feel loneliness and joy and love. There is nothing more; but I want nothing more.

Whatever your religious views, let us all be as unflinching as Hitchens is about life. Use it. Do not go gently. Find that thing you’re passionate about, whether it’s soccer or stamp collecting, and be unrelenting in your pursuit of it.

Risk more.
Feel more.
Try more.
Fail more.
Learn more.
Love more.
Give more.
Laugh more.
And finally, if that thing you’re passionate about is soccer:
Play more.



We have all the time in the world, until we don’t.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

How Lovely Are Thy Branches

This morning I was cleaning out my soccer bag, and along with a cup and a half of tiny black rubber turf bits and a stinky sock, I found my mouth guard. I don’t wear a mouth guard to play soccer -- I need to leave my mouth free for all the trash talking – so this must have been in there from the few slo-pitch games I played last summer. The mouth guard was not in its case. Naturally, I thought of Christmas.

The year after I finished university, when I was waitressing and renting a house in Victoria with my friends Richard and Ted, we decided to pitch in together and get a tree. Of course, being young and without full time jobs, we quickly discovered that our budget was tapped out after buying the tree itself and two strings of lights. It smelled great, but looked sad.

Richard went to his room, saying “We must have some stuff we could put on the tree to decorate it.....” and Ted went off downstairs to see what he could find too. We did pretty well, actually. Did you know that a Labbatt’s keychain, the kind you get given free in a bar, can look just like a Christmas ornament? My old dangly earrings that had lost their partners were also good because they were sparkly. Fairly soon though, we ran out of festive stuff like this and basically decided that anything hand sized or smaller was good enough to be an ornament – a pencil sharpener, a potato peeler, beer bottle caps, the can opener. And yes, Richard’s old football mouth guard.

When you stood back a bit, the tree looked awesome. Our other equally broke and young friends would come over and freak out – “You guys got a tree?!” and then say “It’s so pretty!” and then, in a different tone, “Wait, is that someone’s mouth guard?” On the top, instead of an angel, we hung Ted’s Doonsbury Uncle Duke action figure, the one based on Hunter S. Thompson, who has a cigarette dangling from his lips and a machine gun in his hand. I’m pretty sure we’re all going to hell.

So, back to modern day: I notice in all the store flyers that tree ornaments are sold in themed groupings now – the country-style quilted ones are called ‘Homespun’ and the elegant metallic ones are called ‘Prestige’. Our tree has never had a theme. I’m thinking of scooping up these black rubber turf bits and gluing them into my mouth guard to make an ornament. If you squint, it kinda looks like caviar in a unique, u-shaped crystal bowl. I’ll hang it on the tree with all the other homemade ornaments we have, the ones the kids made out of spray painted macaroni. Our theme can be ‘Reminisce’.

The can opener is staying in the kitchen though. It would be a pain to have to go into the living room every time I had to open cat food.

This is how I spent my evening...crafting this for your viewing pleasure.

HO HO EWWWW!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Lucky Girl





Sun.



Soccer.



Good.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Four Reasons Why a Soccer Ball is Better Than a Fork

I've shamelessly stolen this idea from the blogs The Oatmeal and Hyperbole and a Half. You should read those blogs instead. They're hilarious.

1. A Soccer Ball is More Fun to Play With

Soccer Ball:













Fork:














2. Heading a Soccer Ball Doesn't Hurt, But Heading a Fork Does

Soccer Ball:















Fork:














3. Round Things That are Kinda Soft are Often Better Than Sharp, Pokey Things

Soccer Ball:
















Fork:















4. Both Soccer Balls and Forks Can Be Used To Eat Pie

Soccer Ball:















Fork:















THE END

Friday, November 18, 2011

Painted With the Same Brush: Marketing Soccer to Women

The paint company CIL solicited advice from the public to come up with some new names for its colours. I think this is probably just a grab for free publicity, but their press materials say that they feel that men ‘give the final nod’ in a couple’s paint colour decisions, and would more likely choose a paint colour called “Beer Time” instead of “Butterscotch Tempest”. Some of the other new CIL paint names meant to appeal to men:

Midlife Crisis
Brute Force
Deathstar
Old Sweat Pants
Pimpin’ the Trans-Am

What, no “Let One Rip”, “Four Beer Belch” or “Remote Control”?

As imperfect as this list is, it’s given me an idea, and I need your help. I’d like to get more women out to Monday night soccer, since lately I’m the only one (Chrissy, where are you?) and I’ve decided, like CIL, that perhaps it’s all about how it’s marketed. How can I appeal to women to come play with us?

I looked at the covers of a number of women’s magazines for research on marketing. Most headlines are related to:

Weight loss
Glowing skin
Make-up
The latest boots for fall
Saving time
Meeting men
and uh, pleasuring men.

Apparently, as a woman, this is what I care about. (Really? Both this and the CIL list are depressing. Neither men nor women want to all be painted with the same brush as their entire gender.) However, if, like CIL, I’m going to follow the norm and work directly from this list, I can create my own headlines to advertise Monday night soccer to the fairer sex. (I apologize in advance that all my headlines end with exclamation marks.) What do you think?

Kick Those Pounds to the Curb with our New Soccer Workout! (This is obviously not true because if playing soccer was all you needed to thin out then I’d be down to my birth weight. But nearly every exercise weight loss claim is bogus, so let’s go with it.)

Get Glowing Skin in Time for the Holidays! (Technically true, since ‘glow’ is the old-timey term for female sweat.)

Makeup Secrets from the Pros! (To be fair, these secrets would probably be things like “Jeez - don’t play soccer if you want your make-up to look nice!” and “If you play, you will get chunks of mascara all your cheeks, even if you use ‘turbo proof’ washable brands – what were you thinking?!”)

Falls Latest Boots! (These would be soccer boots, obviously.)

Save Time with Soccer! (Like every single ‘time-saving’ invention introduced in the last few years, anything I could come up with here will not save us much time for long. But before you’ve proven yourself to the guys, I guess you could get a lot of mental planning done while you run up and down the field, not getting passed to.)

A New Way to Meet Interesting Single Men! (You will not meet interesting single men if you come to Monday night soccer with me. You will meet sweaty, sarcastic, married men. I guess there’s a chance one of them might bring a recently divorced, middle-aged friend though. He will also be sweaty and sarcastic. Single ladies: try to contain your enthusiasm.)

The Touch that Gives Him Pleasure! ( Most of the dudes at Monday night soccer would definitely be pleased if you had a great ‘touch’ with the ball and could do a sweet cross from the left wing so they could head it in and take all the glory for the goal. Can you do that? If so, please, please come out and play with us. I don’t care if you’re a man or a woman. We need you.)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Finches, 1977

My mom was clearing some things out of my childhood home this week and found this letter I wrote to her and my dad. I think it comes from 1977 or 78 when my parents went on holidays to Hong Kong, and my grandmother might possibly have been looking after us. It was the first year I played soccer and was on a horrible team called the Finches which lost every single game by a wide margin; in this letter you can see my fledgling love for both the game of soccer and the run-on sentence. I've typed this up exactly as it appears - same spelling, grammar, everything. I wish I could emulate my curlicue penmanship in typing form.

Reading this makes me miss my old dog, Beau. He was tiny, and white, and yappy and most poorly trained dog you have ever seen. Also, one more thought: chores, much? Sounds like my parents worked me to the bone.


Dear Mom and Dad,
Everything is fine here. We ate our dinner and it went fine. Grannie called at about 7:30 and said she'd call back after 10:00. Meg and I both washed our hair. When Meg and I were making your bed the door somehow got open (?) and Beau ran outside. I called and he came but he had dirty feet and a dirty beard. Meg and I gave him a bath. After he had been dry for a few hours we let him out on the deck. When he came back in he had dirt on both sides of his tail he is still like that because we didn't think we should give him another bath. I have something to report to you. We have some spiders in this house. There is one in the bathroom wastebasket and there is one on the sliding door downstairs. I tidied the house a bit and did the dishes. Right now I am under the hair dryer. As you know we lost the soccer game 7 - 1, some people said it was 6-1. I guess they didn't want to know the truth. I really don't think we are ever going to win. I mean it! At least I enjoyed it. I'm definetly taking it next year so is Meg. Well I'm closing now.
Love From,
Cathy
P.S. When you get here come into my room and wake Meg and me up.
P.S.S. Sorry I didn't sweep or vacuum!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Three Sucky Things About Soccer in Iran

1.

A professional Iranian soccer player groped his teammate’s butt earlier this week during a team goal celebration. Who cares, right? What makes this news is that each player involved has been fined $40,000 for this ‘inappropriate’ behaviour, could go to prison for two months, and receive 74 public lashes on the soccer field. They’ve also both been banned from playing indefinitely. In a country where ‘chastity squads’ can impose fines for things like wearing nail polish, I guess it’s not that surprising. How burned is the guy who got groped though? He didn’t do anything – except, I suppose, have a butt- and he’s still on the hook for all this. Seriously tough break.

2.

Did you know that Iranian women are forbidden to attend soccer games? They’re banned from both stadiums and movie theatres that show matches. From what I can understand, the rationale is that the environment is too unseemly for women, and besides, it is argued, they wouldn’t be able to see anything anyway, since in public women have to ‘lower their gaze’. On occasion, women have insisted on being allowed to watch a match by blocking the entrances, demanding to be let in—and they’ve had modest success, although one woman I read about had her leg broken in the melee when she tried it in 2005. Holy crap. That’s a lot to endure just to see some ass grabbing.

3.

The Iranian women’s national soccer team was shut out of competition for the Women’s World Cup in 2012 because the outfits they must wear to satisfy their country’s Islamic standards are considered too religious for FIFA. Could this not have been discussed before they attended a serious six month training camp and flew to London to play? Many Iranian women left the soccer field in tears during this fiasco. I can’t say I wouldn’t have reacted the same way, although in part I might have cried because I was embarrassed to be dressed like a Q-tip. (Sorry ladies, no disrespect. Go do your religious thing, it’s cool with me-- and take comfort in the fact that you ladies in white could kick my butt on the soccer field.)

Shall we sum up? In Iran, women can’t play or watch soccer, and men who do play, sometimes have fun with it and tease each other, only to be punished severely. Do they realize that when you break it down, it’s just a bunch of people kicking around a polka dotted ball? How do officials decide what’s ‘inappropriate’? How do they feel about the impression they’re making on the rest of the world with severe punishments like public lashings? Perhaps Iranian officials should be looking at the bigger picture. Or as one commenter said: “A muscular, athletic guy getting whipped in a men-only environment? Nope, nothing gay about that.”

Friday, October 28, 2011

Magnifique: My Interview with Bruce Constantineau

I was at a networking event recently and met Bruce Constantineau, the fellow who writes about the Whitecaps and other soccer news for the Vancouver Sun. Well, we didn’t meet exactly- I overheard someone I had met talking about soccer with him, and found out who he was just as I was leaving, so I didn’t get the chance to introduce myself. Instead, the next day I brazenly sent him a link to the blog I’d written about attending a Whitecaps game with my daughter and asked if we could talk. Naturally I expected nothing from this encounter, but he was very kind, and responded by saying he’d read the link and said he’d be happy to answer my questions. Nice!

It doesn’t take much encouragement for me to get excited about things related to soccer and writing. Here was someone with everything I didn’t have – a paying writing gig, connections, journalistic integrity – paying attention to my blog! As I waited for him to call, I began to treat this impending event the way some might plan for a visit with say, Nelson Mandela, or the Beatles. I checked to make sure my cellphone ringer was on approximately every twenty seconds. And during this time, I may have let my imagination get the better of me. Keeping in mind that I had never actually met this person and know almost nothing about him, I began to picture Bruce and me attending soccer games and writing about them over the years, eventually growing old together. What kind of last name was Constantineau anyway - French? Perhaps we’d move to Paris and get a little apartment there. Bruce would be well connected with the French soccer scene so, of course, we’d become friends with the famous former player Zinedine Zidane. On Saturdays, Zinedine would come over with a bottle of expensive red wine and I’d spend all day making Coq au Vin for us. I guess my husband Steve could come too – in my fantasy I’d sort of temporarily forgotten that I’d already planned to grow old with someone – but this was France! (As I understand it, you can get away with all sorts of things there.) The four of us would sit around an old rustic table in our little garret, drinking wine and looking out at a perfect view of the Eiffel Tower as the sun went down. Zinedine would promise to keep the head-butting to a minimum. Magnifique.

And then the phone rang and I had to actually talk to him.

Bruce was a consummate professional, dutifully answering all my dopey questions about the Whitecaps coaching changes, the players, the stadium, traveling with the team, his son's successes and how he got into writing about soccer. For about twenty minutes he generously spoke with me as though I were an equal, telling me I was a good writer and encouraging me to keep it up.

He did not offer to whisk me away to France though.

If I had to describe it now, I’d say my relationship with Bruce is in a holding pattern, in which I remain happily married to my husband and Bruce continues to do a great job of reporting on soccer in Vancouver and completely forgets about me.

I don’t mind, though, because we’ll always have Paris.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Six Million Dollar Man, the Seventies, and Soccer

I think my sister got the worst of it with the Six Million Dollar Man shoes.

They were bright blue running shoes, with a little plastic picture of Steve Austin’s face stitched on the outside of each shoe, the tread just the word BIONIC in huge letters that went from toe to heel. I’m guessing they were picked up at $1.49 day in a bin at Woodwards- my parents also bought my Mork and Mindy rainbow suspenders that way. The year was 1979 and the TV series The Six Million Dollar Man had just worn out its welcome the year before. The shoes were decidedly NOT cool.

Meg was in grade 7 and unfortunately for her, the shoes fit her best. She tried to get out of wearing them: she picked her old, holey runners from the garbage can and tucked them into her school bag but she got caught doing it and my parents took the old runners away. She tried destroying them: she rode to school, steep downhill all the way, by not once using her actual brakes to slow down, just dragging her feet. She amended them: she swiped my mom’s sewing scissors and picked out the stitches surrounding the little patch on each shoe that contained Steve Austin’s face, and threw the patches away, but it was no use. Like Steve Austin, those shoes were built to last. The kids at school were merciless and still whispered “de-ne-ne-ne”, the bionic sound effect from the TV show, and made slow motion karate chop moves every single time she moved in class.

Of course, I had mortifying clothes too – since neither of us were allowed to wear jeans to school I remember my mom sewing us drawstring pants and matching reversible vests, creating a kind of 72-year-old- woman-in-a-pantsuit aesthetic that didn’t exactly fit in with the way everyone else sported sexy Le Cullotier jeans with a round handled wide toothed comb slipped casually into the back pocket. Our hair was still cut bowl style by my dad, with super high bangs, while everyone else was either feathering or opting for the long, straight, babysitter style hair that Gwenyth Paltrow now favours. I remember being asked by the cool girls more than once, “So...the vest is reversible? Wow. What about the pants? Are they reversible too?” followed by a lot of giggling. Let’s just say style was not my strong point.

Except at soccer.

As any private school parent will tell you, uniforms are the great equalizer. At soccer, I looked exactly the same as everyone else. Oh sure, I had magazines tucked into my socks for shin pads, since there was no way my parents would spring for the real thing – but no one could really tell, since of course the socks came up to my knees. At soccer, everyone had to wear the same hideous, used, polyester jerseys and short shorts. Everyone on the team had ugly black cleats. Everyone had sweaty, bad hair.

It was glorious.



Here's me, rocking my bowl cut and home-made clothing look in the seventies. I still totally remember how itchy the trim on this dress felt. As far as I can tell, no pictures exist of the BIONIC shoes. Sadly, we cannot rebuild them....we do not have the technology.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Emperor's New Cleats

Women take a lot of flak for their love of expensive shoes. Some of it's justified – every third store on Robson Street in Vancouver is now a shoe store and their products can definitely be a little unusual and expensive. Just look at these crazy double heeled things from Alexander McQueen:


But here’s a little secret ladies....men’s soccer cleats are almost as bad.

Check out these men's offerings from Nike (sometimes favoured by Cristiano Ronaldo) and Adidas (who claim these shoes are worn by Lionel Messi):










I know the stars get free shoes, but how do regular guys decide which ones to get? It would be hard for me to choose between cleats whose colours are described on their website as 'anodized purple and electricity’ and ‘cherry, dark obsidian and metallic’, but it’s mostly because I don’t know what some of those words mean.

What’s worse, the ads for these cleats imply that you will actually play better if you buy them. Apparently the lace cover on the pink ones creates a ‘large inviting strike zone’, while its ‘dual density injected studs allow effortless cutting and instant acceleration’. The purple ones have a ‘new stud configuration that improves your balance at top speeds’. Gosh, why bother training? The shoes can do it all for you. And am I the only one who's giggling at all the dual-injected-stud talk?

The websites for men’s cleats also offer this weird looking thing called a ‘comfort chasis’:What does it do? I can only assume it is meant to go inside the shoe and lift you up so that your body can physically match the size of your ego.

At least the Alexander McQueen shoes ads do not exaggerate their life altering qualities or provide over the top descriptions. Black is black, and not 'obsidian'. A search though the shoe details on his website offers only the basics, saying things like ‘black velvet embellished wedge sandal’ or ‘suede pump with rubber platform’. Should I be proud, as a woman, that do they do not pander to us and say ‘buying this embellished shoe means you will never gain another ounce as long as you live, while it’s rubber platform gives you the oomph to throw spectacular birthday parties for your kids, making you the envy of all the other mothers’? I don’t know.

Because if it did do all those things, I would so totally buy them.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Kesler/Solo: What Were They Thinking?


I’m pretty sure you’ve all seen this picture of hockey player Ryan Kesler already. But do you know where it’s from? It was taken for the “Body” issue of ESPN magazine that comes out today, which also features naked photos of other athletes, including the beautiful US Women’s National soccer team goalie, Hope Solo.

I would think most folks would be a bit nervous about posing for photos like this, but Kesler has spoken to the media saying he ‘had a great time’ doing it. Here’s how I imagine Kesler’s inner monologue as the photo shoot unfolded:

Wow, it’s stormy up here on Mount Olympus with all the other Greek gods. Look at the sky! No wonder it feels so humid. I’m getting really warm, I think I’ll just take this robe off....okay...much better. You know what? I don’t know why, but I have this weird desire to move this giant boulder over here. I think I’ll just lean on it a little and see if I can budge it....hey what was that small crash over there to my left? Is that a middle aged soccer mom who just dropped her binoculars? Who let her in here?

Now here's soccer star Hope Solo's picture:


Solo doesn’t look like she’s having a great time. What’s happened to her eyes? Is she turning into a vampire? She is really lovely, and super fit, so I think they could have got a better picture. As a female athlete, I know she wants to look strong, and beautiful, and fierce – it’s not like I thought she should have been posing in some coy, soft porn shot with oversized goalie gloves providing privacy or something - but instead, she just looks kind of angry to me. It’s like she’s thinking:

Crap. Why are they making me speed skate, naked and barefoot, over to the other side of this room to retrieve my clothes?

This is one of the cover shots for the magazine. The alternate shot they took of Solo had her standing naked in someone’s front yard, watering the lawn. What the hell? Who came up with these ideas? And why stop there? Why not get her nakedly opening pickle jars?

Maybe I’m just jealous of Solo, she of the ripped abs and poetic name; and I’m clearly biased, as a heterosexual female – but I think Kesler’s picture is better. This time even I'll agree- hockey wins.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Jumper's Knee and Other Ailments

Gavin told me at soccer this morning that he used to have something called Jumper’s Knee and to treat it he was told to take a year off from sports and do nothing physical. He’s back now, and he played great, so I guess it worked, but have you ever heard of a more fake sounding condition? It sounds like some kind of hillbilly town where people roam freely in overalls without shirts. But I looked it up, and it’s a real thing, with a proper Latin name as well.

I’ve uncovered some other medical conditions I personally experienced with my recent ACL knee surgery and subsequent return to soccer. I’m thinking of submitting them to The New England Journal of Medicine. (I’m not 100% sure on my Latin though.) They are in chronological order, as follows:

In-between fifteen (fattus assus)– refers to the pounds you gain when you use food as a crutch and eat obsessively due to depression. Usually occurs between MRI diagnosis and surgery itself. Symptoms include feeling sorry for yourself since you can’t play soccer for months and months, and tight pants.

Mom bomb (riddance inheritance ) another name for what happens when well-meaning, kind-hearted, mother and mother-in-law types come to ‘help’ after surgery and almost make things worse by not knowing what you like anymore and doing weird things like bringing you DVDs you would never want to watch and putting butter on ham sandwiches. Who puts butter on a ham sandwich? Ick. Important: questionable casseroles are common in this condition. Note: Mom bombs can last for days and days.

Kafuffle shuffle (screwus translinkus) this condition occurs shortly after knee surgery, when you can walk again, but not very fast. It’s very specific: you’re about to miss the bus and you do this ridiculous shuffle-y kind of run to the bus stop so you won’t be late for work. Once you’re on the bus you realize you were flustered in the moment, and you chastize yourself, thinking, what the hell? I’m not supposed to run yet...I am an idiot.

Glorious Victorious (glitterous unicornus ) That delicious, amazing feeling you get when you are finally allowed to play again and you tentatively lace up those cleats and head back out onto the field to see if you’ve forgotten everything or if some parts of soccer stick when you take a whole year off. Metaphorical rainbows, unicorns, and glitter sometimes surround you during this phase, and you mince around smiling smugly like an old guy in a Viagra commercial, both on and off the field. Downside: Can be short-lived.

High gear fear(wimpus limpus) – terror of stepping up your game to pre- surgery level and playing high level soccer with much younger and better players again. (Well, being tolerated when playing with much younger and better players.) Can be somewhat abated by buying a fancy customized carbon fibre brace. This condition can come and go at will.

Fraction overreaction - (frightus arthritis) – this occurs when you do finally strap on that brace and go play with all the good young punks and something tweaks in your knee and then you panic and basically rock back and forth in the foetal position for days. Sometimes accompanied by highly irrational thoughts, such as chopping your whole leg off yourself with a pocket knife so you could get one of those cool fake legs with the hook for a foot and play soccer again, probably even better than before.

Condition is somewhat relieved by being told later by the physiotherapist that it’s likely nothing, you’re just – ahem- old, and have arthritis in your knee, and you should just slow the hell down because you’re not an 18 year old college star, and you should probably play less often, ice it afterwards, and take anti-inflammatories.

Prognosis: Getting old sucks. End of story.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Beckham on Ellen II

Check it out: David Beckham shows us his show-tune voice while undercover at Target.



2 things:
- Becks is such a good sport, isn't he? (Didja get that pun? Didja? Ha!)
- I love it that he gets recognized. Does this mean soccer is gaining popularity in North America?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Hot Soccer/Hot Yoga

While playing soccer at high noon in the 28 degree weather last week, sporting an unbreathing polyester fitness bra and two sweaty neoprene knee braces underneath all my clothes, I started to get delirious from dehydration and question the wisdom of what I was doing. Why on earth were we playing in such hot weather, and at that time of day? It was almost unbearable. We quit early – and we never do that. And then I began to think about the millions of people who do hot yoga. They exercise in the hot, hot heat by choice.

No, hot yoga is not called that because of all the scantily clad cute babes who practice it– it’s where people of all shapes and sizes contort themselves into weird poses in a humid, 40 degree room. Why? Apparently, according to its founder Bikram Choudhury, it’s ‘rejuvenating’. Hmm. From what I understand, it’s also riotously farty. (There’s even a pose called the Wind Removing pose.)

I know I’m not the only one who is suspicious of hot yoga’s popularity. Even the writer of Bikram Choudhury’s Wikipedia page displays admirable, ample skepticism, as evidenced by his or her repeated use of the word ‘claims’ in describing hot yoga’s benefits. (Choudhury “claims the heated studio facilitates deeper stretching and injury prevention”; “claims that his system stimulates and restores health to every muscle, joint, and organ of the body” and “claims this helps in the prevention of heart disease and organ failure.”) Choudhury also declares that he has worked with NASA, Richard Nixon (no one has been able to prove these assertions), and the Beatles-- in 1959-- somehow, miraculously, the year before they even formed.

Even though I don’t know much about him, you can probably tell I’m not a Choudhury fan. Perhaps it’s just the influence of my parents’ working class upbringing, but I am leery of people who collect Bentleys and who are openly giddy about how much money they’re making.

But.....I also know there's probably something legitimate about this yoga thing. A lot of talented, respected athletes do hot yoga. The list of devotees includes Kobe Bryant, John McEnroe, Wayne Gretzky, David Beckham, the Williams sisters and last but not least, my beloved Pele. Actors and performers like hot yoga too – apparently George Clooney and Lady Gaga are fans.

I like to picture them all in a Bikram yoga class together. Lady Gaga is in the front row, all superior and ignoring everyone else, wearing a headband made out of meat. Becks is only half into it, mostly distracted by his sweaty, glistening tattoos, which he looks at with quiet awe. Next to him is pasty Richard Nixon, struggling to bend any limbs at all. Lennon and McCartney are elbowing each other, fighting for mat space, while nearby Ringo just lies on his mat, not even pretending to try. The Williams sisters grunt loudly whenever they finally get the hang of a new pose. Just when it finally gets really quiet, George Harrison rips a really loud fart, prompting McEnroe to yell “You cannot be serious!” and Gretzky and Pele to giggle quietly together. Clooney winks suggestively at Kobe, and flashes his killer smile.


Wait, what was I writing about again? Oh yes, hot soccer. Let’s just say I’m glad the weather’s cooling off a bit. Those of us who exercise outside like to get sweaty purely from effort. Namaste.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Sometimes They are Penalty Kicks

My dad’s once stalwart, avionics-engineer-brain is now a swiss-cheesy mess. At 78, the dementia is setting in for good; all that knowledge about flight recorders and airplane wiring diagrams is gone forever. When I visit, he often interrupts my attempt to tell him about his grandchildren to ramble on about the new task they have given him in his carehome: taking the metal tabs off the top of pop and juice cans. To hear him tell it, this is a top-notch role he’s been given. How did they previously get along without him? I try my best to nod and listen, and enquire about these amazing cans.

It’s said that dementia allows a person to retain the essence of their former personality. People who have a kind and sweet disposition when they are young are still sweet, although addled by the disease in other ways. Of course, controlling and difficult people retain that too, and that’s unfortunately what my mom sees when she visits: Dad yells at her to take him home and regularly threatens to divorce her in front of any and all who will listen. (One of the nurses actually followed her outside the other day to ask if she was okay.) The gist: my dad was a very cold and demanding man when I was young, and he is now. He does not give compliments, ever, to anyone. But for some inexplicable reason when he talks to me about soccer, now, he’s different. He’s not sweet, just ...respectful. And very, very misguided. It’s like he is making up the things that he wished had really happened. It often goes something like this:

“I used to come over to Victoria pretty much every weekend to watch you play when you were in University over there....”

“Uh, Dad, I don’t think so, but yeah, you came sometimes.” (He might have come twice in my entire collegiate soccer career. I don’t mind—he lived on the mainland and I was on the Island—but let’s face it, if we’d lived in the same town, I doubt he would have been much more interested.)

“Yeah, I remember I came to the second game you ever played over there (no, he did not) and you had to take a corner kick, and you scored from the corner kick, with your right foot. And your coach was so shocked and happy at what a big kick you had. And then later in the game, you took another corner kick from the other side, with your left foot, and you scored with that one too. You got two goals. Your coach couldn’t believe it. ”

Hmm...he might not be the only one. I don’t believe it either. I’m ashamed to admit this, but I can remember an embarrassing amount of detail about most of the goals I’ve ever scored (usually embellished with loud fan cheering and liberal doses of the chanting of my name) so I’m sure I’d remember scoring twice in one game, from corner kicks, using both feet.

“Uh, yeah, dad? I do not remember that.”

“Yeah, the goalie, he was really pissed off.” (Hmm, why was the goalie a ‘he’ in women’s varsity soccer?) “You just put it right over his head.”

“Wow, cool.”

“And when you took the goal kick, it just went right by him.”

“Wait – what? It was a goal kick? Not a corner kick?”

“Yes, they were goal kicks.”

“I scored twice in one game from goal kicks? Once with my left foot?” (This is impossible.)

“Yeah.”

We have variations on this theme. Sometimes they are penalty kicks. Sometimes the goalie is a girl. And this muddy, circular conversation is the closest thing to praise I have ever received from my dad, a man whose fallback communication with me, as a kid and a teenager, was to tell me I was lazy and stupid. He still seems to be aware that UVIC was many years ago, and that now I just play for fun, both indoor and outdoor, with both men and women. He also tells me elaborate details about watching the Whitecaps play the Canucks on TV. Of course, we don’t have to talk about soccer—there is always the riveting pop can tops to discuss—but he is often the one to bring it up.

The other day one of the carehome workers happened by, and my dad tried to introduce me to him, saying, “This is my daughter, Cathy. She still plays soccer. With men.” And the person looked at me and smiled, his face relentlessly cheerful, and said the things my father never could say: “Wow, that’s great. Good for you. Your dad must be proud.”

I’ll take it.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

That's What She Said

I don’t know how to say this, so I’ll just come right out with it: there’s a lot of soccer mom porn on the internet.


Who knew, right? I clued in when I checked my blog’s statistics and found that strangers are googling variations on the phrase ‘hot soccer moms’, along with some, er, more dodgy stuff and finding my blog. (Examples: ‘old women squatting’ and ‘clown sex’ have brought them to me. Sniff. So proud....) I was wondering if my blog might have accidentally seeped into a pornographic genre, since, after all, you can read the subtitle in a pretty suggestive way– Stories from a Different Kind of Soccer Mom could mean anything, really - so the other day curiosity finally got the better of me and I decided to google the phrase ‘soccer mom porn’ to see if my blog came up. (For the first time ever, Steve offered to help me with research for my blog! How thoughtful. )

I declined, however. I figured I could probably handle this on my own. Nervous, I googled, and then I only opened one eye and peeked at the screen. That phrase did bring up over 5 million hits. Mercifully, there were no pictures (since I didn’t follow through and click on anything), but I did read some charming introductory sentences about coaches helping teach soccer moms how to score and how some soccer moms get punished in intriguing ways for not remembering to bring oranges at halftime. Many were really descriptive, pointing out that soccer moms have all different colours of skin and hair and come in all sorts of shapes, with uh, soccer ball sized, uh, attributes. And did you also know that some soccer moms are grandmas?

So...even though my blog appears to be safe for the time being, I’m playing around with some different blog headings. Scroll up and check out my new title and subtitle. [Kick (a soccer ball): Stories from a different kind of (fully clothed) soccer mom] Thoughts? The brackets might be a little too much. When you say it all together, it’s a bit of a mouthful. Jeez, this is really hard.

Crap. Everything sounds pornographic when you think about it.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Summer Soccer Stuff

Oh, hi - was I supposed to be writing a blog? Dang. The weather's been so beautiful that the idea of sitting inside and typing has not held any appeal. Don't worry, I'm still a sucker for soccer, as evidenced by these three recent soccer items I've acquired:

First up:


You can read, so I guess you know it's a bicycle bell. To ring it, you pull back on the soccer cleat and let it go, and it kicks the ball and makes an old-timey clangy sound. I know it's ridiculously twee. I would never actually put it on my bike, because my bike is cool and new and smokin', and this bell would definitely take it down a notch. I just like carrying it around, walking up behind Steve and making the clanging sound to annoy him.

Next:


Soccer kleenex for my purse. Yup, nothing says you love something like blowing your nose on it.

And finally:


This soccer wine bottle stopper was a gift. A gift from someone with the quaint, misguided idea that I might open a bottle of wine and not consume the whole thing in one sitting. Preposterous! But thoughtful.

Hope you are enjoying the lazy summer days as much as I am.....

Friday, August 12, 2011

Darth Vader and Me at Scrimmage Soccer

I’ve been calling my new custom knee brace Darth Vader, since it’s black moulded plastic and looks very imposing and badass. (It also cost about the same to make as a Star Wars movie.) Since it is super boring to write about wearing a brace, I started thinking about what it would be like to have the actual Darth Vader and his storm troopers show up for one of our Wednesday morning scrimmage soccer games, and thought I could write about that instead. After all, anyone is welcome. Here’s how I imagine it playing out. (Since DV is so menacing, I didn’t think I could write any dialogue for him, so I’ve taken all his lines taken from the actual Star Wars movies.)

Me, to Sue: Where is that ominous music coming from? She shrugs.

I turn and greet the storm troopers and Darth Vader: Hey guys, are you here to play?

DV: You may dispense with the pleasantries, commander.

Me: Um, okay. Wow, are you guys all on the same team or something? Nice uniforms. What are those, shin guards and uh, thigh guards? And almost everyone has matching white cleats and helmets? You are gonna get hot playing. Wild.

DV to the storm troopers, pointing at me: She is as clumsy as she is stupid.

They all laugh, although it’s hard to hear it through their helmets.

Me: Trash talking already, eh? Okay, I can take it. And how did you know I was clumsy? You haven’t even seen me play yet! Hehe, you’re probably right though. But seriously, you’ll have to wear this white pinney if you want to play on the same team as your friends.

DV, reluctantly: As you wish.

DV puts on the pinney. It snags on his helmet on the way over his head and is quite ill fitting with the cape sticking out the bottom and all the buttons and lights and stuff on his chest and belt kind of poking through. He sighs heavily and I notice his heavy breathing.

Me: Dude, are you okay? You’re already huffing and we haven’t started playing yet! Maybe you want to take off the cape? Don’t want it to slow you down, right?

DV stares at me. I think he is mad now. I realize he might be the kind of guy who can dish it out, but can't take it. Now I notice there’s some kind of metallic robot with all of them, trying to offer him a tray of oranges, perhaps to appease him.

DV: You don’t know the power of the dark side!

Me:The Dark Side”? Is that your team name? Cool...but ...you’re the only dark one. Everyone else is in white. Shouldn’t you be called “The White Side”?

DV grabs an orange off the robot’s tray, but then realizing he can’t eat anything with his mask on, throws it angrily to the ground. The robot starts to fret.

DV angrily points a finger at me:
The force is strong with this one.

Me, confused: Wha? Whatever. Just--- no slide tackling. The other players head out to the field. And do you want Gerry for your goalie? He’s already wearing white and he’s pretty good.

DV: He will join us or die.

Me: Dude! Die? Stop talking so crazy cray. Let’s just get going here. Uh, I guess we’ll start with the ball.

DV shakes his head and starts to take a small metal thing that looks like a remote control out from under his cape.

Me: Hey what is that thing? Is that some kind of linesman flag? We don’t need flags, it’s just pickup soccer—honour system sort of deal.

A stream of light comes out of this thing, like a sword.

DV:
I am altering the deal. Pray I don’t alter it any further.

Me, backing up slowly with the light mere inches from my face: WTF?! Fine, you guys start with the ball. Take it! I throw it at him.

DV, carrying the ball, walking away from me, pointing his sword at me like a mafia kingpin: Only your hatred can destroy me.

Me: Why are you talking like that?! Dude, it’s scrimmage soccer. Just here to have fun. Relax!

DV takes the ball and throws it on the ground in front of him and dribbles with it towards our net. Some of the storm troopers run with him calling for the ball, but he is a hog and doesn’t pass to anyone. (Jerk.) When someone from my team tries to check him, he holds out his hand towards the defender from several feet away and the defender is lifted off the ground, holding his throat. DV scores easily and then tries to get some of the storm troopers to high five him, but they don’t seem too eager. When DV has his back to the storm troopers, one of them gives him the finger.

One of the young guys on my team, Luke, plants his face in his palm: Oh God. I think that’s my dad. How embarrassing.....

Friday, August 5, 2011

Silent But Deadly?

Until this week, I had never heard of silent soccer.

Some Ontario kids teams are trying it out-- it’s where parents and coaches watch their kids play soccer without any verbal input. Nothing negative is said, but nothing positive either—just nothing at all. Clapping is the only thing permitted.

Perhaps as a result of being silenced on the field, parents and coaches are sounding off about it a lot in the media, with people seeming to feel strongly both for and against it. The parents and coaches who like it seem to think the kids have more freedom to play without constant verbal assault, that it’s good for self esteem, and that the kids communicate better with each other in the game. The ones who don’t like it say watching your kids soccer game is boring enough without sucking all the fun out of it, and isn’t it better to yell encouragement than stare at your blackberry while you’re supposedly spending quality time with your kid?

At first I didn’t know what to think and I wanted to make this blog an artsy statement piece in which I brought up silent soccer and then was silent about it- perhaps doing an interpretive dance instead- but then I realized I have few enough readers as it is, and I can’t afford to alienate them with weird crap like that. (Also, really, no one needs to see me do that.) But when the Globe and Mail interviewed Silken Laumann about it, I knew I had to step in, because come on guys, she’s a rower. What the hell does she know about silent soccer?

So, for what it’s worth, here’s what I think: unlike a soccer ball, this is not black and white. As a coach of 7 and 8 year old girls, I must say that it would be really hard to stand on the sidelines unable to say anything while a kid ran in the wrong direction with the ball, which, especially early in the season, happens more than you think. But I also think there are some real jackass parents out there who will not shut the hell up. They get so worked up they physically fight with other parents, or sometimes make teenaged refs head home crying from their abuse. (I read about one ref for whom things had gotten so out of control that he made every parent on the team spend the remainder of a game in their cars.)

But, to borrow a word from another parent on this subject: I also object to the wussification of sport by parents. If kids honestly can’t handle talking during a game then I doubt they are going to get very far in life. And if talking is so politically incorrect, that what else in soccer is next?

- Oranges at halftime could become taboo, since we live in cold Canada and oranges cannot be locally sourced. Maybe our kids should only be permitted to quench their thirst with rainwater gathered in barrels made from wood chewed by free range Canadian beavers.

- Uniforms unattractive? Perhaps your child doesn’t look good in yellow. To prevent loss of self esteem, maybe every kid could just wear whatever felt most comfortable and flattering for them- sure, no one would know who to pass to during the games, but we can’t have any hurt feelings.

- I’d also be willing to put in a vote for replacing the permitted clapping with finger snapping. No reason – I doubt any kids ears, already ravaged by ipods, are too sensitive to the sound of two fleshy palms, smacking together – but I just think finger snapping would be more groovy. Especially if we did it while we wore berets and smoked unfiltered cigarettes without using our hands.

Wait, now just like those yelly parents, I’ve gone too far. But you know what? I don’t need rules to reign me in. I’ll shut up now.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Are We Coddling Women in Sports?

Bryant Gumbel of Real Sports took a gamble recently when he said women in sports are coddled. After the #1 ranked US women’s soccer team lost to Japan in the World Cup Final, he took issue with the heroes welcome they received upon returning home – and perhaps felt they didn’t earn their places in congratulatory skits on The Late Show with David Letterman or The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, since in Gumbel’s eyes, ‘they choked’. The US Men’s team he felt, would, under similar circumstances, be subjected to much harsher comments, instead of empathy in defeat.

That dude has balls.

Not a lot of men would make a comment like that. This is his best line from the show: "If the definition of true equality is treating folks honestly -- without regard for race and gender -- then it's time to start critiquing women athletes the same way we do the men," he said. "I'm sure women won't like it, but blind praise is worthless in the absence of fair criticism."

Now, I don’t entirely agree with Gumbel, for two minor reasons, although I think he makes an excellent point. Where does my opinion differ? First of all, from what I watched, the US team played amazingly well. (The headers I saw Abbie Wambach get are some of the best goals I have ever seen in men’s or women’s soccer.) They definitely had control of the ball for the better part of the final, and even though they screwed up on their penalty kicks, no World Cup final should ever be decided by five meagre kicks of the ball. Secondly: why is Gumbel so “sure women won’t like it” when we are criticized fairly? No one likes to be patronized.

Besides, I’ve found on the playing field it doesn’t happen much anyway. I’ve played mostly with men for years and they never seem to hold back in telling me when I screw up. (And I screw up a lot.) A few years ago in my indoor league when I took a turn in goal and let in a few quick ones, Adrian, one of our better players, came racing back to take my place, smiling and saying “Oh my god, Cathy, get the hell out of there. We might as well have a wooden plank in net. ”My reaction? I was thrilled. (Although that might have mostly been because I didn’t have to play goalie anymore.) I laughed. I certainly wasn’t going to cry. Other times, when I’ve received a perfect pass about five feet in front of an open net and still somehow manage to mess up the shot I’ve heard almost everything from the guys: “Christ, Cathy, what was that!?” or once, at the pub after the game, over beers: “Cathy, that was such a perfect pass that if you had done any other thing with that ball besides what you did, it couldn’t have helped going in the net.” These guys aren't being jerks. I'd say the same things right back to them if the situation were reversed. Unless that makes me a jerk too? Wait, don't answer that.

What bothers me is not what Gumbel says or what the guys I play with say to me, but the internet comment streams surrounding this story. Haven’t we heard enough unfunny jokes about how the talented female soccer players must all be lesbians, or how it’s fun to watch girls boobies bounce around in tight jerseys when they run? Come on boys, be like Gumbel-- grow up and grow a pair.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Jon Stewart: "Soccer is like Nutella."


Recognize anyone you know?

Yup, this is Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart in the eighties when he played collegiate varsity soccer for William and Mary University. (Coincidentally, I also played collegiate varsity soccer in the eighties, wore number 11 on my jersey, and had this same haircut. {I had less chest hair though.} Mercifully, no soccer pictures of me exist from that time.) Back then, he was Jon Liebowitz and although short, he was a successful striker. The W&M soccer team still has an award they give out every year named after him, the ‘Leibo’, which is given to the player who makes everyone laugh the most.

Check out his leg muscles in this shot:


Who knew that behind his desk on the Daily Show, he had legs like that? (This picture makes me marginally less embarrassed that Stewart is my one permissible celebrity cheat. Steve wisely chose Salma Hayek for his. Look at Stewart’s hair. What was I thinking? )

Along with the pictures, I found an interview with Sports Illustrated that Stewart did five years ago in which he talks about soccer. Here are some quotes:

On soccer’s popularity:

“[Soccer is] ...like Nutella. The rest of the world clearly loves it and puts it on everything, but here in America we’re like “I don’t know, man, it tastes like almonds.”

On whether or not he still plays:

“Dude, I’m 43 and smoked for 20 years. I’m just happy to go out of the house without an inhaler.”

On his style of playing:

“Even Pele would agree I was not playing the beautiful game. I was playing the annoying game.”

On if he would be willing to go head to head with bowtie wearing Tucker Carlson in a UFC battle if Sports Illustrated sponsored it:

“Let me explain something about the frailness of my physical condition. You could put big dollars on the line there and I wouldn’t do it.”

Sigh. Isn’t he dreamy?

Yeah, maybe no. Funny though. I’m going to keep watching his show but I can't say for sure that I'm not going to switch to Salma Hayek too.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Harper Seven Beckham

The nursery has been done in pink
Becks will likely get new ink
Have you not heard? Give this a whirl:
Posh and Becks now have a girl.
With three big brothers, it's truly nice
That there's a different baby spice
The only thing that I find lame
is Harper Seven Beckham's name.
Why did they need to name her that?
For our PM is such a twat.
Yes Harper with his helmet hair,
his wet-lipped face, his vacant stare
Has made asbestos sales turn brisk
(Ignoring pesky cancer risks).
Her middle name is not much better
For it's a number, spelled in letters
That once was on his soccer kit
And George Costanza wanted it.
Guess rules of naming all need bending
To make a name that's twitter trending.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Forest for the Trees

I was raised on a steady diet of hot dogs, kool-aid, tv dinners, and reruns. As kids, our summer days were spent loafing in front of the tube watching game shows while the sun blazed outside: the Price is Right, Family Feud, and whatever the one was where you yelled ‘no whammies!’ Our exercise was strolling to the kitchen to get a bag of Oreos. We also raised our heart rates by complaining vehemently when our siblings stole the good spot on the couch while we were in the bathroom. Sure, at night, sometimes we practiced cartwheels in the front yard, or played hide and seek with the neighbour kids. (Why did our parents let us use the fire hydrant as home base? Ewwww!) And, we did organized sports. Like soccer.

My husband Steve’s family, although he was also brought up in the same era, might as well have been raised on another planet. They had a cottage at the lake--with no tv. He spent his free time swimming, hiking, paddling the canoe and playing cards, and creating an elaborate pinecone fort in the woods behind his house in which the pinecones were people. As far as I can tell, very few of the seven kids ever did any organized sports. I once asked my mother-in-law if Doug, Steve’s dad, had ever been a sporty guy. “Well, when he was younger, he did some gymnastics. You know, tumbling.”

Tumbling? As in....falling down? (I think I showed admirable restraint and respect for my in-laws when I only thought this and did not say it out loud.) Of course, my father-in-law was one of the fittest men I’d ever seen, who canoed down the Yukon river in his late 70s, portaging the canoe and sleeping outside every night for weeks. Once, when we were all at the lake and Doug was maybe 80, he took his shirt off and Steve cringed, whispering to me “Look, my dad is more buff than me.” Meanwhile everyone in my family who has done years of playing on sports teams ages badly, our pathetic knees disintegrating like the weak legs of the crappy TV trays we used so often.

I’m telling you this because the other day, while my kids were at swimming lessons, I went for a walk in the woods. Now, this wasn’t the first time, of course. I was in Brownies as a kid, and I seem to remember going on walks sometimes with them. Most of the time I’d be needling the kid beside me to try to get a reaction while we were supposed to be learning about slugs or something. But as an adult? By choice? As a form of exercise? Bah. But it was......nice. It was quiet and green and I could hear birds chirping. It was cool in the forest and even I’ll admit, smelled much nicer than the chlorine-y pool we all endure while we watch swimming lessons. It looked like there were berries and stuff growing in there and I wondered when they would ripen. I was just starting to see the whole up-side to this nature thing when I tripped on a tree root and twisted my ankle. Damn! Shouldn’t they pave this and smooth it all out like a turf field? Someone could get really hurt in here!

As I limped back I began to imagine the conversation I would have about this with Steve:

“I went for a walk in the woods while the kids were at swimming lessons,” (me to him, while he only half listens and reads a book on Greek philosophy.)

“Who did? You?”

“I know, right?”

Steve is now actually paying attention and looking at me. “What happened, did a soccer ball accidently roll in there or something?”

“Har Har.” But then I started to think. You know what? It would probably be really good practice to dribble a soccer ball through that forest path. Hmm...

Now I’m starting to get this weird rash on my arm. Do you think it’s poison ivy? Also, does poison ivy just float around in the air, or do you have to actually touch the plant? Can it tell when you’re scared, like a horse, and pick on you? It’s all Greek to me.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Confessions of a Jeter Cheater

Derek Jeter cheats.

Yes, the 37 year old, future hall-of-fame baseball player, the Yankees shortstop who just signed a 51 million dollar contract to stay with the team another three years, was called out for cheating in the New York Times Magazine last weekend. I’m not talking about his tax dispute with New York State from 2008. I’m talking about the way he plays.

Cheating, in baseball, is what older players do when they make slight adjustments to their playing style to cope with their diminishing skills. It’s perfectly legal. They swing a little earlier at bat, since their eyesight might not be as good as it once was, or perhaps they try to hit without a stride to add precious seconds to their time at the plate. Since baseball is a game of statistics, people notice. (This year Jeter came dead last amongst shortstops in a couple of defensive statistics.) And aging as an athlete in front of millions of fans cannot be an easy experience.

Even though I’m a soccer player and not a professional ball player, I cheat too. Now Jeter and I make marginally different salaries (I don’t own a 30,000 square foot home nicknamed ‘St. Jetersburg’), I may have slightly less fans, and I have not been romantically linked with anyone with a title that includes the words ‘sexiest’ or ‘universe’, but otherwise, we’re identical. My soccer game, since my ACL repair, is more passing and less shooting. When it’s time for my team to take a corner kick, I often find it’s time for me to concentrate on tying something on my shoelace so that someone else will take it. It makes me glad no one is keeping track of my statistics, or writing national magazine articles about my cheating.



Can you spot the difference?








(Large aside: The more you think about it of course, the more you realize that almost everything we do in life as adults is a form of cheating-- sometimes to make up for our diminished capabilites, and sometimes because we run out of time. For example:
- Recently I bought one of those supermarket roast chickens and served it to my family as though I had prepared it myself. Cheating? Sort of. Although it is a bit of work to cut the meat off of there.
- When I put on makeup, I’ve noticed in the last year or so I don’t bother looking in the normal side of the round mirror- I always flip over to the magnified side. Cheating? Yup. Sometimes I even start out of the magnified side and don’t realize it, and then try to flip the mirror over to the magnified side only to find that everything has miraculously shrunk. What’s going on?
- I wear black almost all the time. This is double cheating, really. We all know black is slimming, so that’s a cheat for sure, but another reason I wear black is that I am filthy (and not in a good way.) Black hides almost all dirt. The other day as I was just about to leave the house, I dropped half a cup of coffee and splashed it all over myself. I swore, grabbed a towel and dabbed at the coffee on my black clothes, then said ‘meh’, and left the house without changing. Total cheat.)

Overall, the New York Times Magazine article about Jeter was totally depressing. Do I need to be reminded that aging sucks and that we all adjust to cope with it? But there were a couple of sweet spots in the article, and I will share them with you: the first is that the Dallas Mavericks, an aging basketball team, beat the much younger and much more hyped Miami Heat in the NBA finals recently. How? According to the article, “Crafty older players find ways to compensate for their loss of quickness. Cleverness matters.” I love it that sometimes, experience trumps youth.

Secondly, I love this: “...(the modern thinking is that) today’s players, who condition themselves year-round – often with the help of private trainers, the most up-to-date scientific methods, nutritionists and massage therapists- play longer and have more years of peak performance. It makes sense. It’s also not true.” Wait, WHAT?! Yup. Babe Ruth, who they lovingly call ‘rotund’ and ‘hard-living’, played longer professionally than many current ball players and is largely considered to be the greatest baseball player of all time. Do you think he had a nutritionist? Pfft.

To celebrate these small victories for us middle aged folks, I am going to have a milkshake. Don’t worry, I will wear black, in case I spill anything. Then maybe I'll play some soccer. Care to join me?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Happy

You know what I did today? I did not volunteer to walk with the grade three class over to the library. I did not visit my dementia dad in his carehome. I did not unload the dishwasher. I did not make any penguins or people out of fondant icing. I did not sew caterpillar and cardsmen costumes for the school play. I did not volunteer to go into work to help move stuff between classrooms. I did not read the paper and try to make thoughtful comparisons about soccer news that I was hoping you would find interesting or entertaining.

Instead I put on my cleats (that not unlike my knees, are held together with pins),

and I played soccer.

And I am happy.

(And sweaty.)

But seriously, why didn’t I unload the dishwasher? That takes like two seconds. Now my kitchen is a mess. Sigh.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Pull Yourself Together

As someone who writes about soccer, known for its hooliganism, I can’t help but weigh in on the Stanley Cup riots of this week. But what’s left to say? Like you, I’m embarrassed and angry. I love sport- but this week, some of the good things that go along with sports—endorphins, excitement, and national pride—all turned ugly. Why?

In his excellent book “How Soccer Explains the World”, Franklin Foer writes about how some feminists like Susan Faludi have tried to explain away soccer hooliganism as being a product of “downsized men....deprived of traditional work and knocked off patriarchal pedestals”, who “wanted to reassert their masculinity.” But Foer disagrees and says that the most notorious English hooligan soccer gang’s members include “middle-class thrill seekers.” That’s what we saw on Wednesday. Well dressed, middle class young men (and some women) who can not only afford hundred dollar hockey jerseys, but can afford to toss them onto burning cop cars as they photograph themselves doing so with expensive camera phones. UBC sociologist Rima Wilkes, looking at Wednesdays rioters in Vancouver, says “they weren’t even angry. They were having fun.”

To me, more than anything else, it speaks of boredom. And the thing is I remember some of those feelings of boredom from when I was young. Even though it was 25 years ago, I remember being a frustrated teenager and wanting to get drunk and do stupid, stupid things—just so I could feel something. But like you, I just don’t understand how that feeling translates into flipping cars and smashing things.

Sophie, my 8 year old, was so depressed watching the game after the Canucks went down 2-0 that she said “I’m going to get a piece of paper and draw a picture about my feelings,” and Steve and I struggled to keep straight faces. Of course, I don’t expect that drawing pictures of your feelings is the answer for every drunk and frustrated young man, but come on. Want to feel something? Why not shave your playoff beard, if you had enough cajones to grow one (although many I see in the riot photos don’t appear to be old enough), and splash some acidic aftershave on? I bet that would hurt like a bugger. Or get a hockey stick and ball and head over to the tennis court and whack the ball against the wall for half an hour-- that feels damn satisfying. Or why not stand up to some of those crowds of bastards who are smashing things? I’ve seen great videos of a few brave souls doing just that, and boy, I bet the tension in that moment would sure make you feel alive.

As I headed downtown to work Thursday morning, I saw some red faced young guys in Canucks shirts at Bridgeport Station – heading onto buses leading out of the city, as I was heading into it. Released from their night in the drunk tank? The red in their faces was the ruddy kind you see in those that are hungover, although I’d like to think some of the red was from embarrassment too.

I work at Granville and Georgia across from the Bay, in “Ground Zero” as I heard someone call it, and I was curious as to what I’d see as I headed up from the skytrain station. Plywood where the Bay and Sears once had windows. Spraypainting on the public art that was put up during the Olympics. Charred chunks of sidewalk. Blackened garbage cans. But I also saw tons and tons of people in Canucks jerseys cleaning. For every burned garbage bin, there were four people scrubbing at it, trying to get the black stains off. And tons of positive (and only positive) graffiti on the boarded-up stores, apologizing for our fellow citizens drunken rampage. There were crowds of people around, still writing messages. Whenever people even slightly brushed against each other in the crowd, they apologized. As schmaltzy as this sounds, all of this totally choked me up. I got tears in my eyes the way I do whenever I stand with my kids and sing O Canada before a sporting event, especially when we get to the part about the truth north, strong and free.

Finally I walked by the Canucks team store at Robson and Granville. It was closed, but everything about it was untouched—no glass smashed, no spray painted graffiti—it was as though the Canucks had nothing whatsoever to do with the rioting. Accustomed to reading messages on every surface in sight, I glanced around and noticed the only word was near the handle on the door-- a sign that said Pull. I found myself thinking I was glad it did not say push—we’ve definitely seen enough pushing for now. Come on, Vancouver. I’m pulling for you.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Internet is Scary, or, Cristiano Ronaldo calls Soccer Mom ‘Douchebag’ after Sideboob Incident

I want to talk about my blog. I realize that technologically, I’ve always been a late adapter and that blogs are considered passé. It’s all about ‘the Twitter’ now. But blogs might not be dead yet: in Saturday’s Globe and Mail, in a review of a book that grew out of a popular mom blog, columnist Leah McLaren said she felt ‘wistful for the (blog’s) cyber verbiage of yesteryear’ when writers posted entries of more than 200 words. Then Sunday’s New York Times Magazine mentioned that the most prominent sportswriter in America is Bill Simmons, a blogger who sometimes posts up to 6000 words on some topics, and that his blogs are downloaded an average of 600,000 times each. Of course, these are actual writers writing about relevant things, not just navel gazing in soccer cleats, as I have been known to do— but reading about these popular bloggers made me curious about my stats. Who reads me? And then I discovered a button on my blog that can tell me just that.

Don’t worry. I can’t see individual people and I don’t know if you are ignoring me. But I do have a button called Stats that tells me which countries people are viewing my blog from. It’s totally addictive. Why? The other day I checked it to see who was reading me and it turns out my blog had already been looked at 19 times in the Ukraine since that morning . That’s more than the 12 Canadian readers I had in the same time period. The Ukraine? (Oh dear. Given my dodgy grasp of geography, I’m ashamed to admit that if I was handed a blank map of the world and forced to pinpoint the location of the Ukraine, I would kinda wave my hand over one general area, hesitantly, and I might be wrongish.) I’m also inexplicably read by a fair number of readers in the BRIC countries (other than China, who doesn’t give a damn about me.) I even have 1 reader in Zimbabwe.

Naturally, this makes no sense whatsoever.

Luckily it can be easily explained by another kind of statistics my blog gathers for me: the keywords people google which help them find my blog. Of course, there are the expected ones—people who know me and google me by name. But yesterday someone found my blog by googling ‘garbage cans that go up stairs’, because of a piece I wrote about my physiotherapist that mentioned both stairs and garbage cans.

A surprising number of people also google Cristiano Ronaldo and end up on my page. Why? Because a year ago I posted a fake interview I pretended that I had done with Ronaldo. Also, people that googled the word ‘sideboob’ found my blog because of a piece I wrote back in March. ‘Soccer Mom’, and another popular key word, ‘douchebag’, have also landed people on my page in reference to posts I wrote or a friend guest wrote, in the past. Does the title of this post make sense to you now? Cristiano Ronaldo is probably perfectly nice and did not do anything wrong; but, rather, my title might just be the tiniest shameless attempt to increase traffic to my blog. (It’s pathetic, I know. The New York Times Magazine article I referenced earlier has Simmons quoted on others sports blogs as saying “The worst thing that’s happening now is that people are writing things just to drive traffic and get attention.” Oh yeah? Suck it, Simmons, with your 600,000 readers and your ESPN masthead.)

Now I almost wish I didn’t know these statistics at all because it makes me wonder what to write about. In a ridiculous attempt to appeal to my newfound Ukranian readers I actually googled ‘soccer pierogies’ to look for a picture I could use- because pierogies are one of the only Ukranian things I can think of- but sadly, Google Images came up with nothing. (I did find a race where men dress up like pierogi mascots and run on a field {see above}, but there was no soccer ball, so that’s out. I also found a Jesus pierogy that a woman discovered one Easter in her frying pan and sold for $1775 to Golden Palace, the same people that bought the Virgin Mary grilled cheese a few years ago for a much higher price.)

The last stat I discovered is the hardest one to face: my most popular blog ever, by a wide margin, is the only one I did not have a hand in writing. Yup, my friend Frank’s An Open Letter to Soccer Douchebags is my (his) most popular blog ever, having been looked at hundreds of times. Dang.

To console myself I’m going to try to scrape the pentagram shapes of a soccer ball into an uncooked perogy so I can hopefully sell it and make millions. I clearly won’t be making any dough (pun intended) from my writing. Except, perhaps, in the Ukraine. (Wherever that is.)