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’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.