One Last, Best Game

Montesa_AlteredVibrance_squareI’m late. I was supposed to have this post up this morning. Due to job pressures I’ve just been behind on everything. But sometimes, late can be good.

I enjoy blogging because I enjoy writing. And while inspiration is nice, oftentimes I find myself casting about for something to write. It usually isn’t hard coming up with ideas because I have a lot of interests but it is nice on occasion to write something from the depths of your soul. So it is good that I am late because it gave me the chance to experience something wonderful.

Soccer is one of my all time loves… and one of my vices. I have two of them: motorcycles and soccer. I picked up motorcycles late in life and am ready to get rid of all my cars. Soccer has been with me since 1974 and I have played continuously since that time. Through broken arms, broken ankles, knee surgeries, foot surgeries, and more sprains than one body can hold, it has been a central part of my life. I just love the game. I have coached, and refereed, and watched it on television but none of that compares to joining a dozen-minus-one mates on a pitch and creating art. As of next year I’ll have been playing for 40 years.

I’ve been on a lot of soccer teams and played a lot of soccer games. Because I grew up during a time when soccer wasn’t well known or very well understood, many of the teams were quite forgettable. The fields were even worse. Imagine trying to play basketball on a court covered with rocks. Few times and far between have I had the opportunity to play soccer on a really nice field – we call it a pitch – surrounded by skilled players with no weak positions. In fact, I really don’t think that I’ve ever done that. Despite my decades of practice I’ve never played soccer like the blokes in the Premier League on a pitch like a pool table with mates who can trap and pass and don’t feel it is their job to mindlessly dribble to pad their own egos.

My oldest son has had a much different experience than I had. He never had to endure ridicule from his peers (and occasionally from adults) for the simple fact that he played soccer – though I’ll never understand why they called it a “commie sport.” He also got to play with much, much better players on far better fields. I watched from the stands, or coached from the sidelines, occasionally wishing I’d had the opportunity to play on his teams, or just on his fields. Yet I, and many others, were proud to carry the torch and see soccer grow into what it has become; the most watched and played sport of people between the ages of 12 and 25.

My son’s former club team, they are all in their very early 20’s now, has reformed for the summer and they are returning to a sports festival in Birmingham, Alabama that they won last year. Knowing my love for the game and my skill level, which remains high, my son asked if I’d like to scrimmage with them. Naturally I said I’d be happy to join them as I keep myself quite fit.

The practice game we played tonight was nothing particularly special. The competition was not up to the standards of our team, but competitive all the same. In the end we won handily. But that isn’t what distinguished it as one of the all time best soccer games I’ve ever had the thrill to play in. The weather was… perfect. Seventy-five degrees and fifty percent humidity. Bright sunshine through scattered clouds. It rained last night so the moisture of the grass was, well, perfect, neither wet nor slick, soft and springy but firm beneath. Also, it happened to be the best field in the city, smooth as a golf green so that the ball rolled like a ball is supposed to roll, and settled in the turf perfectly. I was surrounded by skilled, young players – some of the best players I’ve ever had the privilege to play with – who understood the game far better than I at that age. I made a reasonable showing of myself and very nearly scored a goal on a low curling shot from the top of the box that found the woodwork, bounced off the keeper’s chest, and rolled out of bounds.

I’m 47 years old. I must now wear a fancy, high-tech, carbon-fiber brace to keep my knee from exploding. I can still hang with the young kids and my control and touch is perhaps as good as it’s ever been, even if my game speed is down from lack of game time. But how many more chances will I get to play with players like that, on a pitch like that, with weather like that, with my son? I honestly can’t think of that situation returning to me in my lifetime.

We take things for granted. “Oh, there’ll be a next time,” we say. “It’ll get better.” “I’ll have another chance.” But you know, maybe you won’t. How are those conditions going to come my way again? Perfect pitch. Perfect weather. Perfect team. Perfect opponent. And my body, with my trusty Donjoy knee brace, was working if not perfectly, at least properly. I don’t begrudge the young players, and the thought of my own waning career isn’t depressing in the least. I’ve had a wonderful run of form for four decades and have extracted more than my share of  joy and misery from the beautiful game. In fact, I’m thinking of never playing again. I just don’t know, at this point in my life, if it can get better than that and I’d rather end on a high.

One last, best game, when everything is perfect, thanks to some great kids who, without knowing it, fulfilled an old man’s wish. One last, best game.

Writing Prompt: Write about a time in your life when, looking back on it, it was the last and best of that event. Maybe your last family reunion when everyone was still together or a great vacation or sporting event. And remember, just because it was the last doesn’t mean is has to be sad. The fact that it was the best means it can be happy!

John C. Brewer is a lifelong soccer player, the author of Multiplayer, an adventure for young adults, and The Silla Project, a North Korean nuclear romance. Find out more about what he is doing at johncbrewer.com.
– John C. Brewer

What do Bonnie Calhoun, Alton Gansky and Fay Lamb have in common?

They’ve all participated in 3 Questions Wednesday with the Writing Prompts Crew!

Congratulations Jo Huddleston! You’ve won Pieces of the Heart by Bonnie S. Calhoun.

Brand new contest underway tomorrow with our interview of Fay Lamb. Yes, you heard me right. Fay Lamb will be our guest tomorrow and you don’t want to miss her opinion on reality TV, e-publishing, and social media. She’ll also give away an e-book of her newest novel, Stalking Willow. Leave a comment to be entered to win…https://writingpromptsthoughtsideas.wordpress.com/fay

The Writing Prompts Crew

MONKEY SOCCER & REFEREE FLAGS

I’m going to be up front with you, my knowledge of soccer is nil outside little league, four on four, and the fact that most of the world calls soccer football. For years my husband coached Parks & Rec soccer while I made up the snack sheet and took tons of pictures.

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My two youngest about six years ago.

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Hubs making a game plan

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My son throwing in the ball.

I didn’t pay real close attention to the rules of the game. I did, however, know enough to cheer when our team made a goal. So, I hit good old facebook for some suggestions about soccer. I mean, really, how much more is there to soccer than kicking a ball around and a little head butting action?

Oh boy, I can just see John rolling his eyes. You don’t have to be a facebook friend of his very long to know how much he loves the game. He probably even knows who’s who and what position they play. The only one I know of is Beckham and I have no idea what position he played. I didn’t grow up with soccer like I did baseball and Cal Ripken Jr,  Nolan Ryan, Dan Quisenberry, and George Brett. Soccer didn’t even show up in school until my senior year and by that time I had finished my physical education and no need to learn the rules.

While I waited for the comments to come in about what I should blog about, I decided to hit Bing. And because sometimes I’m a little facetious I decided to Bing Monkey Soccer, but I’ll get to that in a little bit. First, I’ve got to share something I’ve discovered about soccer. Referees don’t just have whistles, they have cards and flags too. Well, from what I gather the main ref has cards and the linesmen (assistant referees) have flags.

Wow! Who knew there could be more than one referee on the soccer field. You don’t know how many times during my kids’ games I thought that our only ref was blind as a bat. Yeah, I was one of those moms. One who didn’t know the rules and still cried foul when her kid got kicked in the shins or elbowed in the ribs. Sometimes those chin guards didn’t stay put.

Anyway, as it turns out there’s one main referee and two linesmen. The main ref is armed with yellow and red cards, also known as flags but they look like cards to me. The yellow card is a warning card. Kind of like a yellow light warning you that the light is about to turn red. The yellow card can be used if a player offends a referee with foul language, takes too much time getting back into the game or isn’t following the rules. Most of the time a yellow card is used if a player commits what is known as a ‘bad tackle’, where the ref believes a player intentionally set out to hurt another player. After so many yellow cards, a player can be removed from the game for a certain amount of time. Yeah, it almost sounds like hockey to me too.

Now here is where things get a little confusing to me. If a player receives two yellow cards, it seems he gets a red card and then he’s removed from the game. This causes the team to lose a player. I’m not certain if he is replaced or if he gets to come back after halftime (now that sounds like American football).

The linesmen actually hold flags and give signals. When the ball has crossed the line, the linesman will use his flag to signal that a throw-in is necessary. He also uses his flag to signal a substitution and offside. You can click here for more details and the positioning of the flags. There’s a pretty good picture of the linesman positions.

So, there you have it, flags and cards.

Now, I suppose you want to know about Monkey Soccer. Yes, it’s real. I promise you, and if you work with a youth group it’d be a fun game to play with them. The rules are the same as regular soccer, but there is a catch… you can’t use your feet. You read that right. No feet allowed, only hands and arms. Oh, and you can’t pick up the ball.

Have you ever played monkey soccer? How about regular soccer?

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Another winner at Writing Prompts!

barncastle memorial June Foster has won a copy of one of Darlene Franklin’s newest books! Congrats June!

Make sure and check out Bonnie S. Calhoun’s interview on 3 Questions Wednesday, https://writingpromptsthoughtsideas.wordpress.com/2013/06/12/bonnie-calhoun/

Win a copy of her latest book, Pieces of the Heart. Leave a comment to be entered…pieces of the heart

Bonnie Calhoun

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Today we welcome Bonnie S. Calhoun, the founder and publisher of Christian Fiction Online Magazine and author of snarky suspense, to 3 Questions Wednesday.

(1) Do you watch reality television? Why or why not?

Bonnie: I had to stop and think because my writer brain fuses with my daily brain on such a regular basis that all the little people in there want a voice and I sometimes need to filter out fact from fiction. Reality TV to me is a conundrum because as I’ve noticed from the news this week, fact is WAY stranger than fiction because fiction needs to make sense. *snort-giggle* so now that I’ve used fancy footwork and evasion 101…uhm…no…I don’t watch reality tv, I’d rather watch NCIS or Blue Bloods where the fiction HAS TO make sense.

(2) What are your thoughts on e-publishing?

Bonnie: I personally think it is the best thing since sliced bread. (I guess I dated myself with that comment, ‘cause young people are effectively going, “Huh? What’s she talking about?” It means I think e-publishing is great! I’ve read more books in the last two years on my Kindle and iPad than I’ve read in the last five years of getting paper books! Electronics allow me to take a whole library with me as I travel, or buy a book on an instant whim…and change the size of the time at will! From an author side I think it is great for those that wish to independently publish and a lovely way of finding new authors at low cost. I think book stores that think outside of the box and find ways of capitalizing on the new medium will grow and thrive.

(3) Which do you prefer? Facebook or Twitter?

Bonnie: LOL…that should be easy to tell from my answers here! I can’t talk in only 140 characters so my medium of choice is Facebook. I love sharing funny sayings, pictures, videos, and the like and I get a much more efficient response…and can measure the response better on Facebook with the extensive opportunities they give you to using their statistical Insights. And I just have a lot more and instant fun on Facebook.

pieces of the heartThank you, Bonnie, for joining us on 3 Questions Wednesday! Make sure to leave a comment to be entered in a drawing for her latest book, Pieces of the Heart.

Bonnie S. Calhoun is owner of the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance, publisher the Christian Fiction Online Magazine, Northeast Zone Director for ACFW, ACFW’s ‘Mentor of the Year,’ for 2011, President of Christian Authors Network, Appointment Coordinator for the Colorado Christian Writers Conference and the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference. http://bonniescalhoun.com

Cooking the Books, Abingdon Press, 2012

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