B-Musings – Get Up, Stand Up Edition

12 01 2017

“B-Musings”… sharing random blurbiage and ping-pong balls rattling around my dome.  

The Purge – Every year, I make a conscious effort to trim down my Facebook Friends List. Not to be mean-spirited or anything like that… it just a process of cleaning up my timeline. It’s kind of a “new year” thang.

unfriendI tend to “friend” people haphazardly. If you reach out to me, and we have a few friends in common, I’ll usually make the connection. I’m always eager to expand my network. But once a year – usually in January – I trim down the list.

If I haven’t had any meaningful dialogue with someone in the past year, he/she gets whacked. That is my only requirement, except for people in my list who have passed on. If you die, we are friends forever. Weird, I know…

But this year I was forced to add some new criteria, mostly because of the heightened political atmosphere. Tough decisions were made, deleting some long time connections.‪ But at the end of the day, social media is supposed to be fun. Right?

So if we are no longer connected, some of the reasons are below:

  • Our morality differed… for example, I don’t make jokes about gun violence.
  • You bullied my other friends.
  • You repeatedly shared fake news or websites to further some agenda (whether I agree with that agenda or not).
  • You were a dick.

Doesn’t seem like much, but it added up to 159 people. Sorry… do better. Be nicer. Don’t be a dick.

Social media was invented to be fun. (Well… Facebook was actually invented so Zuckerberg could get laid. But that’s fun, right?)

We may not always see eye-to-eye, and if we disagree I always appreciate a good, respectful argument. So, I’m glad we are still friends… for now!

Feral MerylMy mail carrier is terrific. She is consistently on time, and knocks the door when delivering a package. She is always smiling and happy. But while she is very good at her job, her political views are not important to me.

nixonelvisI’m not a fan of celebrity. I respect and appreciate the talents of actors, musicians or sports figures, and anyone who excels in their chosen fields. Are you an expert on politics because you’ve won an Oscar, Emmy, Grammy or a Super Bowl? Um… no. I don’t tune in to a movie or sporting event to hear the news or political opinions. I’m escaping from that stuff.

Sports figures, especially coaches, hate when they are questioned about tactics or strategy. The general public knows nothing about the intricacies of their sport. So why should we care about your political views, Charles Barkley?

Meryl Streep is the best actress in history. Challenge that statement, I dare ya. So when she took the stage this week to accept a lifetime achievement award, I expected her usual funny and humble acceptance. And when she launched into her political speech I started to cringe.

Don’t get me wrong… I agree with every syllable of her speech. It was delivered beautifully, and it clearly resonated with the audience in the theater and around the world. Of course it did… she is the best actress on the planet reading from a very professionally written script. But I turned the TV on that night for entertainment, not a political speech.

I love you, Meryl. I agree with your statement. You deserve every acting award in the world, and I will continue to watch your movies. Now sit down and shut the fuck up.

You too, Scott Baio and Ted Nugent! (Trying to be fair…)

An Appreciation – I wrote these words last April: “At the end of the day, I want my President to represent our country positively and professionally, and be committed to keeping my family safe.”

fullsizerender-19For the past eight years, I’ve had that with Barack Obama.

I didn’t always agree with his policies. In fact, I sometimes disagreed strongly. But that is to be expected with the complexity of issues faced by a President.

But in January of 2009, he entered the office with so much raw energy, optimism and hope. He still has all of that, and a few more gray hairs. We pretty much knew he was a good man, and he proved it to us. Every day, he worked tirelessly for his country while facing unprecedented opposition and unfathomable hatred.

And for every minute of those eight years, President Obama and his family have represented our country with dignity and grace. History will determine if he was a good President – I think it will show him to be a great one.

Like many people, I’m scared for my country. But I won’t dwell on that.

Today, I’ll just thank the President of the United States for a job well done.

As with anything I write, I welcome your comments and spirited, respectful debate. 





Hanging It Up

12 06 2016


2005Bickel_152

““No soccer coach ever stops learning. That’s what makes the great coaches great. They strive to learn more every day and they never stop asking questions.” ~ Jürgen Klopp

Image[8]I’m a little sad today, and I hope you will forgive a post that will sometimes seem self-serving. (But please don’t ever forgive that alliteration!)

I coached my last game of youth soccer this morning. I wrestled with this for months, and made the decision to step down a few weeks ago. It was ultimately an easy one as it’s time for me to concentrate on some other things in my life.

A little bit of history and a bunch of appreciation…

With no knowledge of soccer, I was drafted into helping coach my son’s team about twenty years ago. I have been learning and loving this beautiful game ever since, and I am sure that will never cease. Besides my family and friends, there are few things that give me as much joy and I’m so grateful for the opportunities and connections I’ve made because of this great sport.

It’s been my privilege to be part of two fantastic youth sports organizations in Northeast Philadelphia – Academy Sabres and Danubia Soccer Club. I was also honored to coach at the Pennsylvania Keystone Games. And I’ve thoroughly enjoyed placing teams to compete in the Philadelphia Dept of Rec, Philadelphia Area Girls, United Junior and Inter-County soccer leagues.

Danubia U-19

I’ve met and worked with some very special people, and I’d like to thank just a few of them here:

  • At Academy Sabres… Bill Rooney drafted me, Steve Gallagher gave me more responsibility, and Ed Magee and Jenn Dreibelbis dragged me back after a few years away.
  • It was my extreme pleasure to be a small part in the resurgence at Danubia Soccer Club, where my boys had such big success. We did well, but most importantly my players were seen by lots of college coaches – the Danubia name had a lot to do with that. All credit goes to Nick Kramer who led that club back to prominence. Thanks, Nick!
  • And special thanks to my good friend, Sal Calio… who taught me more about the guts of the game than anyone else. I still laugh at how our skill sets and overall philosophy synced… we sometimes finished each others sentences!

Many thanks to all the coaches, administrators and league officials I’ve worked with over the years… and to most of the parents and some of the refs! Just kidding… much respect to all!

I’ve been so lucky to work with great kids… every last one of my players were fantastic. I now feel such happiness connecting with them in person and on social media. I have been extremely proud to see their successes… in school, in business, and serving our country. And some of these young men are getting married and starting families of their own. I hope some of these former players become coaches, and feel that same pride that I enjoy so much.

JL_Soccer_01bLast but certainly not least, I thank my son, John… my all-time favorite player. My love for the game of soccer is because of the talent, desire, and joy that he exuded while playing and practicing. As many know, it can tough on a player when his parent is the coach. I realized that after a few years, and when he entered high school I stopped coaching him… a good move because he excelled and I got to watch. I’m sure he learned a lot from his successes and failures on the field, and I did too. And for the rest of my days, I will continue to let him think he knows more about soccer than I do!

I’ve written my thoughts on coaching in a previous post, and although my philosophy has evolved it has always been simple. The primary job of a coach is to instill two things in the hearts and minds of players… joy and respect for the game and your teammates. That principle alone will help them succeed in sports and, more importantly, in life.

FullSizeRender (12)At the end of the day, and the decades… we won some, and we lost some. There were some great days, and we celebrated. There were some not so great days, and we learned. We learned from each other as well, and we had a lot of fun. I will always be thankful for all the ups and downs!

Cheers to you all!

My Academy Sabres team was good enough to sign my hat after the game this morning… it will have a very prominent spot on my shelf of memories.





B-Musings – Pants On Fire Edition

18 04 2016

“B-Musings”… sharing random blurbiage and ping-pong balls rattling around my dome.  Haven’t done this in over a year, but it doesn’t mean my brain is resting peacefully.

liar_liar_pants_on_fireLiars – Not so long ago, calling someone a “liar” was one of the worst insults you could say. In this supercharged political season of today, it’s commonplace. Every presidential candidate has said  the “L” word frequently, certainly exacerbating a campaign that has been definitely not “presidential”.

It’s not just in politics, I’ve seen it occur in the workplace as well. I’m not sure what’s worse… the ease at which people wield this knife, or that the increased frequency of the sin that makes the accusation so normal. It’s just another subtle decline of our values, part of a larger landslide.

Beautifully Played – If you have read my blogs before or know anything about me personally, you are aware of my love for soccer. I watch, coach, live and love the beautiful game. I’m not writing this to expand my thoughts further on these feelings, but today I was reminded what the game is about for me.

the-beautiful-game-shirt-alt_grandeAs I said, I am a coach. For most of the last twenty years or so I have been involved in youth soccer. I’ve held several official and administrator roles at various times, but I’ve always been a coach. Sometimes I’ve been a good one, sometimes not so much. But I’ve always tried to teach my players to respect the game and their opponents. We don’t always win, but we try to play with integrity.

I knew going into my U-13 match this weekend that I would have some trouble fielding a team. Some players were sick, some had some family conflicts, etc. But we had the full eleven side and started the match. At halftime, one of my defenders had to leave to attend his lacrosse game. The opposing coach saw him leave and immediately took one of his players off the field.

I’ve been in this situation before… on both sides of the ball. What to do depends on many factors, and a somewhat meaningless spring soccer game made it easier to make the sides even. And he did that.

Sometimes in youth sports you see examples of adults behave badly because of a skewed sense of proprieties… not that day. It really doesn’t matter who won the match, and these kids all played beautifully. Clearly, I love this word…

It was a beautiful thing, on a beautiful day, and it’s all part of the beautiful game.

GeorgeClinton1Funkified – I’ve been feeling funky lately. No… not George Clinton Parliament Funkedelic funky, but I’m not above posting a picture of him to add some color to all your lives… you’re welcome!!

I’ve just been in a rut. I’ve been busy at work, travelling, more work, etc. I’ve also been distracted by many things, like politics and the unbelievable rise of Leicester City Football Club (that could be an entire blog post). So I haven’t been reading and writing much in the last couple of months.

Reading a book usually gets me out of these funks, and that simple act rescued me again over seven flights in the past two weeks. This time it really made me think, as I am reading the autobiography of my favorite artist – Elvis Costello.

To be honest… this is a good book, not a great one. If you are familiar with Costello’s career you know that he’s pretty much done whatever he wanted, sometimes risking success and certainly record sales. In this book he tells his story… the one he wants to tell. It is sometimes boring and sometimes exhilarating. The chapter stories are told randomly, without regard to his chronology.

I own every second of Elvis Costello’s published music, plus hours of concert stuff and radio shows. I’m guessing I’ve seen him live close to thirty times. He’s recorded about a thousands songs… I love some, I like some, and a few I don’t like at all.  But I always respected his commitment to be his own artist, and he always inspires me.

You are reading this now because this week, he inspired me to read and write… and get funky.

Turn the sound up and enjoy my favorite Elvis Costello song… and maybe ask that same question. Enjoy your day!





Soccer Is Life

23 07 2015

DSC_0299_042410

More than any other sport, soccer is life.

When asked to qualify my love for the sport, I immediately go to the usual reasons – the flow of the game, the constant movement, the consistency of the rules, the athleticism of the players, no stoppages or timeouts, only three subs, blah blah blah…

I also lean very heavily on the supporters culture – being there for the team, and each other, no matter what.

The events of past two days in my little corner of the football world enabled me to hone in on the best reason to love the beautiful game. On any given day, any team can beat any other team… regardless of payroll, professional or amateur, or league level.

Two days ago my Philadelphia Union won a U.S. Open Cup match they had no business winning. Down a man for 75% of the match, conceding a late equalizer, each player dead on his feet… they prevailed against a much more powerful opponent. Eleven buses full of Union fans made the trip to Red Bull Arena to witness what may have been the finest moment in the history of this young franchise. I was there!!

481612286My euphoria was short-lived, as the U.S. National Team (the men) were shocked by Jamaica in the semi-final of the Gold Cup last night. Jamaica… a team that ON PAPER had no business winning a game against the mighty United States of America. That may be debatable… but the result left me shocked and bummed, and sent tournament officials into a tizzy trying the figure out how to promote a USA-less final at the big stadium. A lesson learned.

In soccer and in life, you better be prepared and always at the top of your game. These “upsets” happen all year long, in competitions all over the world. This is the beauty of my game. And because I love it so much, the highs are that much higher and the lows are that much lower.

But there is another match against another team who could show us another lesson. Today the American Outlaws are licking their wounds and figuring out the best way to support their team at the next match, in that little stadium by the river. And the Sons of Ben are getting ready to head to DC to support the Union.

Why? Because it’s what we do. Its part of what makes soccer beautiful, and why I love it so.





My Beautiful Game

2 10 2013

jr030813liverpool-33-5582698

A few weeks ago I posted my thoughts about baseball, and what I missed about the game I loved as a child. This elicited some great responses, and may have caused a blood vessel to burst in the heads of one or two people. I like the conversations my posts create, and find great joy in providing a forum to respectfully share views.

In the interest of fair play, I’ve decided to turn my keen eye to the game I love… soccer. My beautiful game. Don’t worry, I’ll only allow myself to gush for one paragraph. Or two. Maybe three…

When I coached young players I would always say, “It’s a simple game… If the ball is in their end, kick it in. If it’s in your end, kick it out.” Maybe I over simplified, but I believe soccer is the ultimate team game – a choreographed dance where each member has an equal share in the success and failure of the team. There are star players on teams at every level, but they can’t excel alone. Behind every great goal scorer several players who serve the ball. Accordingly, in front of the best goalkeepers are three, four or more players working together to minimize shots. Eleven players, working as one.

No sport in the world requires more athleticism and fitness, and puts more emphasis on playing for your country. Beyond that, I still love the simplicity… forty-five minute halves, no stoppages, no time-outs, no instant replay, only three subs per team, and the unrivaled pure energy that exists in a soccer stadium.

That’s the good stuff… nuff said!

But soccer isn’t without faults. Some are inherent in all sports, some are soccer specific. Things that need to improve…

flopping-e1352603348377

  • Faking Injuries – I hear about that more than anything else from soccer skeptics. I’ve lost respect for more than a few talented players because they get hurt when brushed by a feather. Thirty seconds later they are running like nothing happened. I’d love to see referees empowered to caution these players and get this out of the game.
  • Racism / Hooligans – Mostly in Europe, this continues to be a problem and clearly says more about the countries involved than the sport. Nothing makes me cringe more than video of players being subjected to this, or fan violence in the stands. Always newsworthy for soccer detractors, it needs to be dealt with.
  • Corruption – There are increasing stories about corruption in the game, from match fixing to bribery. FIFA has been the subject of numerous questions through the years, and now it looks like a major investigation will be underway about the choice of sites for the 2022 and 2026 World Cups. Obviously, when there is a great deal of money at stake, doors can open for some people to cut corners. Since soccer hasn’t reached a fever pitch here in the states (yet), U.S. Soccer and MLS haven’t been associated with such problems. We could probably learn some lessons from England, arguably one of the most rabid soccer countries in the world and virtually free from this type of scandal.
  • Winning – Yes, believe it or not winning is a problem… but only at the youth level. And this is a problem for all youth sports. Too much emphasis on building winning teams erodes the skill level of all our athletes. Basic fundamental teaching of a sport is giving way to a “win at all cost” mentality, and the players are suffering.  It’s a broken system that needs correcting. It’s not a coincidence that the United States produces the most talented athletes in the world, but doesn’t compete at the highest level in soccer.

I always draw a distinction between the sport and the game. When I spoke about baseball, my commentary mostly concerned what the sport has done to adversely affect the game. Truthfully, I love the game of baseball, of soccer… and also hockey, football, basketball, etc. You have to admire the competition on the field, the pitch, the ice or the court.

I’ll have to keep an eye on these bad things about soccer, and hope they don’t adversely affect what happens between the white lines.  And I’ll continue to love my beautiful game, unless it becomes too much of a sport.