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


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““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

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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.





Book Covers – Revisited

12 07 2015

It was an interesting weekend.

I had a fantastic time at the soccer game yesterday – tailgating and watching a Philly Union win with family and a bunch of friends. There were fireworks too! Today, I spent the afternoon learning… trying to get an inbound marketing certification.

Inbound marketing deals with leads and selling. It has buzzwords like SEO, analytics and other key concepts that helps your information to be found by Google search.

For a personal blog post like this, I don’t worry about search, or keywords, or anything like that. In my very first post – over two years ago – I stated that “I shall write for myself and let the chips fall where they may.” I keep to that…

But I’ll be honest… recognition makes me feel good. Whether it’s a positive or negative comment, or a social media share, or someone just saying that they like what I am doing. Earlier this year I wrote a post about bullying that, for whatever reason, was viewed close to 50,000 times. It was stunning to me, but it taught me that you can never predict what will strike a chord with people.

My previous most viewed post was entitled “Book Covers“… where I wrote about not judging people by their appearances. More specifically, it was about a young woman named Jessie who lost her life while giving birth to her son.

Yesterday I met Cheryl, that young woman’s mother. She works with my wife, and came to the game with another co-worker. I was happy to arrange for them to come to the supporter’s tailgate, and Cheryl was able to meet some of the people who were such a big part of Jessie’s life. I was so glad to hear that they were able to share a couple of beers and some memories.

But the best part of my day was the few minutes of conversation when we met just before the game. She asked me for a hug, and told me that she had read my story about her Jessie.  I was not aware that she knew of the post, or me.

I asked her how long it had been, and she responded quickly, “Nineteen months.” I replied that more time had passed than I thought. She looked me straight in the eye and said, “Not that long at all.” She teared up a little, and so did I. And that was the last word on the subject. A moment shared.

We all had a great time, and lots of laughs. I think she was glad to be at the stadium for the first time, to finally share in an experience so important to her daughter. I told her she must come back because she is good luck for the team! And because it’s probably one of a multitude of things that can bring her closer to Jessie.

I can’t imagine losing a child. Clearly that pain remains after nineteen months, and I’m sure it won’t lessen in nineteen years, or ever. But I think Cheryl has the right idea… Experiencing some of Jessie’s joys will, in small ways, bring her back. And keep her close.





My World Cup – Recap

14 07 2014

GermanyLast month I wrote about my excitement for the pending World Cup, and I made some predictions. Now that it’s all over, here are some thoughts, observations and realizations about the big event.

Overall, the World Cup competition was fantastic. I’m glad that the matches were completed with minimal controversy, and that everyone in Brazil was safe and peaceful. I was especially pleased by the excellent coverage by ESPN. Their commentary, analysis and special features enhanced what was already a tremendous event.

I made what I thought were a few bold predictions, and some were realized. This World Cup was full of surprises in the group stage, then everything settled down and the best teams went through to the finals. Germany won, and they were the best team… without question. But let’s see how I did on those predictions:

For the USA…

jonesPREDICTION: Jermaine Jones will do something that will cost the team. A red card, or a bad foul resulting in a dangerous free kick. I couldn’t have been more wrong… Jones was consistently the best field player for the USA (Tim Howard was team MVP, no doubt). My worry about Jones was that he had a history of cheap fouls and his temper getting the better of him. But after playing every minute and performing fantastic in every game – he made me a believer. His goal against Portugal was one of the best of the tournament, for any team.

PREDICTION: The USA will score in each match. Almost happened, but because they scored against everyone except the eventual champion Germany… I’ll give myself half credit.

PREDICTION: Julian Green will get in the Ghana match, but not see the field for the rest of the tournament. I had that one backwards. Green didn’t get in until late in the last match, and scored a nice goal.

PREDICTION: Tim Howard will stop a penalty. That didn’t happen because we didn’t concede any. Nevertheless, Howard was incredible… best performance on the USA squad.

PREDICTION: Klinsmann will park the bus against Germany, but try to run with Portugal. I think I got this one right. The situation of the group standings was that the U.S. only needed a tie versus Germany, and they played conservatively for that result. The 1-0 loss got them through. But they outplayed Portugal, and should have won.  

PREDICTION: The United States WILL get out of the group, then upset Belgium in the first knockout round. Argentina will knock us out, but that will be deemed a successful showing for Team Klinsmann. Spot on again, well… mostly. The group stage went exactly how I thought … Beat Ghana, a result against Portugal, and close match against Germany. I had counted on Belgium not being as good a TEAM as the U.S. even though they had so many stars. Still, we fought until the end and almost pulled it out.

The rest of the world…

PREDICTION: Lionel Messi will win the Golden Boot. Correct!! But I do think James Rodriguez of Columbia would have been the better choice.

PREDICTION: Some not so big names that will have a big impact: André Schürrle (Germany) and Hulk (Brazil)… “Puny humans!” Schürrle was fantastic, consistently bringing energy and pace off the bench… plus he scored three goals. Don’t forget the fantastic cross on the final winning goal. Hulk was probably one of the better players for Brazil, but they were such a disappointment that it’s hard to give any of them credit.

PREDICTION: England will not win a game. Spot on with this one too. The Three Lions have no bite (pun), and need to completely retool how they plan to compete internationally. The Premier League is the best in the world, and produced more World Cup players than any other. But there are too many foreign star players there restricting the development of English players. The FA has a problem, and no solution.

PREDICTION: Bosnia-Herzegovina will beat France in the first knockout round. Ouch! Lost the first two group matches, and were never a factor.

PREDICTION: Brazil will be a big disappointment, losing in the semifinals to Germany. Holy shit, I’ll never be so right about something again!! Truthfully, at the time of the prediction I thought that the pressure of winning at home would be too much for them. But I never thought it possible they would be humiliated like that. That match got its own post.

PREDICTION: Germany and Spain in the final. So I was half right!

PREDICTION: Spain will win the World Cup. If it wasn’t for Brazil’s epic collapse, this would have been one of the biggest stories of the World Cup. No one thought that some of the top teams in the world (Spain, Portugal, England, Italy) would be heading home after three matches. Wild results… great World Cup.

*At this point it should be noted that I tied for first place in my World Cup pool… no small feat! Yes, there were only four of us in the pool, and I didn’t predict everything right – but I was better than most. I guess I know some stuff…

photoLast thoughts… I observed a lot of soccer in the past 39 days. I watched at least one full match in the group stage each day, and fast forwarded through each goal in the others (love my DVR!). I saw almost every minute of the knockout stage matches. And I reveled in sharing the USA matches with hundreds of new friends and fellow American Outlaws at a few local watering holes. The crowds who gathered across the nation for these matches were incredible, and I hope that US Soccer keeps the momentum going. I know it’s only sports… but in those communal situations you realize that there is nothing more gleeful than a shared joy, and there is also nothing more soothing than commiseration.

But I think my favorite memory was yesterday. I went to my local bar to watch the final with family and friends. Not a traditional soccer bar, but a great place to watch sports. It was a good crowd, but not as many people for a USA match. I got a prime seat directly in front of the 15 foot screen, and seated to my left was a regular who knew nothing about soccer. Most soccer fans would shudder, but I spent the next two plus hours explaining some of the finer points of my beautiful game to an admitted non-fan.

I’m not sure if I turned him from the dark side, but answering his questions reminded me why I love this game so much. The past six weeks have shown how exciting, raw, unexpected, excruciating, and inspiring the game truly is.

And it’s beautiful.

Thanks for reading so many of my soccer posts. We now resume our regular programming…





Colors

4 07 2014

The colors of the flag of our nation are on my mind today, maybe because of all the World Cup/USA soccer fever over the past three weeks. Here are a few red, white and blue thoughts on the anniversary of our nation’s birth…

photo (2)Speaking of the World Cup – Although it’s still going on, I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed a sporting event more than this World Cup – and I have no idea who these people are in the photo! With very few exceptions, the games have been edge-of-your-seat fantastic. Even if you are a soccer novice, it’s been the sports story of the year. Our U.S. team performed admirably, and I think soccer has finally reached the level of acceptance it deserves. Who could have pictured hundreds, and in some cities, thousands of people getting together to watch the World Cup? I can’t wait until 2018! There is a lot of work to be done, and many matches to be played before the next World Cup. But it’s a great time to be an American soccer fan!

If I Had A Time Machine – I often wonder what our Founding Fathers would think of our United States today. These brave, brilliant men could never have foreseen this future, as I’m sure none of us could accurately paint a picture of our world 238 years from now.

6a014e8c33f773970d017ee7f226ce970dImagine if we could pluck Thomas Jefferson from the past… I think he would revel in flying back and forth to his beloved Paris in a jet, and look in wonder at the massive cities that have sprung up across the wilderness he knew. (He might wonder how we got all of this done without slaves.) And, I think that he would be in shock to learn that his two century old parchment writings are considered by some to be the letter of the law.

By definition, a patriot is “a person who vigorously supports their country and is prepared to defend it against enemies or detractors”. Today, many describe themselves as “patriots” because they are convinced that their beliefs are the only solution to the ills of our nation… and all non-believers are to be treated as enemies of the state. They cloak themselves in the Constitution or the Bible, and spit upon those who dare to question their ideas. But they forget those very writings were made to be a beautiful framework for a vision of a free state, or a guide for all of us to be a better, kinder people.

We should continually inspire to be just that.

tumblr_l5aly0HcB01qa944oo1_1280Family and Friends – I’m looking forward to a great weekend. It looks like rain today for the actual 4th of July in Philadelphia, with remnants of Hurricane Arthur that making his way up the east coast. But it should be clear, blue skies on Saturday, and I’m heading to my sister’s place for a fun-filled afternoon by the pool with a bunch of family and friends. Sunshine, good conversation and cocktails are the only things on the menu… maybe a burger or two. Be warned, sis… watch out for a great big cannonball, and – to my chagrin – much water displacement.

As a wise man once said, “Family… what it’s all about!”

Quoting Myself – This time last year I wrote this tidbit, and then stole something from a “so-so” author:

Here’s something you’re not used to seeing on my page… great, great writing:

“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Happy 4th of July, my friends.

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