It’s How You Play the Game

The other night, I was watching a political town meeting on one of the all-news channels.  One of the candidates stated proudly that he was a soccer player, and my ears immediately perked up.  I was a soccer player, too.  I thought to myself that perhaps I should support this candidate, with our mutual enjoyment of all things relating to the pentagon-patched ball.  With the diversity of the field, it would be nice if I shared a common interest with one of them.  But, before I followed him on social media, I did a little research about his sports-related profession.

It is true that, as a child, this candidate was enrolled in an organized league and regularly participated in formal games, and it is said that he was quite the striker when he was ten.  He went to all the practices – some might say religiously – and was proficient at all the drills. However, during High School and college, those formal games and organized leagues were abandoned for more informal forms of the game.  He still participated in pick-up games and occasionally kicked the ball around, but it was always on his schedule and the rules were loosely observed.  But he was still, by definition, a soccer player.

After college, this candidate would take his soccer ball to a local park when he schedule allowed and began changing the rules of play (subtly at first but later more egregiously), so that before long, when he did play with his soccer ball, he allowed the use of hands and he tallied seven points for each goal.  In essence, he was playing a hybrid of football and soccer, if ‘foot-ccer’ was played on a boundless field.  The purist among us might argue that he was no longer playing soccer, but he was still, truth be told, kicking around a soccer ball.

At present, the candidate has not touched a soccer ball in many years, and some wonder if he even owns one any longer.  His schedule no longer permits him to go to the park, and even if it did, the ways that other soccer players play the game at the parks that he once frequented is displeasing to his sense of the game.  But he lives in a region of the country where people view soccer players more favorably than players of other sports, so he continues to profess that he still participates in the game.  But he is no longer, by definition, a soccer player.

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves.  Do what it says.  James 1:22

I appreciate that some people play soccer and other people do not.  I appreciate that some people once played soccer but play the game no longer.  But I have trouble with the conception of our culture that playing soccer is anything that the player thinks that means, regardless of the rules or the history of the game.  If you are happy just kicking a ball around in the backyard, please do not call yourself a soccer player.

One response

  1. ​Mike —

    Ich war auch Fußballspieler! … I was also a soccer player! Loved it.

    In grammar schools grades 7 and 8 we were undefeated. Of course the several “Displaced Persons” on the team greatly assisted our success. These were kids from persons displaced during WWII from Germany, Russia, Poland, et al. Our star goalie was Latvian, Edgar Klavins. I still retain photographs of him and we stayed in touch for many years. Sadly he died early. Our coach was German, I believe, but came here with his family long before the war.

    A high school friend, Scottish, became an all-star college soccer player, finally being signed to a prfessional team, the details of which now are ethereal.

    I used to go to soccer games in CT, mostly college games – the game was not considered popular or “manly”, I reckon, unlike football. Also used to go to the huge Colt’s Park (yes, that Colt) in Hartford on Sundays to watch pick-up games or club games, mostly Italian, some Portuguese. The games could be wild and confrontational but some really good players could be seen. Occasionally I’d play in pick-up games never knowing how good some of the guys were … and some indeed could be very good. Gave up playing when my old soccer shoes with the stacked leather cleats were falling apart and I could no longer conscience the cleat nails intruding the shoes interiors; new ones were too expensive.

    Several friends and I watched the 1974 world cup championship between England and Germany that Germany won. I must admit that most of the guys in the group that day were German. One of my very best friends (Swabian) died last fall. He and his wife visited Marie and I in August, a lovely day entirely. It was obvious that Nick was in poor health. We felt that he wanted to visit me from Norwalk, CT, a 2.5 hour ride, knowing that the end was near. I’ll always miss him.

    BTW: Nick was and all-star soccer player while in college in Germany and for awhile played in a Bridgeport soccer league. I met him when I worked in Bridgeport, CT; he worked for the same firm and his desk as next to mine.

    Yeah … still love soccer.



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