Getting my kicks...

June 20, 2014 

Almost eight years ago I was asked to coach a soccer team of 4, 5 and 6 year olds. Initially, my concern was that I had zero knowledge of the game. Pretty quickly I realized that coaching at that level was not X’s and O’s, but more akin to herding cats. My biggest achievement as a coach was that my players ran in the right direction most of the time, and there were always snacks after the game.

My son is still playing, thankfully being coached by someone with knowledge of the game. As my son’s love of the game grows, so has mine. Or family regularly attends games at Sporting Park watching Sporting Kansas City play. We watch Premier League games on Saturday mornings, we follow professional players and their careers, and most weekends find us on the pitch or indoors watching our son play local or club level ball. I think it’s safe to say that over the last eight years my family has grown into proper fans of the sport.

Like me, there are many, many new fans to the game. As newbies, we must be aware of one key fact: everywhere you go there there will be a long suffering U.S. soccer fan who cannot wait to tell you how long they have been a long suffering U.S. soccer fan. Let’s give credit where credit is due. These gallant few have been fans of the beautiful game before being a fan was cool. I’ve found there is an art to dealing with these folks, and just in time for the World Cup, allow me to provide some helpful tips.

First off, for those of you in the KC metro area, when confronted with an uber-fan on the attack, it is a little known fact that Tony Meola is their safe word, and once uttered, they are bound by secret creed to back off and leave you alone.

Usually the tenured fan is not a bother, but there are those who refuse to say the word soccer, opting instead for the word futbol. By law, you are legally entitled to give this person a penalty kick anywhere you see fit.

Stoppage time is extra time added to the end of a match, and not a hoped for end of the conversation after a veteran fan discusses the finer points of the 4-3-3 formation for 20 minutes straight. The defensive third is not a positional baseball player who is good with a glove, service into the box is not a cable company reference, and offsides does not get you five yards and a replay of the down.

What’s important here is that we don’t compare the size of our fandoms. Yes, they were there first, as their Comets T-shirt circa 1986 will attest. Yes, they may know every single cheer verbatim that comes from bowels of the Cauldron. Yes, they would never confuse a winger for one of the guys from that horrible rock band of the late 80’s. You and I have some catching up to do, but it’s OK.

When Zusi made that cross, laying the ball right where it needed to be, and Brooks finished with the perfect header in the dying minutes of the match agains Ghana, everyone in my living room jumped to their feet, fist pumping and chest thumping, screaming bloody murder just like everyone else who was watching around the country. Young or old, tenured or new, we were all of one voice and celebrating collectively. I think I can safely speak for all fans when I say:

I believe that we will win...

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