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An attempt at a return to glory…

October 31, 2008

I am pretty much the runt of my family’s litter. I don’t say this to be self-deprecating or to get people to feel sorry for myself; it is just the truth. I am four inches shorter than my two older brothers, and while I was above average at most sports, I didn’t really excel at any. But don’t get me wrong. I love being the runt. Runts have spunk, they have personality. And, of course, every dog has his day.

My “day” happened in my senior year of high school. Like I mentioned, I wasn’t exactly an athletic machine. My two brothers were each captains of two varsity sports in high school (ranging from soccer to basketball to track); I was lucky just to make the teams I was on. But for my senior year, my soccer team badly needed a decent goalkeeper, so I trained the entire summer beforehand to take on the position.

And through a lot of hard work, I got pretty good. I wound up getting named to the All-City team in New York, was MVP of my squad, and led Regis High School to its first city championship and state tournament appearances in school history.

Why am I telling you all of this? Because I started to get the itch to play again recently…

I didn’t play any college ball. I was recruited by a couple Division III schools, but playing a sport in college wasn’t really a big deal to me, so I went to Loyola Marymount, whose D-I team was ranked in the top 20 in the nation at the time — a place I had virtually no chance of walking on. I played a little soccer for LMU’s club team my freshman year, but I eventually got involved in other things, so I soon gave that up as well.

My college career was, as a whole, pretty unathletic. No offense to my friends there, but they too weren’t exactly athletic machines. They were mostly nerdy intellectuals. I remember a group of us decided to play intramural basketball one year. We played one game. We lost 72-10. (I think that was the score; it could’ve been worse.)

So anyway, just hanging out in Vegas, I got the itch again. I remember my brother John saying something about playing intramural sports while out in Austin, TX so I did a little research online and I found an email for intramural soccer leagues in Las Vegas. They looked like fun. They had men’s only, co-ed, etc. I emailed the head of the league, sold my soccer credentials, and I told them I would love to play at any level.

Little did I know what I was getting myself into…

I got an email earlier this week to come out to a practice for Tyneside United. I checked out the team’s web site, and immediately was pretty intimidated. That intimidation only grew when I was out on the field with them.

This wasn’t exactly the “intramural” experience I was expecting. These guys were athletes. Most of them were in their late 20s, in prime physical condition, just a couple years removed from the UNLV soccer team. I say that was “most” of them, because some of them were even better. A couple of them had actually played professionally.

So yeah, needless to say, I had gotten myself into a quandary. But what the heck, I figured, now is the time to see how I would’ve done had I ever played D-I ball. I told them I was a goalkeeper and after a sizable warm-up run and an extensive shooting drill that worked me to my core (I was seeing white spots, breathing like only an asthmatic could, and trying with all of my being not to pass out), we were ready to scrimmage.

I had done okay in the shooting drill. I was a little rusty, but I held my own. Still, these guys were nasty. Their shots were blurs into the far corners of the net.

In the scrimmage, I was much better. I didn’t have to worry about my endurance of keeping up with shot after shot, I just had to manage my defense and make the occasional save. I felt in control, and I felt good. And then my face exploded.

OK, I’m being dramatic. And usually I would add a, “well, my face didn’t really explode,” but honestly, it did. Let me explain…

In the scrimmage, the opposing team crossed it to a forward, all alone, at the edge of the six-yard box. I went out to confront him and cut off his shooting angle. I felt like I had the goal pretty well blocked when he rocketed off his shot. Now, as my high school teammates will attest, I have a history of making saves with virtually every part of my body. At Regis, I made dazzling saves with my feet, my forearms, even my chest.

Well on this night, under the Las Vegas moon, I made another dazzling save… with my face. The shot, which was probably sent off toward my nose at approximately 90 mph, was redirected back to the playing field by yours truly, and we continued on the game.

Needless to say, blood was everywhere. Coming from nose, from my lips, I looked pretty grotesque. But I didn’t want to be “that guy” who had to stop the game, so I waved it off, said I was all right, and tried to get the blood to stop by pinching my nose. When all was said and done, by the end of the game, I had gotten my face to stop bleeding but I looked like I was ready to go out for Halloween.

I’m pretty sure when I walked off that field at the end of the game covered in blood, the other players must have thought I was a bit of a lunatic. But no one has ever accused me of being normal.

When I was driving home, I realized I had run out of H20, so I made a pit stop at Wal-Mart to get a couple cases of water. I used what little water I had left in my car to clean off my face before I went in. I walked into the store, thinking I probably just looked a little disheveled, like anyone would look after a workout, but normal enough. Man was I wrong. I didn’t realize that dried blood was all over my shirt, arms, and legs. I probably looked like I had just murdered someone. Many strange looks later, I left the superstore with some water.

So yeah, that was my soccer experience. I actually do plan on going again, until they tell me my services are no longer needed. But I think I’m going to try to leave my face out of it from now on.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. bobby permalink
    October 31, 2008 12:01 pm

    all-city huh? pretty impressive

  2. burlick permalink
    October 31, 2008 1:22 pm

    you seem to have a tendency for getting injured in sports… like breaking a finger on 1st play in football games…

  3. Megan permalink
    October 31, 2008 1:33 pm

    haha didn’t YOU cause that injury at holiday bowl burlick??

  4. November 2, 2008 5:51 pm

    I don’t wish you bodily harm, but perhaps if you keep making saves with your face, we won’t look alike anymore.

    I’m just saying…

  5. Kim permalink
    November 8, 2008 11:35 pm

    Let me thank you again, Murph, for entertaining me with your stories. And BE CAREFUL, for Christ’s sake!

  6. November 20, 2008 1:58 pm

    Are you trying to allege that contents of my blog are nerdy?

    http://blog.matthewdelja.com/2008/11/internet-natives-have-gone-wild.html

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