It was quite the drive down to Sagertown, Pennsylvania... I'm lucky I remembered my MP3 which was making a huge lump in the pocket of my favorite military surplus pants. The back seat was more or less stuffy in our coach's Ford E-350, the four rows of seats packed full with soccer players promised a deathchoking stench of sweaty soccer gear for the ride home.
I propped my arm up over the back of the seat as the cold, damp window met my elbow. Leaning my neck over my shoulder to see Stormy's iPad (although it was smaller than an iPad) was strenuous through the endless strings of random Youtube videos we watched.
After the battery ran low for the iPad, I resounded to my second option of mild entertainment: the lump in my pocket! I hoped and prayed that Storm's repeated requests to borrow my headphones for listening to his screamo music hadn't shot the tiny speakers. Philips makes very good quality products! These little guys have lasted through endless abuse and volume, but they remain loyal in not malfunctioning.
When we reached our destination, a school that was remarkably smaller than I thought, the temperature was much, much cooler that I had anticipated. I hopped back in the van to pull out my backpack who was persistently invading my footspace, and took out an extra shirt I brought for good measure. I took back out to the field afterward contently warmer. "No goalie jersey for me to keep warm in today!" I thought to myself... it was true, Seb, our best player, had volunteered to play goalie for our team since our opponents were the best in the league.
I recognized the field, it's the same one we played our championship on last year. Huge power lines cross right over the field. It's uncommon but definitely not unheard of for a punt to hit those power lines. I can't help but wonder if sometimes the punters try and hit it.
I fooled around with some of the 8th graders following my exit of the van. There's a small lawn in between the school building and the field which offered a realistic little game of mini-soccer before we had to pump up for the real thing. I smiled as I stole the ball countless times and the youngsters started to get frustrated. But after five or six rounds I resounded to being goalie for my little team, I didn't want to tire myself out when a REAL game was about to begin in an unknown matter of minutes.
It wasn't long before coach ordered us to do warm-ups and Seb led us around the little lawn in laps, I ran beside him trying to take pride. Our sweeper who usually runs beside Seb wasn't present, and I was more than ready to fill the gap for him after the countless times he saved the ball before I would've inevitably missed it. Seb had to stop to tie his shoe and told us to go on, so I took the lead. It felt great being in front of everybody, not as a sign of boasting but as a sign of pride, I didn't look back, I just led our team as we warmed up to battle our enemies!
The game began! I my cleats had already given in to the moisture of the wet grass, my socks began to become uncomfortably wet and cold. I marveled at how Seb took that ball literally out of thin air and controlled it with ease, twice. But something happened in the third shot... our sweeper missed the player who had the ball, and I rushed in to take it back, but I was too late, the man already shot straight passed our goalie and tripped over him as well! But Seb didn't get up, I assumed he was just hiding his humiliation, but when I asked him if he was all right, he didn't answer. The ref came over and asked if he needed our coach to come over, our motionless goalie mumbled "yeeeeeeeth". The coach took care of him while I told the rest of our team to stay back! The best way to make the situation of an injured player worse is to have the whole team gathered around him tighter than a hay bale. The coach ordered me to play goalie, and I responded wordless with no hesitation. It was inevitable, I'm next in line for goalie if something should happen to Seb and barely anyone disputes that. But when the jersey was on and my gloves were tight, there was only one thing running through my mind: "Seb was our defense captain, Josh isn't here, and all the 12th graders are on offense... I'M THE DEFENSE CAPTAIN!!!"
Now if the very environment of "if you mess up no one forgets cause it goes on the scoreboard for the whole game" isn't stressful enough, pile that on top of the one being responsible for the defense's strategy!
It wasn't too terrible, after the second half Seb was feeling well enough to play goalie. So I took the role of sweeper since the guy who was playing it hurt a muscle during our first soccer practice and wasn't capable of kicking at full power without hurting himself. From what I've noticed about sweepers, they need to do that, and do it well!
13 goals later, it became VERY apparent we had no hope of winning, the other players had been very cocky every time they got a goal and it was dumbly obvious they were toy-ing with us by the second half. But one of our midfielders had this bright idea! Once the whistle sounded to announce the second start of the game, all the midfielders and offenders came in and huddled around the ball... literally! It was hilarious watching the pitter-pat down the field a few inches at the time, many laughs were shared by our team and the crowd, I think the other team was speechless!
I was very proud of my team for thinking of that, even though we were losing by a mile, that just provided the opportunity to be more caviler in our methods of how we had fun! Afterwards, to help eliminate the seriousness of it all, I ran up to a member of the other team who had the ball and played around with him for a couple of seconds as I tried to steal the ball, I made dumb, sarcastic sounds as if I was enjoying myself to keep everyone from thinking I was planning to do anything bad to this kid.
We piled back into the van and drove down the long road, the promise of food somewhere along the way helped keep our spirits up. We stopped at a Pilot, which is a convenience store/gas station, to pick up some snacks in the adjoining Subway. The line of our soccer players seemed a little extensive to me, so I resounded to little bag snacks. Sour Cream & Onion Lays chips caught my eye, I sighed as I took it off the shelf, "$1.39, what happened to those $1 baggies that were the same size, and probably more quantity?!" I turned to the refrigerated beverages behind me to keep my head from spending the next hour and a half ranting on the economical problems this country has. Instead, I was faced with another problem, my three favorite Mountain Dews were sitting on the bottom shelf: Voltage, Livewire and Code Red. Now this was a serious problem! I called two 12th graders who I guessed had more recent experience in these flavors than I had to come help me with my dilemma, one of them obviously knew his Dews seeing as he spoke right up is suggesting Voltage as his favorite, but not after taking the time to think carefully between good, better and best. I snagged a Cheese-Its and a snatch of mini-oreos, and headed down the back aisle to find Stormy, ex-goalie and midfielder, looking at his list of options for a cool, refreshing means of hydration through a treat. He asked me if I got one of the 1 liters (that were on sale), and I held up my bottle indicating a 'yes'. He laughed at what I assumed to be my choice of soda but soon after he pointed out I grabbed a 20 ounce, not a one liter. I laughed as I replaced the bottle where a whole in the shelf once held the Voltage, and in replacement snagged a one liter Dr. Pepper.
I still felt my meal was missing something, so I headed farther into the tiny convenience store to see what other edible options remained. The smell of fresh rubber and car parts on the far shelves didn't promise much, until I saw a bag of what looked to be beef jerky... I love beef jerky and hadn't had it in so long! The price of such a small baggie made me think twice and even a third time about purchasing such a delicacy, but considering the total of my two other items was about $1.50 each and I had a $10 in my back pocket, I decided I could still fulfill my eager taste buds with an extra $5 to my receipt.
I always purchase my food in bags as to share with my fellow teammates fortunate (or lack thereof) to be placed in the same seat as me. It always proves to add to my list of friends considering they follow my rule of "don't be a pig with them...", after all, I purchased the object and wanted some too. Our two offense players suggested a freestyle rap battle between the five of us in the two back seats, one of them openly remarked that I had some of the best raps on short notice, but I studdered like everyone else did. We had fun!
Both of my parents were patiently waiting in the Bethel parking lot when we drove in. They were less than impressed when I told them that the other team scored both times they told us to push up but I wanted to stay behind in case the other team could out-maneuver our midfielders. Our coaches are not the best in the world but they are what we got. And, honestly, I'm glad I got some goalkeeping experience, even if it was under our coaches this year.
I had to go to bed early, the following morning was going to be an early wake-up call. One I was not looking forward to.
I was right! When I opened my eyes the dark world around me flooded me with it's coldness. I'm not sure why, but I always seem to naturally wake up before I must, even if it's very early. I rolled over, hoping to see some insanely low number on my red digital clock. 6:30am, not as early as I'd like it to be (for the sake of going to sleep again) but it was enough to sort of half-phase between sleep and being awake for a little while, until dad's voice boomed throughout this half of the house, "Timmer, time to get up, bud!!" I let out my usual moan in a high volume to confirm his call had been successful but always secretly indicating I wish it had never happened (again, for the sake of going back to sleep). But after two or three minutes of forcing my eyes to adapt to the light of dawn instead of my precious eyelids, I forced myself out of my warm, safe bed into the cold, gripping air. This was not unknown to me, getting up this early, this time of year always promises dawn's freezing curse. I assumed today was not a cereal day! I overviewed the pan that, 90% of the time, holds only eggs to see if it had been greased enough the first time to keep my eggs from becoming latched on to the cast iron.
While they cooked, my stomach didn't feel quite right. I wasn't sure whether it was how I slept or those funky pills mom had me take last night for the suspicious-looking infection on my shoulder. I assumed it was the latter. I pulled the purest looking apple I could find, out of the fruit bowl and sliced it into smaller pieces, now was not the time to spend trying to strategically get every bit of apple I could without hitting a seed or breaking my teeth. I ate most of the slices and slapped my eggs onto two sandwiches with cheese can ketchup. Very filling and delicious but a little hard to chug down, dad was in a hurry to catch Mr. Frank before he left the school so see if he could shuttle me home after the game. I quickly splashed some water in a cup to help speed the bread crusts on their way down to my, even more now, unsettled stomach. I grabbed my coat and MP3, kissed mama goodbye, and hustled out to dad's work truck. The morning air was cooler and brisk than that of my bedroom, but I had two warm eggs and a jacket on my side now, if I hadn't I would freeze to the bone.
About half a mile down the road I slumped in the truck seat to see if I could catch 40 winks, or 20, or 10, heck, I'd be content with one, a long one, one very long one.
One of our coaches and a defender were the only ones waiting when we arrived, I asked the coach if Mr. Frank had arrived and left yet. He replied with a no but a silent one, I guessed he didn't get a good night's sleep either. I got a ride with one of the younger kids' mom that I was lucky enough to snag shotgun with while other players gradually piled in the back. They had a little DVD player strapped in in the back so the others could watch Narina: Voyage of the Dawn Treader while we drove. Dawn Treader... I wish I was a dawn treader, more like a dawn victim! I don't really hate early mornings, I just hate how tired I feel and how cold they are.
The nice lady who was driving us was mildly impressed with my knowledge of the script of the movie, I mostly tried to picture it with my mind. But after a while I pulled out my MP3 in hope for some familiar tunes. The ride to the school was indifferent than the previous day, I called out, in my head, all the familiar areas we passed the day before, but I was truly bored out of my skull.
We parked in the same area as last time, but I needed to change into my soccer jersey. Which, actually, wasn't changing at all, I just needed to put my pants back in the bag, my shorts were under them, and put my shirt on under my jersey. But even if decency is under them, it is still considered socially incorrect to pull your pants down in public.
We had no warm-ups before today's game, but everyone gathered around the goal to practice shooting. Many of which I failed to stop, but in the real game the odds of a person shooting with that much aim from that short distance is very, very slim. I shrugged off the endless gloats from the younger and annoying orders from the older that never seemed to stop. Until finally, the game started!
Block after block, dive after dive, I was starting to feel a little good about myself. For once this season, I'm actually doing a pretty good job! Many cheers went up as little Stormy outflanked their goalie and made a goal when they had failed to make one on us yet.
However, our secondary sweeper, Hapi, directly fouled another player accidentally. I thought this meant they would shoot from the 18 line, I would catch it, I would boot it, great, done! It out of here! But my heart rate shot skyward as the ref put it VARY dangerously close to our goal. Unless by some miracle, they would pick an idiot to shoot and he would shoot it straight for me, I was screwed. This guy was so close, he didn't need to be big or strong, he just needed to know how to put a clean shot in the corner. Which, fortunately enough, he didn't! The ball rolled along the ground, yet still very quickly, right near my left foot. If I could drop to the ground fast enough, I could catch it with my knee and scoop in up in my hands! Well, the knee part was a good idea, I did land on the ball with my knee, but not enough to stop it. It swooped right in behind me. I didn't let it bother me, there was nothing I could do. Although the habit of the other team screaming and shouting at super, mega annoying pitches when they made a goal did bother me, more than a bit.
Farther into the 2nd half I actually started getting really, really, sleepy. I forced myself as hard as I could to stay focused in the game, but it was no use. Especially when they got another goal. The discouragement mixed with poor sleep just overtook me.
Finally, with 6 minutes left in the game, one of their offense players dodges our sweeper, then the defense, he's right on top of me! He's going to shoot! What do I do? Dang, I've got to leave the goal and go intercept him!! Either way would've resulted in another goal for them, only this one felt more humiliating as the ball slowly but surely crept behind the goal line, when I was too far back to do anything about it. I did not leave that field a happy camper. I left a moderately-depressed soccer goalie.
A little Chick-fil-A was probably a good choice to make me feel a bit better. The large milkshake was a especially good plus! I sat across the table from our secondary sweeper from China and one of our defenders from Russia. I've never met anyone from Russia before. It was definitely interesting having a Russian on our team!