In the 1980’s, one of my favorite shows was “The Dukes of Hazzard.” A show about two cousins and their jumping car. Despite the fact that the overall plot was mildly ridiculous, it was an enjoyable watch. One of the more memorable episodes dealt with Bo Duke having amnesia. The villain of the show, Boss Hogg, takes advantage of the situation and convinces Bo that he is Boss Hogg’s son. In the end, Bo’s cousins are able to save him from the trouble that Boss Hogg has conjured up for him. The crazy thing is that amnesia episodes were relatively common in the 80’s. I actually thought it would be a much bigger part of my life than it has been but it seems to be coming around again.
Although it is not full on amnesia, it is a close cousin (haha) “fanmnesia.” This is a complete loss of a fan’s memory regarding past performances of their team or individuals. It’s not exceedingly dangerous to the fan. However it seems to be contagious. Players also seem to be more likely to forget their own abilities. It may be transmitted through the internet and specifically social media. I’m obviously being ridiculous but so is the situation.
Athletes (even top level professionals) have poor performances, great performances and anything in between. A player who has been in a slump of form can rebound. Others who have been performing well can have an off game. They are all people who are variables within a larger equation. Teams win, lose or tie based on the combination of these individual variables into a collective. Each player has a floor and a ceiling. Their ability to access their personal ceiling consistently is often the difference between the players who “make it” and those who don’t. The key for the players is to remember and forget.
Players need to be able to gain confidence from success while learning from failure. One of John C. Maxwell’s books has the perfect title for this situation, “Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Learn.” Often that process is short-circuited by the ego. Maintaining objectivity is difficult for everyone. Fans can get away with having “fanmnesia” but players need to believe in themselves. They need to believe in their ability to reach the ceiling or even raise it. That belief can’t be a variable. It needs to be as constant as possible. As the manager and the fans forget their past successes, it’s their job to remember. Remember who they are and their value on the field. It’s a difficult equation but it’s made more difficult if a player get “fanmnesia.”
Another word for a fan is a supporter, more than anything that’s what those who aren’t playing need to be. It just makes more sense. These players are wearing our colors. We should want them to do well. We’re part of that equation that helps them to reach and break through their ceiling.
A round of applause, a pat on the back, a few well placed “‘at a girls” or “‘at a boys” are what many of us are looking for from our performance. We want someone who is willing to acknowledge the effort that we just put into that thing. Whether it is a piece of art, a business proposal or a well played game, recognition is something that people crave. It’s not a selfish thing, it is a biological desire that manifests itself in a variety of ways. We are hierarchical animals who survival used to depend heavily on tribal dynamics. Doing something worthy of positive attention from the tribe created such strong bonds between our actions and the approval of others that many are driven principally by praise.
Praise is not the only motivator in the world. People are motivated by all kinds of stimuli. The issue is not really what motivators are behind the actions of a person. It is the need for the reward to come at the right time. In our distraction prone society, a premature prize could lead to a decrease in motivation. The applause of the crowd, the bonus check or better yet that feeling of self-satisfaction cannot be awarded too soon because the whole result is the important thing.
It seems silly but people do it all the time. They come up with a plan for that goal and give up. A week of clean eating and the diet is over. The championship season is over after three wins in a row. Signing up for the gym is enough of a step, why would you go? Goals and objectives are not particularly the aim. The trophy may feel good in the moment but that instant fades over time. The feeling that endures much longer is the way that we feel about ourselves when it’s over. Tasks that we leave half done for no reason weigh on our souls because we believe that we’re capable of more. Despite that belief, the proof is in the pudding or the half-made pudding.
No one else needs to hear the applause but you need to give it to yourself when you’re done. And only when you’re done. That doesn’t mean that you can’t hear the occasional clap along the way but save the applause for the end. The most important thing is how you feel about yourself when you’re by yourself. If you left something on the table that could have been, you’ll know it. Make yourself proud!
Ten years ago I created a very simplistic documentary film that I called “Identity Crisis: Where does soccer fit in the United States?” The goal was two-fold: enter a film in the Kicking and Screening Film Festival and answer my own question about where soccer was at the time. The film itself is a “no budget” first attempt that lacks polish and movie making chops. Despite all of its shortcomings, it does one thing relatively well. It represents the fact that at the time, soccer had a form of an identity crisis. This post is going to focus on the men’s side of the game because the women have well established world dominance already and I am looking to flashback to past struggles then flash-forward to the men’s world dominance. That’s right! I said it!
The following perspective on the past is my own and is not intended to be a 100% historical record of soccer’s last few decades in the US. Soccer could have been listed as deceased in many ways during the 1980’s. After the failure of the NASL, soccer had very little relevance at the professional level. The indoor and other professional leagues had their pockets of influence but largely it was the youth that had the greatest impact on keeping soccer in the national consciousness (very slightly). During the 1990’s, qualification for and then hosting the World Cup brought the “kids” game to the attention of the nation. The spectacle of the event and our strong performance in the competition brought a certain amount of pride and hope to the sport. With the introduction of Major League Soccer, it would seem that soccer was back in the US. The league did have a perception problem at the beginning. It felt slightly contrived as teams like Metrostars had no history and their names/logos seemed like they were developed by an ad agency rather than soccer people. Regardless, we had a professional league. Then in 1998, the hope and optimism were dashed by a dead last finish in the France World Cup.
The turn of the century did not bring an immediate turn of fate. MLS had to contract down to 10 teams and there was talk that it might not survive. At the 2002 World Cup, the USMNT did surprisingly well. The shock win against Portugal was an amazing start and the controversial loss to Germany was a gut-wrenching finish. A resurgence in MLS saw the league add teams and soccer specific stadiums. The 2006 World Cup was another disappointment with the US finishing at the bottom of their group. New MLS rules brought notable names to the league from abroad. Domestic stars were also being developed in Bradenton and elsewhere such as Landon Donovan and Freddy Adu. Expectations for these players and the sport overall was probably higher than either could withstand. As the decade finished, the USMNT confused its American fan base by beating Spain in the Confederations Cup in 2009. Then at the World Cup, they luckily advanced to the knockout round only to lose to Ghana.
My film “Identity Crisis” was documenting of where three groups of people thought that soccer were at the time. Sports talk radio hosts, professional players from abroad and an MLS executive were all asked for their thoughts on where soccer was and was going. The sports talk hosts generally regarded it as irrelevant in the sports landscape. Conversely, the international players were complimentary of the state of the sport at the moment. Dan Courtemanche, the MLS executive, was optimistic but reserved in his assessment of the state of soccer in the country. My personal conclusion was that soccer’s fate in the US was based largely on people like myself. Our desire to continue supporting, playing, coaching, etc. was a crucial component to where the sport would go. Although I used it as a catch title, “Identity Crisis” was truly what the general perception of soccer was at that moment. Depending on how someone evaluated the state of soccer at that moment, there could have been a variety of different opinions. Progressing because MLS was expanding. Stalled because the National Team hadn’t performed well in the World Cup. Irrelevant because it wasn’t a top 4 sport. Any one of these evaluations could have been right.
That’s where I’m going to stop the retrospective and go in another direction by describing how soccer has a BOLD future. In their amazing book, BOLD, Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler focus on how to leverage technology to create massive change. While I don’t believe they had soccer in mind when they wrote the book, I’m going to shoehorn some of the concepts in here because I truly believe that soccer is boldly moving forward here in the US. The authors discuss the “6 D’s of Exponential Organizations.” While soccer is not one organization and measuring the relative success of a sport using any one metric is extremely difficult, I am going to make my argument and leave it up to you the reader to decide for yourself. After that we need to watch and wait.
Digitized – While the sport itself has not become digitized, the access and consumption of the sport has largely been placed in the pockets of fans around the world. The World’s most popular sport used to available on a very limited basis here in the US. Now it as pervasive as any other sport, if not more so! The internationality of soccer gives the opportunity for a fan to be engaged 12 months per year by multiple leagues. The World Cup, UEFA Cup, Champions League and several other tournaments also mean that there is another big event on the horizon. The capability to take it all in has been DIGITIZED.
Deceptive – Soccer has been growing in a variety of ways that have gone largely unnoticed by people outside the game. The increase in the professional foothold within many regions of the country is happening more rapidly than many would recognize. The “kids” game has grown up and the adults who used to play it are now watching in greater numbers than in the past. The NFL, NBA and MLB may still boast big numbers but the gap is closing.
Disruptive – Although I’m following the Diamandis and Kotler model, the disruptive nature of exponential technologies is not the same as the disruption that I’m talking about. Soccer is not directly disrupting the more traditional sports in an overt way. However as the legacy of those sports have their own disruptions such as major concussion concern, the opportunity to break new ground exists. Also the cultural stigma of soccer being a “lesser” sport is all but gone. Nothing attracts a crowd, like a crowd.
Demonetized – Depending on the angle of view, this could be the hurdle that soccer is in the process of clearing. Soccer has been made expensive for participants. So the demonetization of soccer will take some work. HOWEVER, the pandemic has given many kids time to practice as an individual. The game has moved from the field to the basement, garage or backyard. In addition to that maneuver, kids have a phone and a social media account. Sharing their individual skills doesn’t cost them anything extra. Therefore the game is permeating parts of life that it didn’t before, sans cost. As we catch up to the rest of the world in our professional club infrastructure, more high level players are going to be training for free at academies while the general population will not pay high prices for recreation. Too many mothers and fathers will have experience with the game to keep ratchet of high priced trainers going.
Dematerialized – Although the physical game is not going anywhere, the way that it is consumed and engaged with will. The viewing experience is going to continue to improve as more leagues and teams will find ways to make their content available. Also the virtual reality space is going to give players and fans a different experience of the beautiful game. That might be a video game type experience or panoramic simulcasts of professional games where viewers at home can have the VR experience of being at the game.
Democratized – Even though it is the last step in this progression, it is actually the major advantage that most quality “footballing” nations have had over us. The game is one of the people. Almost anyone can play it because it is everyone and not expensive. In the US this last piece will be more of a perception and cultural progression. People will begin to view the sport as truly American rather than something that we need to have an inferiority complex about. Soccer can belong to anyone that wants it. It’s not just for the tall, the strong, or fast. Nor is it only for the people who grew up playing it. It can truly be for anyone.
After that long explanation of where we’ve been and the implications of the 6 D’s on the game, my suggestion is that soccer is about to explode. An exponential growth curve is not something that I can truly quantify. However I believe that all of the ingredients have been accumulating over the past decade or so. Perhaps the only metric that would convince people would be winning a World Cup. My assertion is still that 2026 will be our year. However I think that it is more likely to come in wave of realization. When the conversation about who the best player in the world is like happens with Messi vs. Ronaldo now, that at least one of those players will be in MLS. This and other milestones may get overlooked as they pass by but eventually will be seen as significant.
I’m sure many will disagree with what I’ve written here and that’s great! It’s one of the amazing things about this sport. The subjective nature of much of the action allows for many interpretations. Mine just happens to be that the US is going to dominate world soccer/football in the not so distant future.
“Life moves pretty fast! If you don’t stop and look around, you could miss it!” – Ferris Bueller
Points are definitely king of the table. There’s no denying that results are the thing that win championships and get promotions. However as the season progresses, it’s often possible to identify a “sleeper” team when their goal difference is greater than those around them in the table. Usually this is an indicator that the team has lost close games and blown out a few teams. It’s not as good as points in the pocket. BUT if a team doesn’t lose heart due to their present position, a promotion push could be around the corner.
Most of us are not particularly in the position that we want: socially, financially, mentally, emotionally, etc. Your present position is not predictive of the future. Although that’s easy to think because it feels accurate. You’ve been in this same spot for a while. The thing that you need to do is focus on your goal difference. When you lose, don’t let it be a blowout. If you win, make it a big win! What are you talking about?
The experiences of your life are not inherently positive or negative. We put that slant to the situation. So if each instance has no determined value, we get to add it. When you are evaluating the results that you are getting, don’t turn negative situations into catastrophes. Use language that will put it down as a smaller loss. We get disappointed, not devastated and this is an evaluation after the fact. Be professional as we lose. Shake hands and move on. Don’t say those negative things out-loud (Trevor Moawad).
When you do get a win, make it big! Even if it means almost nothing in the grand scheme of things, turn it into winning the FA Cup (for a small club, cause the top clubs barely care). We tend to undervalue our accomplishments because they are ours. If we can do, then anyone can do it. BULLSHIT! Some people couldn’t fight their way out of a wet paper bag! Give some credit but don’t sit back and relax. It’s onto the next contest. A big win in isolation is nothing. Form matters! So take that momentum into the next thing and believe that a string of positive results is on the horizon. It’s the only way to climb up the table!
Most likely you’re the only one who is keeping score in your life. Tip the table in your favor. Stack up some little wins and then go for that title that you’ve been hoping for! It’s within your reach. All it takes is time and persistence. That combination is almost completely undefeated.
This may come off a bit harsh but honestly, no one cares about your problems. Whether you’re overweight, your pet just died, your spouse left you, your candidate lost, or a thousand other issues, nobody cares and they shouldn’t! The truth of the matter is that your friends, family, co-workers, etc. don’t care about your problems, they care about you. So regardless of how many bad situations have aligned themselves against you, no one cares. Once this realization is solid inside of your head, the other shoe must drop. You shouldn’t care about your problems either. “But my debt….my dog….my boss….the election….the pandemic….”
My statement isn’t that you don’t have any problems. It’s only that you shouldn’t care about them. People tend to become invested in the negative situations that surround their lives. They invest tons of emotion into a situation that they wish would go away. It’s like giving keys to the person who keeps breaking into your house. Regardless of the situation, your attention and emotion are only feeding the problem itself or your perception of it. So is the answer to just ignore them? Not exactly! You shouldn’t care about your problems but…
You should care about the solutions because they need your time and attention. Much like a newborn baby, solutions don’t just take care of themselves. Someone has to keep them alive and allow them to grow until they are self-sufficient. Friends and family can definitely nurture a solution for you but let’s be honest, they are less likely to do it if they see that you’re in love with your problem.
People tend to get more of what they focus on, whether in perception or reality. The key is to focus on the things that you want and give only the attention that is necessary to the things that you don’t. The big bucks aren’t earned by people who are best at describing the problem. They’re earned by the people who find the solution.
Last century, some people would partake in this activity called hitchhiking. If you didn’t have a car, you could start walking on the side of the road and put out your thumb. Eventually someone would pick you up and take you part or all the way to your destination. Today we would call that an Uber but it was usually done out of kindness rather than monetary gain back then. Nowadays the world is a little too cynical and unstable to support such a system. Hitchhiking is actually outlawed on most highways and some states have banned it completely. While it has some negatives that caused it to be less prevalent, the concept is sound. I’m heading in the same direction as you. Let’s share the experience for a little while in order to make both of our trips a little easier.
So I’m going to try a little experiment. Right now is the time when New Year’s Resolutions are starting to fade. That 5am alarm to go to the gym is just a bit too early. You’re not finding the motivation to get going. I’m happy to give you a “lift.” NO I’m not going to pick you up at your house to take you to the gym. However I have motivation and positivity to burn. So if you’re struggling at the moment, I’d like to help by giving you a motivational lift.
For the next three days as a trial run, I’ll be holding a virtual motivation session each morning from 5:05 am until 5:20am (Eastern). If that’s too early, I apologize. We’ll see how this goes and perhaps I’ll expand it. My job for those 15 minutes is to help get you moving: to the gym, to your workout, to walk the dog, etc. Fill out this form and I’ll send you a link to dial into a Zoom meeting. This could be the dumbest idea ever or it could be great! We’ll see tomorrow morning.
“Regret is momentary pain made permanent through inaction.” I first wrote that as part of a post called “The Fearometer“. Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the momentary decisions that we make and how they carry forward. Decisions are forks in the road that take us in a particular direction. While some decisions only make us veer slightly one way or the other, it’s possible to take abrupt turns or even turn fully around. Without a GPS, it can be easy to get lost with so many possibilities. So more than anything, it is important to know where you want to end up.
Many of us (including me) spend our days in almost constant avoidance of momentary “pain.” This is a great strategy UNTIL it’s not. Each of us has a myriad of destinations in front of us. Would we choose the path that is leading to the most physical, mental or emotional pain? Or would we choose long term physical, mental and emotional comfort? My guess is that the choice is pretty obvious. However our momentary decisions may be cutting us off from that possibility. Avoiding that exercise program or food decision is leading you down a path that will be painful in the long run. Unfortunately we are not programmed to think that far ahead. We are set up to think about the here and now.
So it is on you to break from your programming in order to avoid that eventual pain that is on the horizon. Cancer, loneliness, heart disease, divorce, alcoholism, obesity, addiction or any other destination that you’d rather not visit. This is not my call for a return of the straight-edge movement. It’s simply a recognition of the fact that we carry these momentary decisions with us, especially when they become consistent. Regret is momentary pain made permanent through inaction. Decide who your future self is going to be. Then work your way backwards to the decisions of today. People usually know the right thing to do. However they have difficulty short circuiting the emotion of the moment. Put the power in the plan rather than the moment!
My own anxiety is up a little having just listened to the Yellow Block Podcast. Matthew Kisby is being positive again and it’s a little scary. Although I must admit, he tempered his positivity with the word “chance” when he referred to POSH winning the league this time. Despite the nine points in three matches, it’s not time to get carried away yet. Tim mentioned that the Ipswich game was a “chess match.” Increasingly, that is what the matches are going to become. Strategy and the mental game will dominate the considerations for upcoming matches. One of the other similarities is what my father used to call “playing the other side of the board” in chess. Looking at the options of your opponent in order to determine the moves that they might make. Bristol Rovers and Shrewsbury offer the potential of acting as a banana peel but with the right mentality could be easily sorted.
FEAR – That is the emotion that teams like Bristol Rovers and Shrewsbury will have when facing POSH due to our offensive weapons. A heavy defeat is catastrophic to their hopes of avoiding the drop. A draw is a great result, especially for Bristol Rovers, who have lost three in a row. Fueled by fear, their options are: bunker down to withstand the POSH attack while hoping for a counter or press to keep POSH away from their goal. Since Shrewsbury have had positive results against teams near the top of the league recently, I would anticipate that they’ll play and look to impose their will on the game. Bristol will more than likely park the team bus in front of their goal.
FORM – Most of the players within the team have been in good form recently. This would suggest almost no changes to the lineup. While this would be the Kisby route, I’m going in the opposite direction due to the order of the games. Since the Bristol match is going to require breaking down a team that are going to be reluctant to give anything away, I would look for some changes in this match. With the five subs, there are too ways to go about this. The first is start the normal lineup and replace at half if we have the lead. The other is to give other players the chance to prove themselves from the beginning. My personal preference would be to rotate the squad for the Bristol Rovers match in order to give a boost to those fringe players while resting the normal starters. SQUAD is my buzz word for the POSH this season. Our form will only last as long as the legs of the players do. This is a balancing act to be sure. Eisa, Jones, Clarke, Broom, et al need a chance to prove their worth. The opportunity to break down a team that is probably going to bunker in their own end might be the right assignment. Shrewsbury represent a much greater threat to a tired POSH team than a fresh one.
FATE – In classical literature, people (like Oedipus) who try to avoid their fate end up falling directly into it. The opposite is usually true here in the real world. People who believe too strongly in the certainty of their objectives tend to falter. That is not calling for pessimism or fatalism. Quite the opposite. It is a call for pragmatism. All of the stars have aligned through the owners’ recruitment, a packed schedule, a strong SQUAD, and an unimpressive league. The path is written in the stars. However just like Morpheus told Neo in the Matrix, “There is a difference between knowing the path and walking the path.” The belief that thing will just fall into place is fool-hearty. Yet the opposite end of the spectrum is also fraught with danger because forcing it to happen breeds tension and anxiety. Do that which is necessary and BELIEVE. Other teams should fear us as we are hitting that same type of stride from last season before the lockdown. They are not going to rollover and die though. There is “NO FATE but what we make” (Name that movie quote in the comments). So every day in training and all match days, it is on the SQUAD to show up and do their part. It’s only fate after the fact!
My friends at the Yellow Block are right to be optimistic but we need to keep it in check. I give Matt Kisby a hard time but I actually enjoy listening to him. As an almost pure optimist, I enjoy hearing about the other side of the coin. So I get worried when pessimists start seeing things as rosy. It usually precedes a correction to the balance of the universe. So let’s keep everything in perspective. One game at a time, we can climb the table and leave everyone else behind.
In Stephen Covey’s wonderful book “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” the seventh habit is “Sharpen the Saw.” The concept is personal renewal throughout the process of improvement. The other six habits are specifically aimed at a part of the internal or external battles that each of us must fight. Although the chapter is called “Sharpen the Saw,” I’m going to depart from it slightly with the use of an axe. Even though a saw is an effective tool that largely does the same job as an axe, my life almost never feels like a saw cut piece of wood. There is not a perfect line cut through the wood with bits of sawdust lying on the ground. It is a hacking type of motion that gets the job done but isn’t always pretty. Maybe you can relate.
Now that we’ve agreed on the axe metaphor, it’s important to realize exactly how important its renewal is. One of Abraham Lincoln’s most famous quotes is “If you give me 6 hours to chop down a tree, I’ll spend the first 4 sharpening the axe.” His equation looks to spend two thirds of the time on the preparation for the task. Humans are not robots (yet haha). We require more than menial tasks to keep us engaged. The repetitious nature of the present situation calls for even more sharpening. We are hacking away at a life that does not look anything like what we’ve encountered before. It is mundane and separate. Also it carries with it a longevity that we cannot predict. Getting back to normal is what we all desire but we can’t know when that will happen, no one does. So it is more important than ever to sharpen.
Since each of us is our own person (axe), we each have distinct ways that we renew. A good book, a game on the TV, a walk, a run, meditation, or a myriad of other activities can help to elevate a person’s ability to perform at their highest levels. The thing that you need to know is what actually feeds you. There is a difference between leisure activities and renewal. Some people can sit in front of a TV for an hour and all it makes them want to do is watch more TV. Others it is respite that energizes. Often that comes down to the focus of the programming.
That is the point exactly. Where do you personally need to put your eyes, ears and maybe soul/heart for a while in order to come back refreshed? This is a personal thing that only you can know for sure. Other people may find banging their head to heavy metal music to be draining but if it gives you a boost, then bang away! Have these in your back pocket and available at any time. You’ll need some for a quick sharpen to get through the day and other longer ones that put a razor’s edge to you. Know what they are and use them when needed.
There is a reason why dull is a word that is used to describe people at times. Those are people who have not learned what it is that they need to do to keep themselves sharp. It’s your life, it’s your axe. Keep yourself sharp because life is going to hack at you for the next few months (maybe a year). Be ready to hack back!
Although I’m able to understand text speech, I still tend not to use it very often. Since it is my fourth language, I just don’t feel comfortable with it. I was also raised in the 80s. So periods, commas, etc. were sold as important and old habits are difficult to break when you don’t really want to. Despite some similarities, I’m not Phil Dunphy. I know what the usuals mean. However, I do enjoy making up my own from time to time. WTFN?
The power of text speech is expedience but it can come off softer than the words themselves. In this particular case, I believe that brevity is everything. The message needs to get ingrained in your brain before it has time to formulate excuses, alibis, or arguments. Time is not your friend when it comes to action. The longer that you delay on goals, desires and dreams. The less likely it is that you’ll start. So now that I’ve built this up with too much explanation. Think of something that you want to do. Then ask yourself “WHY THE F%$# NOT!?!?”
Why not you? Why not now? Why not here? Usually the answers are just BS excuses that you’ve built up over the years. Their major purpose is to protect you. Protect you from the possibility of failure while also hiding the possibility of success. Those two go hand in hand. You cannot separate them. Am I suggesting that you completely throw caution to the wind? HELL NO! Forty-five years old is a bad time to start your NBA career. You’ll know the difference inside when your heart leaps and your head only half reacts.
So put it into regular use when a friend asks you to do something. WTFN? That way it’s on the tip of your tongue or thumbs when an opportunity comes your way. WTFN!?!? Give that thing a go because you’re more likely to regret not acting than you are the failure.