Women’s Soccer is an American sport. Men’s Soccer isn’t (yet). Therein lies the problem of comparing the two on every level. Although they kick the same ball, they are very different for a variety of reasons. Just in case anyone reading this is waiting for my arguments against equal pay, they’re not coming. I believe the women’s compensation from USSF should be “equal”. (actually fair is the right word because the structures of compensation are vastly different and should be for now) The drum that I’m banging on is the need to separate the men’s game in this country from the women’s game for a while (about 12 years is my guess).
Women’s soccer is an American sport and if that was not obvious before, it should be after the 2019 Women’s World Cup. All American sports have a distinct characteristic: first mover’s advantage. The reason that the best leagues in the world for football, baseball and basketball reside within the United States is that these leagues existed before the rest of the world was overly interested in them. Yes, the players in baseball may now come from a variety of islands to the south but they are playing in the stadiums that were built by the legacy of the Babe, Rose, Clemens, etc.
“But the women’s league in the US has failed multiple times and the NWSL is propped up by National Federations.” Absolutely correct but the institution of Title IX gave women’s soccer a place to breed female talent before any other nation cared. The proof was on full display during this Women’s World Cup. Both coaches in the final played soccer in college and neither were born in the US. Soccer on the women’s side has been growing in the United States for decades. It is only recently that other nations are beginning to invest in the idea of women playing soccer. France and Spain in particular have begun the difficult game of catch-up but they have many obstacles to overcome and many don’t rely on money. Rose Lavelle was a standout performer in this World Cup because of Mia Hamm. A culture of women’s sport does not develop overnight and the rest of the world needs to contend with that issue. Unfortunately a majority of the female soccer stars on the international stage are from one country.
The exact reverse situation exists on the men’s side. Soccer is not an American sport (yet). The heroes that young players in the US idolize are usually not from their country. The best talent from the US is exported rather than imported. The game does not have a “first mover’s advantage”. It is one of the last dogs to get to the feeding bowl and often the traditional American sports have taken the greatest athletic talent before soccer gets a sniff. So the comparison of women’s and men’s soccer in the United States is at best apple to oranges and at worst unfairly skewed. But do not despair comparison people! The playing field will eventually be level, again I’d guess in about 12 years.
To use a phrase from Peter Diamandis’ book “BOLD”, men’s soccer in the United States is in a deceptive phase. Diamandis uses this moniker to describe a period when progress in technology seems to be almost non-existent. Results have looked basically the same for a long time with the USMNT. Win some, lose some but never a sense of dominance like the women enjoy, even in our own region. The reason why this is a deceptive phase is because all of the groundwork for the breakout of the men’s game has been happening for 25 years. Slowly, fathers who played now have sons who play. Soccer is becoming less of an afterthought and more of staple. The professional game is stable in this country and there is more soccer shown on TV in this country than ever before. So while the results of the Gold Cup may be disappointing, it is not truly a representation of where the men’s game is now. It is on the cusp of disruption.
This is where I’ll stick a pin in my argument for not comparing the women’s and men’s soccer programs for a while. Eventually the two will be on a level playing field as the rest of the world catch up to our women and the men disrupt the status quo in American sports culture and world soccer. I’m not sure which will happen first but I’m fully confident that they are both going to happen!
I had blood all over me. I didn’t know where I was. It was the coldest that I’d ever been in my life. I couldn’t see a thing. All that I could do was scream. Luckily help was nearby and I was able to calm down. It had been a difficult trial but I was alive and in the hospital. Just when things seemed as if they would be OK, a complete stranger came along and chopped off a quarter of my penis. All of that trauma happened in the first twenty four hours of my life. Despite that very rough beginning, I’ve done quite well for myself.
This story is at least partially true for almost all of us. We were all thrust into this world naked, afraid and unable to speak, read or write. It is not something that we give much thought to because it happens to everyone. However birth (or creation) is a messy and traumatic business by all accounts. Not just the human producing ones but also the birth of companies, relationships, art or anything else. There is always that starting point of conception that is magical and exhilarating. Eventually that moment is replaced by some form of hard labor in order to get the creation out into the world. Just because it’s painful, doesn’t mean that it’s not worth it. The narrative of the present day is about safety and comfort. Our world has had most of its sharp edges taken off. While I’m all for vaccinating against the next Bubonic Plague, there are some struggles that are important for people to go through. Not all pain is trauma.
As you conceive the next dream of where you’re going or what you’re doing, do a little pre-trauma planning. Like a person that is preparing for a marathon, it is important to understand your “quit points”. Quitting is not shameful if it is done for the right reasons. A broken leg is a justifiable quit inducing occurrence. Cramps are a nuisance to be fought through. The difference between trauma and possibility is perspective and the next few steps that are taken. Expectation that everything will be easy is a sure fire way to turn every problem into trauma. Traumatizing yourself with things that should be expected is recipe for disaster. Imagine freaking out because your newborn child couldn’t walk. It’s a process not a fully completed miracle. Take the possibility and run with it.
Just about every year on Father’s Day, I take a short hike with my children and wife to a little waterfall at a local park. Although my wife and kids are aware that it is one of my favorite places in the world, I’d never really given an explanation as to why we return to the same spot. The tradition is based on a quote from Heraclitus. “A man can never step into the same river twice because the river has changed and so has he.” Although I usually don’t set foot into the stream near the waterfall, I recognize the change in us both.
This tradition is meant as a time of reflection for me to realize the changes in my life, my children and the world that surrounds me. Personally I find this to be very helpful because I don’t take for granted the many things that have changed. My son growing taller is an obvious change but juxtaposing our past visits against yesterdays I more clearly see the man that he is becoming. I cannot freeze these moments to keep them from flowing by like the water. The only thing that I can do is notice them. It is my job to remember that each time we return to this place to be grateful for the time that we have had. Unlike the stream that is sourced from a large lake, there is no telling when this time will run out.
So as you go out into your day, take a moment to appreciate the people in your life that really matter. The time of your life will keep flowing by no mater what you do. However you can take this moment to appreciate all that you have. There is not a lack of beauty in this world. There is just a greater amount of distraction. So it is up to us to look for the beauty before it passes us by.
Have a great day! And Happy Father’s Day to the Dads out there!
Movies are a spectacular medium for telling a story and also relating a message. One of the main reasons that I believe that movies can be so transformative is that they work a lot like memories. They are not the full story because showing every small detail would be exhausting and detract from the overall point. Also they tend to be “larger than life” which is what we often do with our memories. We do not have a completely accurate recollection of the situation, often our emotion about the situation tends to give more color to them.
For these reasons and many others, movies are great teachers. They give us audience to experiences that we may have never had. It’s done in safe environment. We can have peak emotions while taking whatever information is on display and assimilate it as our own. Below is my list of movies that a high school age boy-man should see in order and what they should extract from them. They are listed in a tenuous order where the lessons build on top of each other but in the binge watching culture of today, the order may not matter as much. By the end of this list there may be an accusation that I have a “man crush” on Matt Damon but that crown belongs to Ryan Reynolds!
There are a ton of spoilers in the descriptions of each movie. So if you want to go in with a clean slate, just refer the list below to start and return to this post for the descriptions and takeaways:
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
The Breakfast Club
The Wizard of Oz
Dead Poet’s Society
Good Will Hunting
The Martian (2015) – This movie has probably the most overarching message that young men need to have ingrained. Each of us has exactly one job on this planet or that planet: FCO (Figure Crap Out). Throughout this great story, Matt Damon’s character keeps getting sucker punched by circumstances. Every time that he comes up with an answer, a new problem arises. Despite all of issues that he has, his determination to FCO is the key component to his success and the lesson that needs to be carried out of the movie. I use the acronym FCO because “responsibility” seems stuffy and oppressive but that’s all that I’m talking about. The ability to respond to a situation coupled with the recognition that it’s on you to do so. Thumbs are a feature that separates humans from much of the animal kingdom. Although they help with our ability to grasp things, I believe in the concept of “thumbs before fingers.” Point at yourself first with the thumb before pointing at anyone else with the finger.
The Matrix (1999) – After the Martian, the next step is to recognize that each of us has exactly one possession in this world: the mind. The body and the mind are definitively linked but “the body cannot live without the mind.” This movie can be taken to so many places philosophically. The main one that I would focus on to begin with is that of belief. While the Martian had a focus on the ability to respond, it takes belief in one’s abilities to engage with situations. Although uploading information directly to the brain through a computer program has not happened (yet), the picture painted is relatively accurate. In order to navigate successfully through life, one must acquire skills. As skills are layered one on top of the other, belief is constructed. Unlike the Matrix, this takes time and deliberate effort in the real world but it is worth it. Believing in yourself long enough to make things happen is crucial.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013) – I would absolutely love for all of the philosophical concepts covered in this movie to hit home with the young men who watch it. Right down to the LIFE motto which has so much to offer. However if just one thing was to be extracted from this film, the idea of connecting your dream world to the real world would be it. Humans are special in a variety of ways but our ability to imagine things then make them happen is one of our greatest strengths. Walter’s life starts out as a collection of day dreams where he escapes his reality. In the end, he starts engaging with life and has better experiences than most of his daydreams. All of our actions start in our minds but if they stay there, then they only exist in the hypothetical. We must transpose our dreams into the real world in order to give them life.
Rocky (1976) – You’re going to lose! This may not seem like a very positive message to take in. However at times, the odds are going to be so astronomically against you that it may seem like trying isn’t worth it. People are going to tell you that you’re crazy. In those circumstances, you need to find a version of success that is in line with who you are and stretch yourself. There are magical moments throughout this film including the 14th round knockdown. Probably the most important comes prior to the fight where Rocky admits to himself and the woman that he loves, exactly who he is and what he expects of himself. Power is not always displayed through a punch. Often power is ability to be vulnerable and defenseless to the people that matter. Although most of the movies thus far have focused on going for the prizes that are out there to be won, Rocky is a reminder that winning is not everything. There are ways to go through life as a “success” without winning every time. So be prepared to be punched in the face!
The Wizard of Oz (1939) – Like so many of the movies on this list, there are a variety of takeaways. Even though the main character is a teenage girl on an adventure to get herself home, I’ll focus on the great and powerful Oz. This is a man who has created a reputation of great prestige and power for himself. In the end, he is only a small man hiding behind a curtain who is trying to project a fearsome alter ego. Each and every one of us will have to put a version of ourselves out into the world. Many of the people that you will meet will be exactly like the Wizard of Oz, lots of theatrics to make themselves seem important. Eventually we realize that the Wizard was valuable because of what he had to offer the travelers, not his big persona. So as you project yourself into the world decide who you will be. Also be on the look out for people who are hiding behind the curtain.
The Breakfast Club (1985) – I’d like to believe that the walls of cliques in high schools have broken down slightly since this movie came out. Unfortunately I don’t know that it’s true. Even if it is, there are still valuable things to be taken from the film. Mostly it involves self-reflection and understanding your place within the social strata of your world. Ideally everyone in your school, town, etc. would get along wonderfully. Unfortunately that’s not very realistic. So recognizing how you perceive and are perceived by others is extremely important. You don’t need to live in the box that others try to put you into but knowing that you’ve been put in the box helps if you want to break out of it.
Dead Poet’s Society (1989) – Similar to The Breakfast Club, the ideas of conformity and living in a school community are on full display. Whether it is teachers, parents or peers; there will always be pressures to become what other people want you to be. There is nothing wrong with people trying to influence you. Generally it is done with a certain amount of caring for your well being. However the teenage years are a time for self-discovery. Figuring out who it is that you want to be. I’m not calling for all out revolt against the powers that are trying to influence you. But rather a recognition of the pull of the things that make you feel most alive versus the push of those in positions of power in your life. In most cases there is a balance to be struck. The death of Neil toward the end of the film is a cautionary tale about failing to communicate. The Dead Poet’s Society is all about expressing one’s self honestly. Try to find your voice.
Rounders (1998) – On a surface level this movie is absolutely about poker but it has several layers underneath that are worth exploring for a young man. First is the concept of friendships and loyalty. The movie does a good job of putting loyalty on full display while also warning against blind loyalty to people who may no longer deserve it. The reason why I truly put this movie on the list is the scene with Mike in the Russian bath house. He tells Joey Knish about an encounter with Johnny Chan. “I’m just going to outplay the guy, this hand.” So many of us get overwhelmed by how big our goals are in this world when it all comes down to this. Are you going to give it your all in this moment? Are you willing to bet on yourself? If you’re not, then who else will?
Swingers (1996) – This movie is on the list for a very specific purpose. As a young man gets into the dating world, there is bound to be rejection either external or internal. Although you may never hear the word “no” from a girl but there is still rejection because you rejected the idea of asking. The story that each of us has running inside of our own heads about who we are and what we are capable of is crucial. After years of being tentative with women in the singles world, Swingers gave me a new insight. If I approached a girl and she “rejected” me, it had very little to do with me and more to do with her perception of me and the perception I projected. This is a skill like any other that must be honed and practiced over time. The “bear” discussion between Mike and Trent in the middle of the movie is the key. There are ancillary parts about dealing with a breakup but overall this movie got me to believe in all that I had at my disposal to “kill the bunny”.
Good Will Hunting (1997) – This is another film that has layers to it. Although it could be dissected from a variety of angles. We’ll focus in on the romantic relationship. Will has put up walls and created masks to protect himself from both past and future pain. That constant state of protection keeps him from all of the possibility that is banging at his door. He is so afraid to admit who he is that he creates a fake world that he shows to other people and denies possible opportunities to move on to a better existence. His relationship with Skylar is tumultuous at best but that is a result of his protection strategy. The movie Swingers was all about how to get your foot in the door long enough to get someone interested. Once you are inside, you need to let the other person see who you are. Teenage relationships are supposed to be like chemistry experiments. They are supposed to blow up in your face from time to time but you learn and progress based on what you’ve learned. If you are always in protection mode in order to avoid being hurt, no one will see your imperfections. That may seem like a great strategy until you actually find someone who you want to let in, you’ll have no practice.
These are most definitely not the only movies available that could have an impact on a young man’s life. These are just the ones that I’ve selected at the moment. I’m sure that each person out there has at least one that could be added with good reason. So in the comments below, give me your suggestions. Even I had trouble keeping it to just ten. Below is my honorable mention. So with that film in mind as I finish this post up, don’t just be a consumer! Take these films into your life (RESPONSIBLY of course!)
Fight Club (1999) – This is a film with great possibility but it comes with a lot of distractions for the young teenage mind. So I put it on the list very tentatively realizing that many will get sidetracked by the sex, violence and mayhem; missing the point completely. Although Fight Club focuses principally on the underground club that encourages violence and eventually mass destruction, the key component to the entire story is the relationship between the “two” main characters. The two is in quotations because they are both Tyler Durden. Tyler is split in two. Each version brings something to the table but Brad Pitt’s character leads the charge into uncharted territory. He is everything that the other version of himself is not. He’s confident and capable! This is taken to the extreme of course but it is something all of us have within us.
An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy. “It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”
He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”
The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”
The past was a simpler time in many ways! There’s no doubt about it. The complexity of the world has jumped exponentially. Despite its complexity, human beings remain relatively the same. The complexity is around us, not within us. So it is possible to keep the effects of the world at bay if we remember that we are part of the “natural order” of things. In most cases we act much more like animals than machines. Despite this fact, we expect ourselves to work similar to machines or want results to show up machine time.
Our ancestors understood that the amount of time spent hunting was far greater than the amount of time spent eating. This proportion is a natural occurrence. Obviously there would be times when a quick hunt would happen but it could not be relied upon. The same was true of the harvest. While the farmers did less “intense” labor than the hunters, it was stretched out over a longer period of time. Again the time and effort spent obtaining the desired outcome was far greater than the time enjoying it. However these proportions were in line with expectation. So people prepared and adjusted for them. Now we live in the world of Amazon, INSTAgram, SNAPchat and Uber.
These services and other recent cultural norms are not bad if they are kept in context. The separation of modern expectations from “natural” phenomena is the key component to surviving the complexity of our world. Trust is not one click away. Overnight shipping is not available on love. Physical fitness is not dependent on an application but rather dedication over time. Keeping the expectations for the enjoyment of results in correct proportion to the necessary inputs to obtain those results is the key. This balance can be difficult for people to maintain because the call of the modern context is so enticing. Why would you spend months going to the gym when you can swallow a pill?
My hope for you is that you’re able to see past the false advertising. Many of the things that you want are not available “On Demand” and that’s OK. If everything were as easy as one click shopping, it would cheapen the peak experiences of life. Time, struggle, intention, effort, passion and so many more ingredients are the appropriate price tags for what is truly important in this world. It is those people that keep in line with their nature as humans who will avoid the trappings of the modern world. So go out there today and get whatever it is that you want but don’t click on “one day shipping”! Enjoy the process instead!
I’m continuing to challenge myself going into the month of June. Last month I did not eat until I posted a blog. This month, my focus is on my exercise routine. Each day I will do what I refer to as 2 out of 5. I’ve developed a list of 5 exercises to choose from each day. In order to meet my requirement each day, I must complete two of the five from the list but cannot repeat the same exercises two days in a row. The intention is to build consistency into my regimen while maintaining some variety. We shall see what this does. Below is my list of five:
Run 2 miles or more.
Do 250 push-ups or more.
Do 125 air squats.
Run 10 sprints or more (100 meters)
Do St. Johns for 25 or more. (AB rotation: Each exercise done for 25 reps or more, crunches, jack knives, one legged jack knives (each leg), scissors, heal touches, mason twists, 1 minute plank)
While I’m putting this out in public to hold myself accountable, I’m also happy to help anyone else looking to challenge themselves. If you’d like to take the month of June in order to get a little more consistency to your workouts, feel free to reach out.
For the month of May, I decided to commit to publishing a blog post every day. The stipulation was that if I did not publish a post, I would not eat until I did. Today is the last day of my successful endeavor. I was able to hold true to my word for the entire month. There were definitely hours of hunger where procrastination seemed like the only thing that was on my plate. But each day the publish button got pressed before the food went in. Below are some reflections on the experiment and things to consider moving forward.
Stakes matter! – There were definitely times during the month that I would not have published a post under normal circumstances. In the past, I’ve averaged about five posts per month. I would only post when I felt “inspired”. Even though I forced myself to go back to the keyboard every day, there was always something there to put out because there had to be.
Rules need to fit the actual outcome you want – For this experiment, I wanted to get my production up for sure. The rules definitely did that but… If I were to set up rules for posting a certain level of quality more often, I’d amend the rules in order to focus more on quality rather than quantity. Such as I would require myself to write a blog post every day before eating but the publishing would be done more sparsely. That way there is more of an editing process.
What’s your word worth? – Holding one’s self accountable is difficult. Some people have trouble keeping their word when it is only them who knows. They need an accountability partner or some other form of public pressure. The key is to know who you are rather than assuming that what works for others will work for you. I make deals like this with myself often, the other running one is about my consumption of iced tea. If you need that extra push of being accountable to others, don’t worry about it. The tools that work in the real world are the ones that matter, not the ones that work in our imagination.
Going the distance – As with any other endeavor, it’s best to sign up for a game that you have a marginal chance of winning. As a first time experiment, a year would have been an overwhelming amount of time. I’m not even sure that I would have made it a month if the length was a year. It would have been too much too soon. Now that I know that I can make a month, if it fit in with my life goals, setting a six month challenge for myself would be reasonable. There’s no reason to set impossible goals for yourself just to impress people. Your results are more important than your intentions.
Results – By writing every day, I was able to beat my average reads for the past year by 400% and the last day of May is not quite over yet. Now I recognize that I raised my posting by 600% but I can definitely say that there was a positive impact. My international numbers went up in certain areas. I also had more “LIKE” and subscribes in the past month than any prior. Also the number of old posts that were viewed by new readers was impressive. So overall, I am chalking this experience up as a success. I’m going to take portions of it and continue using them to improve my blog output. However next month, I think I’m going to move my focus to my exercise routine and see what improvement I can make there.
At a certain point too much of something becomes its opposite. The drug that could save your life becomes poison. Too much time and attention from a significant other, no longer feels warm and fuzzy, it feels weird and creepy. The key to keeping this from happening is to keep from overdosing on something. At the moment, if I’m being honest, I’m LIKED out.
Growing up in the ’80s and the “Vally Girl” movement, you would have thought that it would have happened earlier. However it is only recently that the word like has become so pervasive that it feels like its opposite. No longer do I want to ‘like’ anything because it feels meaningless, a throw away compliment because it’s time to move onto the next thing. Perhaps it is time to dismiss the notion of ‘liking’ every thing that you like and only ‘like’ the things that you love. By putting this plan into action, it reduces the number of ‘likes’ to go around. Only the truly special will be donned with this moniker.
In life our most precious resource is our time. If all we do is like the time that we spend on this earth, then maybe we should hold out for more loves rather than drowning in likes. They might take some more effort to find but at least everything won’t feel like different flavors of vanilla.
It’s extremely easy to get caught up in your own narrative. Look at it as if it is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. History is often told from only one perspective. The English probably don’t spend much time on the Battle of Bunker Hill in their history books. However there are always at least two sides to the story, if not more. It is difficult to avoid getting caught up in one narrative because we experience the world from only one perspective. No matter how difficult it may be to remember, it is key to relationships to understand that people are fighting a battle that you probably don’t understand.
The convenient thing about history is that there is too much of it to uncover every single situation and devote pages in books, areas of museums or time in documentaries. So historians must edit history to fit a narrative about a nation, people or group. We do the same things in our minds but our editing faculty can be skewed by emotion. We are rarely objective about the importance of the moments of our lives. So it stands to reason that we would have even more trouble being objective about someone else’s experience or stepping into their subjective experience and the emotion that goes with it.
So it is in all of our best interest to see the people around us as fellow soldiers. We are all in a fight of some sort. Although we may think we have a front row seat to the battle that other people are fighting, there is a layer that we cannot cross without letting go of our own struggle to reach out with understanding. Recognizing that we have common ground as soldiers but separated by a distance that cannot be measured in miles. It doesn’t matter if you’re fighting “The Great War”, every battle matters most to the ones who are in it.
It has been said many times that soccer is a “religion”. While this may be taken as an exaggeration or possibly a slight against religion, there is reason to take the claim with a certain amount of seriousness. Although the sport does not call for the fealty to a superhuman controlling power, it could be considered a form of faith and worship. Routinely throughout the year, people flock by the thousands to sport cathedrals to have their faith tested by the team of their choosing. Much like a religion, an individual must decide to keep believing in the face of conflict. Although the teams, managers and players are the facilitators, it is actually the mass’s belief in the sport itself that makes it most like a religion.
The belief structure of soccer is not something that is written in a holy book but there are some universals that are worth mentioning as they relate heavily to life.
You’re never fully in control. Although the ball can be “possessed” by anyone on the field, that possession is tenuous at best. Even the goalkeeper has a time limit on their ability to hold the ball.
Progress and protection must be balanced. Even the most forward thinking teams recognize the need for a form of balance. Those who do not recognize the need for balance pay the price eventually.
No one can stand alone. Even the best players in history needed a supporting cast in order to be successful. Much like life, the individual is part of a larger whole and therefore is dependent on others.
There are many ways to meet your aims. Style of play, formations, personnel and other components are merely ingredients to an eventual product. The path does not always follow the plan or the map but actually doing is the key.
The tools may be finite but the possibilities are infinite. Each player has a finite number of tools to use but their ability to respond to the situation with those tools is what brings people back repeatedly.
These are not commandments or any form of religious doctrine but rather a few ideas that are inherent to the game. It is because of these ideas and many more that the game of soccer is so universally beloved. It mirrors life in so many ways that the people who love it may not even realize the overlaps. The game encapsulates in ninety minutes (or thereabouts) the struggle of what it means to be alive. Collectively and individually we are all caught in a struggle and the game is an available guidepost to help us along the road.