Blogpost, self-reliance

The World Cup and Learning How to Love Yourself

Best of friends ready to travel together.

In 1998 I spent almost a month in Europe with my best friend, Schaef, attending the World Cup.  When you think of life experiences, it really doesn’t get much better than that.  Spending a month engrossed in the thing that you love the most with one of the people that you love the most.  It truly was an amazing trip but when it was over he and I didn’t speak for almost two months.  The experience of that trip has helped me in a variety of ways, one of which I’ll share here.

The trip was planned extremely well by my friend.  He was the planner and I played the role of translator because I spoke both Spanish and French.  We flew into London and saw the sites there briefly.  Our main focus was the games.  So site seeing was kind of a fast paced game.  We tried to see as much as possible in the smallest amount of time possible.  Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, etc. were all done in a day and at a quick clip.

Then we took trains down to Barcelona where we spent a few days touring and watching games in the afternoon.  Again, the Olympic Village, La Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s buildings and all were seen but not studied as we had to block out times for the matches which were almost social events along Las Ramblas.  Unfortunately Schaef lost his passport on our second to last day there.  For that story, CLICK HERE.

The LouvreOur next stop was Paris.  There was of course the visit to the US Embassy in Paris to get a new passport which took longer than we would have liked.  After getting it we had to rush to pick up our tickets to the five games that we were going to attend.  Our first match was Germany vs USA.  Despite both being American we were following Germany through the group stage.  The most memorable thing from following Germany for me was the warm-up.  Watching Jurgen Klinsmann get crossed balls for him to side volley from head height was amazing.  He was obviously a world class player honing his craft and I loved seeing it up close.  In addition to that match, we saw the Louvre in less than 2 hours.  Art lovers we are not!  Next was Germany vs Yugoslavia which was in Lens, a much smaller venue and not much around.

We fit in a quick trip to Munich Germany to experience Schaef’s heritage.  This was the first time that I felt like we needed some space.  I didn’t speak German but I felt there was an expectation that I was still on translation duty.  I learned quickly how to say “Zwei biere, zwei pretz” (two beers and two pretzels) which was about all we needed to survive.   That feeling of unnecessary expectation faded quickly because we were back on the road to Montpelier to see our final group stage match, Germany vs Iran, which ended with Germany winning the Group.  Montpelier was also the first place that we were able to kick a soccer ball around.  We met a girl from Chicago who got her brother to lend us a ball.  Her father’s only directions were “don’t pop it”.  Now I’ve never popped a soccer ball before in my life.  But sure enough, the very last kick of the ball took a weird bounce hit this tree with spikes on it and POP!  We felt so bad for the kid, I think we gave him around $140 in Francs to replace it.  At this point, the togetherness was getting difficult.  I even started smoking cigars on a daily basis just to get away for a bit.

Our final day of matches was filled with drama both on and off the field.  We went to the knockout stage match in Lens between France and Paraguay which Les Bleus won in overtime.  This was inconvenient for us because we had another match to attend in Paris that night and OT almost made us late.  On top of that we had to navigate around riot police due to an altercation that happened during the match outside the stadium.  Despite the difficult circumstances we got onto a fully packed train back to Paris.  Denmark beat Nigeria handily that night.

We traveled back to England in order to catch our flight home.  At this point, we have not had one argument or negative word said but we don’t speak much on the flight.  The next day we part ways and don’t talk for about two months.  Eventually we pick right back up in a good spot but we obviously needed some time apart.

This experience taught me so many things about relationships but the two main ones were: most upsets come from a mismatch of expectations and no matter how much you love someone, space is necessary at times.  These both came into play in the best possible circumstances.

On a daily basis, we are not dealing with the best possible circumstances but we are cultivating our most important relationship.  Each and every day we are in the closest possible contact with our key associate: the self.  Although it may seem odd to apply the same concepts to an internal relation as an external but they can be used to good effect.

First the mismatch of expectations with who you think that you are or should be is a common cause of upset.  We have a narrative about who we are inside of our head.  Some of it is conscious and other parts unconscious but when our external environment fails to meet our expectations of who we are, it creates issues.  Those issues can manifest in a variety of ways but the underlying problem is that our life does not match our expectations.  One way to combat this is actually create a definitive description of who you expect yourself to be on a daily basis.  Not the “best case scenario” or “ideal self” but rather standard operating procedure or bare minimums description.  This way you are setting yourself up for success.  Exceeding these expectations will be a gold star to shoot for but at least you have a definition of who you will accept going out into the world each day.

The second is slightly more complicated because getting distance from yourself can seem difficult.  I’m obviously not talking about physical distance but rather psychological distance.  The daily opportunity that we have for this space is sleep.  I truly believe that people who do not sleep well have a more complicated internal life because they are caught up too directly in their own story.  The inability to take a break from being puts additional stress onto the relationship with the self.  Other forms of psychological space from the self are meditation and exercise.  These can both be extremely effective provided that they can be done without intense focus on “results”.  Using these tools to take a mental vacation will have great effects provided that the vacation is not turned into a business trip.

So recognize that you’re on a lifelong trip, living out of a purse sized “bag”, with the same person that you cannot get rid of.  It would make sense for you to make them a friend, possibly your best friend.  In order to make it work though, you’re going to need to set expectations and give each other space.  Otherwise you could end up hating the person inside your head and that seems like a bad way to spend this great trip that you’re on.

Travel well!

Pete

Blogpost

Major League Soccer as “Fragile” Frankie Merman

FrankiemermanIn “The Junk Mail” episode of Seinfeld, we are introduced to Frankie Merman.  He is Jerry’s childhood friend who has many quirks including digging holes to sit in when he is upset.  Despite his eccentricities, George is slightly jealous of Frankie because Frankie and Jerry attended camp together.  George ruefully refers to Frankie as the “Summer Me”.  He even goes so far as to lie to Jerry about an imaginary summer friend of his own.  All of this ridiculousness is par for the course in the world of Seinfeld.  As far fetched as it all may be, it got me thinking about the soccer world in which American fans live.

PremNext weekend marks the end of the Premier League.  For those who religiously follow teams from England on Saturday and Sunday mornings, there is hole to be filled.  Recognizing this fact, it might just be time to embrace Major League Soccer as your “Summer League”.  I can hear the protests now, “MLS sucks!”  “There’s no promotion or relegation!”  “It’s a retirement league!”  I’m well aware of this and all of the other vitriol that comes out whenever someone suggests that our domestic league should be watched by our domestic fans.  I understand the thought process.  My son and I just took a trip to England to see two matches.  The allure of European soccer is not lost on me.  The only question is do we want it to be this way?  Do we truly want to be thousands of miles away from the best soccer in the world?  Americans account for the largest number of ticket buyers at the World Cup, other than the host nation.  Which means that we travel to far off lands at great expense to see the best in the world compete.  In 2026 when the World Cup is here, will Americans not attend the games because they are here?  That would be a ludicrous thought!  We want the best games with the best players to be in our backyards.  BUT we’re impatient, entitled and shortsighted.  Let’s take a look at each.

Ricky Davis 79We’re impatient.  Major League Soccer is barely 20 years old.  Even the re-branded version of the English first division is older by around 4 years.  Comparing MLS to any of the historic first divisions from Europe is at best an apples to oranges comparison.  At worst, it ignores all common sense.  Teams and leagues are made up by players and their endeavors are supported by fans.  European fans have supported their clubs for generations.  MLS clubs have not existed for a generation yet.  Love for a team or club is not built overnight.  It is a slow process and we’re in the thick of both the development of love for clubs and a talent pool.  If the desire is that MLS should just buy the best talent in the world, do some research on the Cosmos.

LeaguesWe’re entitled.  Other than MLS, the other major sports leagues based in the US are arguably the best in the world.  NFL, no competition.  MLB, takes whatever talent is produced in other leagues.  NBA, second tier talent from the US go to play in the other leagues.  NHL, brings in talent from all over the world.  Is it really that disheartening to have one league of the top five major sport that is not YET the best?  Especially when you consider that with the exception of hockey, the others are “American” sports.

We’re shortsighted.  In the 1990’s my knowledge of English soccer was actually pretty limited.  At the time, the Italian Serie A was arguably the best league in the world.  The ingredients that contribute to the rise or fall of the fortunes of a particular league are multiple.  One of the most important parts to a successful league is fan interest.  If there are not enough fans, there is not enough money to buy enough talent and the product on the field suffers.  The shortsighted thought that, “MLS sucks now.  I’ll pay attention when it’s better.”  is a recipe for disaster.  The league cannot reach a status of world renown without the backing of American soccer fans.  If you want the best players in the world, playing in your backyard for your local team, then you need to pay for it now, not then.  We never get there if we don’t put down the deposits (both financial and emotional) right now.

So yes!  Major League Soccer might be Fragile Frankie Merman.  It may have all kinds of eccentricities that may not fit your model of a perfect replacement.  BUT if you spend your summer pining for the return of George and don’t pay attention.  Frankie will continue to disappoint and your summers will always be George-less.

It will never be “The Summer of George”

Pete

Blogpost

The POSH Pilgrimage (Recap)

My son and I returned safely from our trip to see the mighty POSH and another team based in Liverpool.  Compared with most of my other trips abroad, it was basically incident free.  That was of course by design because while traveling with a 13 year old, it is probably best to play it safe.  Despite that lack of crazy happenings, the trip was extremely enjoyable and gave us many things to ponder and remember.

Can’t Buy Me Love!

IMG_4315The Beatles may have been right by saying that  love can’t be bought but the purchase of a new jersey of your son’s favorite team does help.  Our first stop was in Liverpool for the Everton vs Manchester United match.  We had a day to tour around the city a bit but most of our time was spent at the club shop and taking photos near the two stadiums of the city’s rival teams.  Despite leaning toward Liverpool in the past, I had to stick with my son in his support of the Toffees.  It was not an easy thing to do since the first English player that I ever knew by name was Kevin Keegan.  Remember that I was raised in an era before the internet, so VHS instructional videos on soccer were my introduction to international soccer.  However keeping with my overall thought process, supporting Everton makes much more sense for me.  I tend to choose the road less traveled.  Regardless, on match day it seems that I made the right choice.  Everton pummeled the Red Devils from start to finish.  It seemed as though ManU was expecting the Toffees to roll over and die.  My son got the perfect introduction to live football in England, coincidentally 4-0 was the same score to the first POSH match that I ever attended.

We Lose If You Win!

Before and during the trip, I tried to impress upon Luke that football is taken very seriously throughout Europe but especially England.  During our train ride to Peterborough, he got an up close look at what I was talking about.  I had feared that we might end up seeing a clash between fans of opposing teams at some point.  That didn’t happen.  However on our trip to Peterborough, three Man United fans were having a heated discussion about who they would prefer to win the league.  The two older (around my age) fans were adamant that they would prefer that ManU lose to Man City in order for City to win the title.  Their historical hatred for Liverpool was so strong that they could not bare to see them win the title.  The younger man was not bothered by who won the title and only cared whether United sorted out their own issues.  It never looked like the conversation was going to turn physical but it was just enough of personal experience for Luke to see the gravity of support for one’s team in England.  We changed trains in Manchester and headed toward our next destination.  In the evening of Easter Sunday, we reached Peterborough.

Home Again!

One of my favorite quotes is “A man can never step into the same river twice because the river is different and so is he.”  This quote applies to my return to Peterborough.  Whenever I travel, I try to go for a run early in the morning.  It’s a great way to see a city before it becomes crowded with people, traffic, etc.  My first destination was London Road Stadium (The ABAX).  It had been almost exactly twelve years since my last visit.  The stadium much like the team seems to have been upgraded in noticeable ways but there is a core to both that have remained and make it seem the same.  I often wonder how fans of teams that have been bought and revamped like Man City feel about their club.  Having read the book by our chairman, I am quite comfortable with the methodical progress of the POSH over the past decade plus.  The success has come with sacrifice and resources that are not limitless which suits me perfectly.  The same is true of the city.  Peterborough is a small city that is not overwhelming.  It’s easy to feel at home there.

When In Rome!

IMG_4381 (1)With my young son in tow, I could not take part in everything that football culture has to offer.  I did take the time to visit the home of PISA at Eb’s.  We didn’t stay long and I only had one beer but I felt like I needed to show up and see what was going on.  I really should have coordinated better with some of the people on londonroad.net.  It would have been nice to put faces with screen names but this was a last minute decision because I did not know what to expect from the place.  It was actually the perfect place to go prior to the match.  The food looked and smelled good.  The memorabilia around the place was a good retrospective on some of the reasons why I’m a POSH fan now.

Close Enough to Feel a Part!

IMG_4398The match itself was preceded by a “First Time Fan” experience.  My son got the chance to sit in the team seats and high five the players on their way out to the warm-up.  For me it was an opportunity to be a few feet away from two POSH legends: Aaron Mclean and Darren Ferguson.  Although I must admit that I dropped the ball on getting photos with both.   As a coach I just couldn’t bring myself to interfere with pregame preparations.  Despite that fact, I still enjoyed the experience of getting down on the field level and seeing the players up close.

Our seats were great and the Sunderland fans were definitely up for the game.  During the first half, I was a bit worried by our play and support.  The team created a few opportunities but there seemed to be a non-committal feeling from the players and the POSH fans.  It was as if neither were truly ready to give their all for fear that they might be disappointed.  In the second half, that all changed as the players and the fans seemed to be fully invested in challenging a “big club” for the win on the day.  Although the Sunderland goal came first, it was at a point in the game where POSH were starting to cause real problems.  I knew we could pull level!

Then it happened!  Godden’s goal electrified the stadium (other than the Sunderland areas).  I don’t know exactly why but the combination of all of the circumstances culminated into so much excitement that I almost fainted.  Jumping, cheering and clapping, I could feel myself getting light headed.  The only thought that saved me was that if I passed out, my son would have to deal with it.  So I calmed myself down.  Godden had a chance to make it the perfect occasion but it wasn’t to be.

IMG_4404Prior to the match, the man who lead the “First Time Fan” activities had said to the group, “If we win, you need to come back because we won.  If we tie or lose, you need to come back to see a win.”  Although the game ended in a draw, it was still a great experience for Luke and I.  I would have preferred three points and a dominant performance like I got during my last visit to London Road but this was special in its own way because I was there with Luke.  We will will be back at some point and hopefully it won’t take a decade this time!

Pete

 

Blogpost, SoccerLifeBalance

The POSH Pilgrimage

It’s a regular occurrence to see English Football Teams on TVs across the United States at the moment.   The Premier League is arguably the most popular league in the world and many of the most beloved English teams are on display regularly for the American audience.  However my team is not!  For close to twenty years, I’ve been supporting Peterborough United Football Club.  The club is known by the nickname “The POSH”.  They do not play in the Premier League.  Nor do they play (at the moment) in the Championship.  The POSH are a League 1 team which means that they are in the third tier of English Football.  Since they are not on the television often, I follow my favorite team weekly through the internet by watching highlights and interviews on Youtube etc.  This week I’ll be making my second trip to watch a match at their home, The ABAX Stadium (formerly London Road) and I can’t wait!

My interest in the POSH was completely unexpected.  My girlfriend (now wife) bought me the first XBox and the FIFA video game to go along with it.  At first I used Liverpool as my team because as a young player I had watched soccer videos with Kevin Keegan.  Eventually I got bored with how easy it was to win the league.  So I decided to choose a lower league team and get them promoted to the Premier League.  As I was searching through the lower league teams, I found Peterborough.  Since my name is Pete, it seemed like a fine choice.  My POSH teams on the XBox were usually a combination of quality POSH players and a few of my favorite American or English players.  Brian McBride and Scot Thompson were regulars in the digital version of the blue and white.

PoshLukeandIAfter playing the game with the POSH for a while, I decided to look into how the team was in real life.  It was very casual at first but the season they got into a relegation battle really drew me in.  After that I followed the team regularly online by reading the match reports and checking Skysports.com.  The POSH forum at LondonRoad.net was another way that I got information relevant to the club.  The slow burn of my love for POSH got a large log thrown upon it in September of 2006 when Darragh MacAnthony became chairman of the club.  He stated that his ambition was to do exactly what I had done in the video game world.  If I wasn’t hooked before, I was all in at that point.  My newborn son had a full kit and I wore POSH blue (or bright yellow) regularly.  In addition to game days, I wore the POSH colors whenever I ran long distance races.

IMG_4279In 2007 I decided that it was time to visit London Road to attend a match.  It was possibly the most frugally planned trip that I could arrange.  I was in England for three nights including one in a basement room of a one star hotel in London.  It was an amazing trip!  The main reasons that the trip was amazing were all POSH related.  The team beat MK Dons 4-0 despite Shane Blackett getting sent off in the second half.  After the match, I waited around for autographs from the players and coaches.  Shwan Jalal and Craig Mackail-Smith were particularly nice to me.  Unfortunately I did not get to meet the new manager, Darren Ferguson.  At that moment, I mainly knew him as Sir Alex’s son.  Eventually he would become one of the best POSH managers by putting Darragh’s plan for promotion into effect.  By signing ambitious young players and putting them into a system that created boatloads of goals, he has become my favorite manager.

So after a twelve year absence, I finally get to return to Peterborough.  Many things have changed but many have not.  Darren Ferguson is the manager but he is on his third spell with the club.  The club is still ambitious but pragmatic in its approach.  On the outside looking in on playoff spots, there is a slim possibility that they’ll make the cutoff.  Regardless I am still hopeful that I’ll get the chance to see one of the games culminating in a playoff promotion success.  I know that it will be a great atmosphere having watched “Sunderland ’til I die!” recently, it’s obvious they have passionate fans.  Regardless, I can’t wait to be there!  It may require thousands of miles of travel and over ten years of waiting but I’m proud to be a POSH fan!  Supporting Man United would just be too easy!

Pete