“Ultimately, sports are just about as close to what one would call the truth as it is possible to get in this world.” –Harry Crews
if you aren’t a fan of sport you probably think all the hyperbole about kinship, brotherhood and soldiers together in battle is just a bunch of nonsense that boys use to justify that somehow playing a game is an important task. having spent more than a little time watching boys play together as a team (i played a little myself even) it’s hard to deny the bond that grows amongst team mates. sure, it can at times be cliqueish, it can be ever-changing, and it doesn’t always happen for all kids. but i know for a fact that when boys go at a singular task together, and really, truly buy-in to caring about each other and have a willingness to fight as hard for their team mate as they would for themselves, that a connection is made that makes for a victory of spirit–that win or lose on the field–makes for pretty special trophies. sports ain’t for everybody, but they should be.
21 years ago one of the things in my life that i am the most proud of entered the world and a big, smiling brute of a baby. i only wanted a few things for him, be healthy, be happy and be better than me. so far he has been all those things and more. many think 21 is a marker for manhood, most men know that this isn’t true at all. sure it’s significant, it’s a door that is unlocked for boys to do some things that men do. not much more. i think he knows this, he knows there are many things he wants to achieve and i believe he will on his journey to manhood. i have noticed a fearlessness and passion of late that clues me in to the man he will be and there’s not a day that goes by that i am not proud of all that he has and will be. he truly is one of the great loves of my life. happy birthday wild. happy birthday.
cliche’, sure, it’s the journey, not the destination, etc. and so on. but it’s true. as i continue to age (for some damned reason) i am more and more aware of this old, tired fact. now to just slow down and live a little more of my life with this recognition at the top of my mind.
after a huge fall of soccer that included pulling double duty as a starting Varsity high school player as a freshman and helping the club team go undefeated in league play to make the jump up to the next level for spring, the spring has rolled into early summer with reward(s) for all the hard work. a cup, the U.S. Youth Soccer, Kentucky State Open Cup to be exact. for all the success in soccer, the trophies, the medals, the t-shirts, the atta-boys this item has been elusive. but no longer. great coaching, super commitment and a winning, positive mindset are all huge parts of this whirlwind run of the last 10 months. but it’s isn’t over yet…more for sure…
a quick tale of two boys who achieved the first part of a late spring/early summer goal. one (not pictured here) made it to NYC, as an intern at Hearst Publishing, settled into a room at NYC and will spend the next 3 months becoming something he wasn’t before he left Lexington. my heart is full for him. amazed at his guts and talent it took to get himself in the position to be there. he’s already won and doesn’t even know it. the second, pictured above, helped his team make it through the first round of the Kentucky State Cup. his team had a tremendous first weekend, executing 15 goals while giving up zero, zilch, nadda. he finished with a pair of goals and 3 assists on the weekend and some massive center midfield play in some important matches. so for a pair of boys, a nice weekend on the way to bigger missions as the summer progresses. forward they go. i just try and get a few pictures of it.
this photo is a classic example as to why i’m just not really a good photographer. no patience, no willingness to watch the scene unfold through the viewfinder, no intellectual moxie when it comes to “the decisive moment.” i guess that is why there are always too many words to accompany the images around here. always searching to explain the context of my clicks of the shutter.
you see, without the context, this is just two boys running, in soccer strips, happily across the green grass. the photographer (me) is in the wrong position, behind them, missing the joy in their faces. i’m also too far away and the frame is basically uninviting. but when you know the context, or i should say, “because i know the context,” there’s something more to the image. this moment is part of a series of moments, some photographed, some not, that included sixty-eight and a half minutes of soccer, a struggle, falling behind, tying the score late and then a game winner before the 70th minute that secures promotion next season to the top league available for the team.
only seconds before this frame was captured, my boy managed to find the back of the net with 21 other boys crowded into the box. and with the goal, he sprinted out of the crowd towards the other end of the field in exaltation with teammates streaming behind. this shot captured him and the first kid to him on the sprint, touching his back in congratulations sure, but there’s so much more than just that. context–team, brotherhood, competition, battle, family, victory, relief it’s all there, i just didn’t do my job showing enough of it. but i assure you we both won’t forget the context, with or without the good photography to prove it.
we, as spectators, get spoiled by professional athletes, musicians, artists, actors, dancers, etc. by how they make their chosen craft look effortless and at times just plain, easy. but we’re smarter than that right. the hours of practice, sweat, blood and want make it so much more than we could ever see.
so many different scenarios during the struggle are what truly make it “the beautiful game.” it’s never just goals or magical touches, sometimes it’s just about strength, will and physics.
i don’t claim to be much more than a sports fan, i’m no expert on the intricacies of what it takes to be “next level” but i do think upon thoughtful study of sport, be it soccer, basketball, football, tennis, volleyball – you get the point – the ability to accurately anticipate opponents’ intentions is a requisite skill that separates “great” athletes from “good” athletes. youth soccer players with that ability to see the next play before it develops, then willing that play to develop are the game changers. it doesn’t happen at the same rate with young footballers, it’s a process to have a team get that mind-meld where they all begin to anticipate what’s next and react accordingly. i know as a fan, it’s sure fun to watch it come together. it’s art.