Thursday, July 3, 2003

on the john 2.7: What do you know about pressure...

approx read time 14 mins*

This might be a little confusing, because I am combining two email groups for this correspondence. Whether it is because I am full of myself, or the fact that I enjoy chronicling the minuet details of my life. I, as most of you know, write a lot of emails. As a result you, my friends and family, are subject to a barrage of written updates. Today the events I wanted to relay, are poignant to two of my major email lists. "on the john" (which chronicles the life and times of John Maxim (aka John Henderson)) and "Soccer fans" (which consists of the journalistic stylings of Johnny Metropolis, and weekly team updates for SHOUTY AUDI (the men's soccer team with which I belong)) So I have combined the two. Just be aware that "on the john" emails tend to be a little more personal, and intimate than the usual "soccerfan" emails. "on the john's" are typically longer as well, and sometimes best read in parts. As always you can be removed from either list simply by requesting it. Or if you would like to receive both (many already do) it can be arranged by you simply requesting it. You can also request that others receive the emails, please let them know however before requesting it to be so. Now that the disclaimer is out of the way, on to the matter at hand.

Many of you know about my newest hobby, Soccer. Growing up I enjoyed sports and considered myself quite the little athlete. Enjoying baseball, football, and basketball, I thought soccer was for pansies. I dubbed it the sport that the kids who weren't big, strong, or fast enough to play football, baseball, and basketball, played. I held fast to this view until serving my Mormon mission in England. Those in Mother England lived, breathed, and ate soccer. I had opportunity to play in several games, and realized what an athlete’s game it was. It became apparent that my days as a shortstop made me somewhat adept to being a goalie, and my love for soccer bloomed.

Upon returning home, my desire to get as much female companionship as possible overshadowed the soccer bug I caught, and it almost went away. Then, one summer the two mixed, when I became infatuated with this girl soccer player I would go watch her indoor games. At the time I was living in the bachelor pad (see "on the john 1.2") and we were sitting around discussing how we felt out of shape, and wondered what could be done. Amidst ideas like opening a local Chip n Dale, soccer popped up. We all decided we would start an indoor soccer team. SHOUTY AUDI** was born. Our first season we didn't win one game, in fact the best game we played we lost 10 to 2... our worst game was 22 to 1. We were horrible. Mostly because none of us had any soccer experience. Those that did, played when they were 7. We resolved to stick with it (all of us except for Abe and Brenny) and had many more indoor soccer adventures. By our third season we became somewhat respectable, and even won a few games.

This spring SHOUTY AUDI moved from the indoor arena to the world of outdoor soccer. The season was a grand experience. With additional players, and a whole new game really. SHOUTY AUDI struggled to play as a team in the beginning. However we pulled out of it, and became one of the best teams in our division. We ended up winning a tournament called the Neumann Cup, and finishing the season with a 7 and 3 record. We won our last 5 games of the season, and scored 19 points on our opponents, while they only scored 2 points on us. We made it to the Championship.

Our opponent in the Championship game was called LEAVE IT BLANK. They had finished the season 9 to 1, and beat us twice, early in the season. We however defeated them in the Neumann Cup Championship. We were hopeful, and guessed we would have a victory. Another factor, the Utah Soccer Association only wanted to move one team from our division up to the next division. They wanted to move LEAVE IT BLANK up due to their record. The League advised us that in order to advance, we needed to win the championship game.

Now that the history and build up is out of the way, let me regale you with the story of the biggest soccer game of my life***. Ever since I started playing soccer in 2002, I always, always get nervous prior to the game. This is a, "butterfly's in the stomach makes me poo" nervousness that has been an unavoidable side effect of soccer competition. This game was no different, and realizing the magnitude of it, I really felt it. If you didn't realize, I am the goal keeper. Mostly because, in the beginning I was the best of the worst. Plus I don't think that I have the foot prowess to play out in the field or the commitment to gain it.

I got to the field on Saturday (6/21/03) and not a soul was there. Probably had something to do with me being an hour early. This nervous feeling was extreme, and I wondered if it would affect my play negatively. As the team arrived, it was evident all the guys felt somewhat the same, but with an underlying sense of confidence. The game started, and neither team seemed to have a clear advantage over the other. About half way through the first half, we had scored. This always puts a little more pressure on me because now we just had to hold the other team, I had to make sure nothing made it past the goal. Shortly thereafter, I step up to the challenge. A hard shot is taken from 10 yards out. It was one of those instances that are represented nicely in feature films. Things start to move in slow motion, I jump sideways, and the ball ricochets off my palms. Fast motion returns... I saved the day, for now. At half time we are ahead 1 to 0. The second half moves on, and things are a little more intense. LEAVE IT BLANK makes more of an assertive effort to pull something off. Then on one such attack, they do. One of their players kicks the ball three feet in front of the goal. I'm poised to catch it. Then from out of no where one of my players hits it with his head. The trajectory only changes slightly, but it's enough, and close enough that I can't react fast enough, and it goes right past me. A player from the other team who’s running across the goal hits the ball with his shoulder, and it goes in the goal. The score is tied, and even though people keep saying it's not my fault, it's hard to believe them. I think in reality, had I been three inches to the left I would have had it. In retaliation, and with a vengeance, one of our players (Dan) has the ball, and takes it past three of LEAVE IT BLANKS players and scores. I welcome the relief, since even though that "have to hold em" pressure is back on, it's far friendlier then the "if you tie you have to go to a shoot out" pressure. The second half moved on, many more shots were taken by both teams, but no scores. Then after a barrage of attacks LEAVE IT BLANK kicks the ball at the goal. I see it, and I'm ready for it. It's not a difficult shot to block. Except for the 18 guys cramped into that penalty box... the ball hits the legs of one of my players who is in motion. This time the ricochet isn't slight, and it zooms well out of my reach, and into the goal. They tied, and minutes later the second half ended. The score 2 - 2. I was getting really scared. I thought that we would have to do a shoot out. I've never done a shoot out. The ref's inform us however that in the Championship game we have to play two 15 minute halves, then if the score is tied we do the shoot out. So the next two halves continue, and things are in a stalemate. Both teams trying and failing to score for one reason or another. One of those reasons or another... LEAVE IT BLANK has the ball only a few yards from our goal. It's passed to a player right in front of me. I rush to him in an attempt to block any angle he has of the goal. I make my body as big as possible, and he kicks as hard as he can... Only two yards from the kick the ball fly's directly at me and strikes me right in "the family jewels." I try to cry out, but nothing comes out. Minuscule bolts of lightning cross my line of vision following the veins in my eye balls as I crash to the ground not realizing what's happening with the ball. (I'm told a member of my team gained possession and booted the ball away from our goal) I fall to my knees curled up in the fetal position. Searing pain crawls inside of me from the affected area up to the left side of my lower torso. Suddenly I realize where I am, and notice the ball is coming back this way. I stand clutching myself, and try really hard to focus on the ball rather than the pain. It works, and a few minutes later just a lingering discomfort remains. The over time ends, and nobody scored. That meant we had to go to a shoot out. I became more nervous than I can remember ever being before. I sought counsel from ex-goalkeeper and all around good guy Jeremy Pierce. He said that I should commit to whichever direction I feel most comfortable with, and that I should just go as hard as I can in that direction, and hope I hit the ball. He said that a strategy his brother used, who played keeper for Westminster College, was to go the exact same direction each time... So that's what I decided to do. For those of you not aware, in the shoot out the ball sits 15 yards from the goal, the goalie has to cover a box that is 24 feet long, and 8 feet high. Five players from each team take one shot intermittently against the opposing keeper. Who ever comes out with the most points scored, wins. In reality, it is highly improbable that the goalie stop any shot. In fact most shoot outs are won be cause a shooter will miss the goal altogether. I thought about the eminent confrontation. I realized that all I had to do theoretically was stop the ball once and we would win. As the team gathered to discuss offensively who would be taking the shots for our team. I walked towards them to be a part of the stratagem... then someone said "John, you need some time alone?" I looked up at him and he was nodding and he said again "you need some time alone." I realized the second time it wasn't a question. He motioned with his head over to an empty spot on the field. I nodded and walked in that direction. I figured this was some "soccer tradition" which would enable the goalie to get into a zone of some kind, to focus on the matter at hand. I became increasingly nervous, wondering why my first ever experience with this had to be in the Championship game. With a thousand thoughts racing through my head my nervousness increased. When in mid thought I was wrenched out of my "zone" to notice a small trickle of urine running down my leg! I looked around nervously to see if any of the players or myriad of fans were watching me. I didn't see anyone looking, and wiped my self of with my goalie gloves. Had I really gotten so nervous I had wet myself? or was it the kick in the pants I received earlier? I wasn't really sure, perhaps a combination of the two. This loss of control over my bodily functions perplexed me, and dominated my thoughts until I heard the referee's whistle signifying the start of the shoot out.

The other goalie goes first. He misses the shot, and we score. I go next. I had decided to jump to the right each time. However I hesitated, and saw the ball going to the left. I lunged... but because I didn't move the moment the ball was kicked I wasn't even close. We score again on our turn. This time I decide to just go right. I set up, he kicks I jump as hard as I can. A slow motion episode ensues, and I think I've got it. Then I feel my finger tips touch the ball, but with out any substance I can't stop it, and they score again. This time our player kicks the ball over the goal... I realize that unless I stop one it's over. With my decision to jump, I pick right again. He kicks, I jump, the ball is going the opposite direction I am, and when I try to correct mid air, I just fall down on my side. They score again. Then we score. Then in the exact same fashion as before, they score. Then we score. Now it's down to this, if they score we lose, if not we take more kicks, have another chance. I position myself on the line, I stare at the player in an attempt to intimidate him, maybe see where his eyes are going. Nothing… he won’t even look at me. The whistle blows, he runs on the ball. I prepare to jump right... he kicks, I jump. For the third time in a row, the ball goes the opposite way I do. I writhe in mid-air to attempt to get to it, but to no avail. I sit up on the ground. I hear cheering, but it all sounds distant and muffled. I had failed. I felt horrible. I wondered if I would ever play soccer again . I didn't want to see anyone, or speak to anyone, or hear people say, "don't worry about it man, those shots are impossible to block", or "you did your best." I just sat there... and looked pathetic. The other goalie walked up to me and informed me of how he had never lost a shoot out. I wanted to yell at him and tell him he didn't block anything, the only reason he won is because we missed the goal once. I fantasized about bashing his head in with the runner-up trophy I held. Luckily the thought of how ridiculous a "runner-up" trophy is , consumed my hatred... who do you know that has a trophy case full of runner-ups. "Look every one, I lost!"

Lucky for me the drama of the moment ended... the next morning. I decided I would play more soccer, and already we won the first game of summer season last Saturday. So that's it for this month. If you would like to attend some of our soccer games, or be updated on how our season is going, just let me know. Thanks for reading. I know that my last two "on the johns" haven't had a lot of how Lara and I are doing info, but I'll do one of those next time. Just be aware we are well and happy.


*This is a new feature added to "on the johns" to inform readers what they're getting themselves into.
**SHOUTY AUDI-where does the name come from? Well a long time ago 3 of the team founders went on a road trip from Salt lake to lake Powell. All three actively played the driving game "Slug Bug". For reasons unknown, the three in an attempt to be cooler, and have more fun then was previously possible invented other car/rhyme/action games. Including "Razor Blazer", "Slob Saab", "Beemer Weiner", "Bus Cuss" and "Shouty Audi" each game had a coinciding action. In the game "Shouty Audi" if whilst driving you saw a Audi made automobile, you would say: Shouty Audi, the color, and then scream as load as you possibly could at the top of you lungs... intern scaring everyone in the car, even those prepared for it. Whether or not you think its fun is up to you. The three founders thought it very fun however, and as a result for no reason in particular it was chosen as the soccer team’s name.
***Yes, the biggest soccer game of my life. Not saying much obviously, but still a true statement.