Fathers and Sons

One of the main reasons I decided to start writing here was to put down some of the thoughts I had about being a father and soccer fan. Becoming a dad has been the most overwhelming experience of my life. I cried a lot. It was so overwhelming I didn’t watch a full 90 minute game for the rest of the 2013-2014 season or see the World Cup final played out live, but, rather, watched in chunks during my son’s naps. I didn’t even touch my EPL fantasy team for weeks.

When I think of how my son’s experience as a fan – assuming, of course, he will be a fan of soccer and maybe even of the same teams – will differ from mine, one of the biggest aspects will be in how he watches matches. It is hard to imagine now, but much of my youth was spent scheming ways to find a way to watch a match on television somewhere. My son will be able to watch any game almost at any time; if he wants to watch it live, he may have to do so with a low quality stream with Portuguese commentary, but he can still watch it live. Whereas I struggled growing up to be able to watch high quality matches from any league, my boy will be able to choose whether he wants to view El Clasico, Le Classique, or Der Klassiker.

Not only that, but he will grow up minutes away from CenturyLink Field and can see Seattle Sounders games, USMNT games, and visiting world class clubs during pre-season tours. Currently, we live within walking distance of a USL team, Sounders 2. He’ll probably even be able to go to games with his friends, because they too will have parents that are soccer fans. It makes me think of my dad, a college football player cursed with two sons who couldn’t care less about gridiron football. He wasn’t at all interested in soccer, but, being the father he was, he would drive me and my brother four hours to our nearest MLS team, the San Jose Clash/Earthquakes, a few times a season. One time, he surprised us by getting tickets to the MLS Cup final and we made the 9 hour drive down to Los Angeles to watch Landon Donovan score a brace for the Earthquakes and lift the cup. To this day, I think the only players he knows are Alexi Lalas (as we were once behind him in the will call ticket line at Spartan Stadium), John Doyle, Mark Schwarzer (bizarrely), and Landon Donovan. Despite his indifference to the sport, he knew my brother and I loved it, and one of the ways I know he loved us was that he would suffer through all of those matches and road trips.

In Nick Hornby’s sporting memoir Fever Pitch, he recalls how his estranged dad finally hit upon soccer as a way to connect with him as a boy. I desperately hope my boy will become a fan of the sport I love so much and that we can experience it together. My dream is that he will never know what Saturday morning cartoons are, as that is the time he watches soccer with his dad. I picture him waking up for the 7 AM game and watching with rapt attention in his pajamas and with mussed hair going every which way; I’ll wake up for the last moments and he’ll crawl into my lap to ask if that number 10 is any good and take my pronouncement as gospel; I’ll fix him breakfast as we wait for the 9:30 game, with his mom joining us for the 2nd half; afterwards, we’ll talk about whether to walk down to the USL game that night or maybe go to the MLS game tomorrow afternoon or maybe both. It’s a nice dream.

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