Sunday, March 1, 2009

It Dropped Out of the Sky Spinning and Whirling

DC United is a powerhouse in MLS . The District soccer franchise owned the 90s, when Marco Etcheverry of Bolivia was United's best player. On 5/30/98 I wrote the following letter to Mr. Etcheverry:

"My son, Danny, plays U-9 soccer for both the FPYC Pumas (Select) and the Falls Church Tornado (House). Yesterday, you attended the Pumas practice and worked with his teammates for two hours. That was so nice of you.

You showed Danny how to put spin on his corner kicks. Today in a 0-0 game in the House League, Danny took a corner kick with only 8 minutes left. The ball came down at the near post, hit a Fullback on the shoulder, and spun wickedly into the goal. We won 1-0. My son said excitedly, "Marco Etcheverry taught me how to do that!"

Thank you for presenting such a great image of a professional athlete to these young soccer players.

Sincerely, the Tornado coach."

(Right: The elegant Marco Etcheverry. He gave back.)

At the season-ending team dinner, I presented to every team member a certificate I had created which noted a contribution that player had made to the team, and described the achievement in a sentence. For instance, B was "Winning Goal Keeper," R was "Mr. Everything," and G was "Mr. Versatile."

It is ironic for me to review this eleven years later because the Mothers of the last two boys, both fine young men who were selfless and critical to the success of our 3-4-1 team, came to the custody trial four years later in full support of Danny's Mother as she tried to judicially deprive me of my children. One of them testified that I was a sideline tyrant, who shamed the boys in front of everyone and caused them to cry. Her son was on the team for four years while she and her husband (an assistant coach) put up with this behavior, poor helpless things. The Court indicated what credibility it assigned to her testimony when it awarded me full joint legal custody.

At the dinner, the certificate I gave to Danny read, "Danny, Game Winning Scorer. 5-30-98. Took a corner kick and scored, unassisted, in a 1-0 win over the 4-1 Arlington Optimists."

I can still vividly remember Danny's ball, spinning wildly and making a whirring sound as it dropped out of the sky and landed on top of a defender's shoulder in front of the net. In the midst of the pushing and shoving melee of soccer players, the ball caromed wickedly off the boy's shoulder and slung straight into the goal like a pistol shot.

I missed Danny last month at the Elevation Burger in Falls Church at noon on his birthday. After I finished my cheeseburger, made from organically-raised, grass-fed, free-ranging cows, and waited around awhile, I ate his, so it wouldn't go to waste. It was delicious.

I hope Danny is well. Dating back to before he graduated from high school, his Mother has never told me a thing about him. She refuses to give me any of my children's addresses.

I worry that if any great happiness, or tragedy, ever befell (or has befallen) any of my children, no one would ever tell me, even though their Mother took every cent of on-time child support I ever paid, and more, and the children benefit from the full college tuition and fees which I provide for.

Maybe a nodding acquaintance will one day pass me in the street and say, "Congratulations," or most worrisome, "I'm sorry." How much of a shock would that be?

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