Month: February 2015

Eyes Wide Open

I don’t remember how old I was at the time, and it’s certain that time and age have taken some details, but I was sitting next to my mom at the time. We were in the stands at Middletown, a half mile dirt track in New York. My dad was on the track racing.

In turns one and two he fell down. The bike moved in one direction and he went another. He slid on his butt sitting upright to the outside of the track where he hit a white concrete wall back first at somewhere near sixty miles per hour. His body collapsed slumping motionless against the wall.

I have retained an image of the crash, but no emotion. I have a vague recollection of being in a miserable hospital, and my dad being home for several months wearing a back brace and sitting on the couch.

I replayed the image in my head tonight when I watched Kyle Busch hit a white concrete wall earlier today at Daytona. Busch won’t race tomorrow as he is recovering from a compound fracture of his leg.

There isn’t a racer alive or dead that did not get on his bike or in his car without knowing he could be broken or killed before making it back to pit road. And every one of them is fine with that. They are a different breed.

It’s for that reason that they must be protected from themselves. My father’s injuries would have been different if hay bails had ringed the concrete wall on the perimeter of the track. Kyle Busch would be in the 500 tomorrow, instead of a hospital bed, if he hit a soft wall instead of a concrete wall.

The Wisdom of Cruyff

Johan Cruyff was the original Dutch Master and the father of modern Barcelona.  Here are 25 quotes from his career that reflect and offer insight on his approach the game he loves.

1. Technique is not being able to juggle a ball 1000 times. Anyone can do that by practicing. Then you can work in the circus. Technique is passing the ball with one touch, with the right speed, at the right foot of your team mate.

2. Someone who has juggled the ball in the air during a game, after which four defenders of the opponent get the time to run back, that’s the player people think is great. I say he has to go to a circus.

3. Choose the best player for every position, and you’ll end up not with a strong XI, but with 11 strong 1’s.

4. In my teams, the goalie is the first attacker, and the striker the first defender.

5. Why couldn’t you beat a richer club? I’ve never seen a bag of money score a goal.

6. I always threw the ball in, because then if I got the ball back, I was the only player unmarked.

7. I’m ex-player, ex-technical director, ex-coach, ex-manager, ex-honorary president. A nice list that once again shows that everything comes to an end.

8. Players that aren’t true leaders but try to be, always bash other players after a mistake. True leaders on the pitch already assume others will make mistakes.

9. What is speed? The sports press often confuses speed with insight. See, if I start running slightly earlier than someone else, I seem faster.

10. There’s only one moment in which you can arrive in time. If you’re not there, you’re either too early or too late.

11. Before I make a mistake, I don’t make that mistake.12. When you play a match, it is statistically proven that players actually have the ball 3 minutes on average … So, the most important thing is: what do you do during those 87 minutes when you do not have the ball. That is what determines wether you’re a good player or not.

13. After you’ve won something, you’re no longer 100 percent, but 90 percent. It’s like a bottle of carbonated water where the cap is removed for a short while. Afterwards there’s a little less gas inside.

14. There is only one ball, so you need to have it.

15. I’m not religious. In Spain all 22 players make the sign of the cross before they enter the pitch. If it works all matches must therefore end in a draw.

16. We must make sure their worst players get the ball the most. You’ll get it back in no time.

17. If you have the ball you must make the field as big as possible, and if you don’t have the ball you must make it as small as possible.

18. Every professional golfer has a seperate coach for his drives, for approaches, for putting. In football we have one coach for 15 players. This is absurd.

19. Surviving the first round is never my aim. Ideally, I’d be in one group with Brazil, Argentina and Germany. Then I’d have lost two rivals after the first round. That’s how I think. Idealisitic.

20. Players today can only shoot with their laces. I could shoot with the inside, laces, and outside of both feet. In other words, I was six times better than today’s players.

21. Quality without results is pointless. Results without quality is boring.

22. There are very few players who know what to do when they’re not marked. So sometimes you tell a player: that attacker is very good, but don’t mark him.

23. I find it terrible when talents are rejected based on computer stats. Based on the criteria at Ajax now I would have been rejected. When I was 15, I couldn’t kick a ball 15 meters with my left and maybe 20 with my right. My qualities technique and vision, are not detectable by a computer.

24. Playing football is very simple, but playing simple football is the hardest thing there is.

25. If I wanted you to understand it, I would have explained it better.

When Testosterone Meets Stupidity at The Intersection of Faux Toughness

A few weeks ago, Oviedo boy’s soccer stood on the precipice of advancing to regional play, but things went horribly wrong. The Lions led 1-0 with 45 seconds left against a game, but ultimately inferior Lake Howell team. Lake Howell played an errant through ball that was rolling harmlessly through the Lions penalty box and out of bounds.

A Lake Howell attacker made a desperate, but futile run for the ball, and an Oviedo defender stood in his path watching the ball go out of play. For reasons that are the title of this post, the Oviedo defender hip checked the Lake Howell player inside the penalty box. The whistle blew and the referee rightly pointed to the spot. Lake Howell converted and the game was tied with 42 seconds left.

Oviedo played the kick off back to their keeper who collected the ball well outside the mouth of his goal and attempted a clearance. He muffed the kick and it fell right to a Lake Howell player, who put it in the back of the empty net with 19 seconds left.

Lake Howell wins 2-1. Oviedo, defending district champion and state runner up, was eliminated. It was cruel, but not unjust. Their brand of soccer is high on speed, intensity and tough tackles. They lacked a measure of technique, and more importantly, discipline to close out the game.