I had retired from my semi-pro and professional soccer career and was in a transition trying to decide what I wanted to do next. It was 1996 and for the time being I was helping a friend manage one of north Dallas’ well-known nothing-but-soccer retail stores. Many times coaches, team captains, and booster-clubs would come in for assistance in ordering team uniforms for the upcoming school or amateur league seasons. This time of year also included the local women’s teams and co-ed teams. But before I go any further, let me explain the well-known fact risk a “retired” male professional (and lifetime single-gender) soccer player takes when joining an amateur co-ed team and league.
The Play-At-Your-Own-Peril Rule
I began playing soccer at the age of ten. By middle school I was playing competitive soccer – what today is called select soccer – and wanted not only to play professionally, but try to at least make the U.S. Men’s National Team roster. What was often whispered among such serious players with such lofty dreams was try your best not to play with or against the clueless recreational teams and players, but more critically never play with or against girls. Now ladies, before you go into your rant, please bear with me and let me explain what it’s about and why it was a whispered rule.
First of all, not playing against recreational teams is a policy most major sports franchises enforce and hence protect their high-valued stars. Second of all, and a lesson I learned several times in my career, from a tactical and confidence standpoint the stronger professional players gain very little or nothing at all by playing the weaker/amateur team other than a practice, or an opportunity to let 2nd and 3rd stringers get playing time. In those rare cases the pro team takes a slim chance in damaging their status or image if they play poorly or worse, lose.
The reason male pro players almost never play competitively against women – and I am genuinely not trying to insult female athletes – is for the simple reason that both teams and genders risk unnecessary injury. In sports, on the whole, women’s bodies move differently than men’s. Momentum, for whatever reason, is initiated and managed differently between the genders. If you don’t believe me, simply watch the two sexes in slow-motion action and how they ‘collide’.
It is a well-established unspoken rule that in competitive contact sports a man plays at his own risk against women. I had known this law for eighteen years.
The Never-ending Beer and Female Introductions Carrot
Returning now to 1996, three attractive female soccer players have been visiting our soccer store often in preparation for the upcoming co-ed season opener. Their player roster is also not complete; they desperately need a goalkeeper! For reasons unknown to me, no one presently on the team wanted to play goalkeeper. And before these very charming women asked, I knew exactly what was about to come out of their seductive mouths…. “We have heard about how good a goalkeeper you are and that you’ve even played professionally!” Huh!? I wasn’t expecting that approach! Hmm, I’ll give ‘em that…. stroking my ego is a good tactical move. But you ladies, I was thinking, are going to have to come up with a lot more before I even entertain the remote possibility of risking my safety! I shook my head two or three times, No, sorry ladies.
“We will buy” they countered with smirks “all of your beer after every game and promise to introduce you to a minimum of three HOT women players each weekend!” To say I was aroused would be gross understatement. “When does the season start?” I replied.
In my hyper-excited mind, I imagined consecutive weekends of hot dates galore and massive amounts of sleep-overs. The score line of our games or whether we had a winning season or not was of absolutely no concern for me. I happily signed my lop-sided contract!
Game 1 of 12
The referee’s opening whistle blew. The comical usual cheering and smack-talk began from both teams and their fans/family members on the sidelines. It truly made me laugh; I had already heard the most abusive and slandering and loudest rhetoric in my career having played around the world. I was more entertained by my thoughts of the post-game festivities. Damn, we were only about ten minutes into our game. Ah, here comes a cross into my penalty box from my left, between the penalty spot and the eighteen-yard line….easy, easy pickings. I quickly come out to snatch it.
I scream the usual scream to my defense “Keeper’s!” I launch into my usual very high-vertical leap, snag the ball with extended arms ABOVE my head, and as per my umpteen years of training and experience proceed to pull the ball down into my chest….. but then SLAM and everything goes black and silent.
The next moment I remember are the EMT’s putting the smelling sauce under my nose. HOLY SHIT my entire jaw and face are in excruciating pain! The EMT’s keep asking me several questions, load me onto their gurney, and I am transported to the nearest ER. There the attending physician informs me that I need 10 stitches on my right under side edge of my chin, and my jaw is broken in two places on the left side near the front of my ear. I will also have to have my jaw and mouth wired shut for six to eight weeks. Two of those three women who talked me in to playing are there consoling me “…they didn’t score.” With my best scolding look I murmured what I hoped sounded like “This is NOT how I wanted to frickin meet women!” I mean shit, I never even saw her! How many beers could have been bought with the upcoming ambulance, emergency room, and doctors bill!?
My co-ed season was over before it began.
Further details of the collision shared by them made my predicament even more depressing – and over time, made theirs a favorite pub story. A long story short, the girl THOUGHT by unimaginable lotto odds, she’d have a chance to head that ball…. with her eyes closed for God’s sake! The top of her head hit my chin if that gives you ANY idea of how wrong she was! And by the way, that ball she thought she could head was firmly in my hands three-feet above my chin! In my profession, on my futebol pitch, with other professional male athletes, it was a NO BRAINER that no one could have had any chance of getting their head on that ball. They would not have even jumped! I hope as you are reading you are picking up on my enraged astonishment.
I am fortunate to have great dental genetics from both parents. As I was taught by my parents, I take above average care of those teeth. As a result, I have learned that my mouth is fine with irregular orthodontic checkups; like on the every 3 to 5 year frequency or more. In fact, I did not get my first cavity until I was 24-years old and it was barely a cavity. Often orthodontists would admire my teeth, entire mouth and all my wisdom teeth.
This time I was returning to the dentist after twelve years. However, this visit I knew I was well past the “praise” of the hygienist and her doctor: I had what was likely a developing abscess. I was expecting the dreaded line “Yes, it will have to come out.” But then my new orthodontist asked a question that was totally from left field.
“Have you ever had a traumatic facial injury?”
The Good News, the Bad News, and the Recurring News
My orthodontist confessed that he really didn’t have to ask that question; he knew I had had a traumatic facial injury. He was viewing all the evidence on the x-rays up in the light. In his many years of practice he had seen it a thousand times. And once again, I had to retell the above story to him. As I was about to begin, I thought to myself, that damn invisible woman is STILL haunting me! And that proverbial line: I didn’t even get her name. The dentist begins his verdict…
The good news is that for not being in for a checkup and cleaning for ages, your condition is good and normal. The bad news is that not only does that abscessed tooth need to come out, but you have two more that need extraction, probably a fourth, and maybe a fifth. “And you know what’s strange about your condition,” he asked, “you don’t have cavities in any of those 3-5 teeth!” The erupting roots in all those teeth are a result of that facial injury.
Now over the next 3-weeks, I will be getting surgical extractions, fitted for a 3 or 5 toothed denture, and paying $2,500 – $5,000 to stop any further problems; from a problem that began with: When does the season start?
The 1970’s Carpenters song Close to You goes on and on in my head:
That is why all the girls in town
(Girls in town)
[But I saw nothing!]…
Just like me, they long to be
Close to you
* * * * * * * * * *
An All-Points-Bulletin for athletic men who have weakened will-power around all things seductively female:
Sooner or later, one way or another, you WILL pay for a woman’s company, that introduction, and anything else you desire of her!
Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always
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