I am prone to instant inspiration, especially where sports are concerned. In 1976, after watching Frank Shorter win a silver medal in the Marathon at the Montreal Olympics, I laced up my shoes and went to the local high school. I ran around the track pretty much until I puked. A couple weeks later, after seeing a brief in the local paper, I ran in an AAU Junior Olympics cross country race and finished 10th out of more than 100 participants, my only experience as a "runner" being the recent battles with the cinder track at Granada High.
(Interestingly enough, these AAU races were qualifiers, so when I finished 10th, I was one of 20 who moved to the next level--a regional race three weeks later--where I finished 13th, and again qualified for the next step, a semi-final to be held in Vegas, one rung below the National Championship. Alas, I was not able to attend and because of soccer, little league and other sports, my running career stalled until junior high track and field).
One of the thoughts that came to me during the last couple months of regular exercise was that I'd love to play soccer again. I've been feeling fitter than I have in years, many of the moves in my regular routine are similar enough to the muscle needs of the game, or can easily be tweaked to be soccer-centric and while I'm stridently sticking to my daily routines, I am getting kind of bored doing the same moves over and over again. I have always preferred games, competition, over solitary workouts, as my physical endeavor. Still, I thought it best to wait until I'd completed the 90-day program, to make sure there were no interruptions.
Then Euro 08 started. Dammit. Can you even imagine the trouble I could get in if Frank Shorter were starting for Austria? Or if England had actually made the field (eat my farts, Steve McLaren)?
When I sent the e-mail to Julian, I told myself it was just to give him a heads up, a sort of, "Hey, I'm interested in getting out there again, maybe in the fall, I'm kind of fit, if anything comes up, let me know." I played with Jules for ten years, often as partners in the center of midfield and I knew two important things about him. One, he plays on like 14 teams (slight hyperbole, but if he has fewer than six games a week, I'll be damned) and two, he lives closer to me than the last league I played in, which was 45 miles away and pretty much an all-day commitment that I am, at my advanced age, no longer willing to make. So I asked, "Any teams/leagues out my way?"
I could not have imagined that I'd be starting in the center of defence less than 36 hours later at a pristine pitch--Field Turf, not grass--less than 10 minutes from my house.
I had suited up against a number of these players before. Their team name is well-known in the area. A bunch of over-30 guys, which is charitable to some, who are WAY over-30 guys, good players, nice group, attractive tactics. I felt right at home, though the league is All Ages and our (duh, Latino) opponents were all south of their third decade. I got in about 65 minutes. We won 3-2. I passed the audition.
"How do you feel about tournaments?" John, the manager, asked post-game.
"Depends," I said, nodding toward AJ. "If it's not a Daddy weekend, I'm in."
"We're playing Santa Barbara in August, over-30 division," he said. "You over 30?"
"I'll be 41 in 3 weeks."
He looked shocked. I gave him my "Clean Livin'" smile.
"You look terrible for 25," he said. "But pretty good for 40."
"See ya next week?"