Soccer Indifference · 19 July 2014

The opening ceremony of the FIFA World Cup 2014 by Danilo Borges/Portal da Copa licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

People here in the United States seem to only really care about soccer or fútbol once every four years when the World Cup tournament comes around. (Unless of course, you live in an area where spectators support both men’s and women’s professional teams and it seems everybody played or still plays the game. But that is another story.)

The FIFA World Cup just ended and Germany was crowned the victor for 2014. The German people will celebrate for four years, then they will hope that their heroes will bring home another coveted trophy. Others around the world will root for their favorite players and wonder whether they will continue playing for elite teams in countries that may not be their own. And those in the good old U. S. of A. will forget about soccer for another four years.

Except those with minivans and kids, who will continue to drive their boys and girls to the fields (rather, pitches) for practices and games.

Parents with modest expectations just want their kids to get out of the den and into the backyard. They want them playing soccer with their feet instead of video games with their hands.
Other parents hope against hope that their kids will make the cut for this team or that team. They will pay the fees for tournaments and dole out the money for travel expenses. And they will sit on the sidelines and in the stands to root for their kids.

Still others have loftier goals. They want their kids to be the next Landon Donavan or Mia Hamm or Tim Howard. They want their kids’ faces on TV commercials and boxes of Wheaties. They want to see their kids out there on the pitch at the greatest fútbol stage of all, the World Cup.

Some of the kids want those things too.

Those kids are the ones who will not forget about soccer for the next four years. They will be the ones practicing their fancy footwork and doing passing drills. They will be out shooting or blocking shots for hours on end. They will be following and trying to copy the exploits of their heroes.
Unlike many American spectators.

For American spectators, unless we are soccer players or soccer moms or soccer dads (minivan-driving or not) going to practice and tournaments, we care little about soccer outside of the World Cup. Myself included. We are happy to go blithely about our business thinking nothing about soccer for four years at a stretch. We are happy to completely forget about soccer. Until the next World Cup tournament comes around.

© 2014 Michael T. Miyoshi

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Fond Baseball Memories · 12 July 2014

Baseball season is a time of fond memories for me. I see the kids at the park playing games and it makes me think back to those times when my wife and I used to sit in the stands cheering for our kids.

All three of our kids played baseball for at least one season. I have vivid memories and dim recollections of those times. I remember the kids on the prepped fields. I remember the parents sitting in the stands cheering for their kids. (Unfortunately, I also remember with dismay some of them yelling disparaging remarks at their kids or the umpires or the coaches.) And I remember with pride seeing my own kid out there in his spiffy uniform ready to play. Standing at the plate. Running the bases. Looking good in the field.

But I also have memories of a different kind.

Only our middle son, Thing 2, played long enough to get somewhat proficient at the game. I remember him playing baseball at a young age (it seems like he was just a toddler). He was out there in his uniform looking good. He was grabbing grounders in the infield and tossing them on a rope to first base. I never had visions of the major leagues. Instead, I had visions of what my dad might have looked like way back when he was a kid. (See Baseball Visions.)

Unfortunately, when he was not in the infield, he was not always in the game. Which was, of course, the case with all three of my boys. When they were out in left field (or any field for that matter), they were out playing in the field. Literally.

(I need to interject a note for those not accustomed to watching little kids play baseball. The younger the players, the less need there is for any of them to play in the outfield. There are ground balls and fly balls like any baseball game, but for the youngsters, few leave the infield. If I was the one making the rules, I would have all the little kids play infield when they are first learning. There would be a veritable gauntlet for the batters to hit a line drive or ground ball through. And if one of the kids hit a fly ball over their heads, it would be a mad scramble out to get it. Hopefully, somebody would stay behind to be on base in case there was a throw made. But regardless, it would be great entertainment. Even if you could not really call it baseball. And it would keep all the kids involved. Kids who did not get the ball would run to the base as either the baseman catching the ball or as the backup. They might not have started out where they would in a real baseball game, but they would end up there. They would learn the fundamentals even though they would not know exactly where they were supposed to be when the inning started. Then, as they got older, one person could play the whole outfield, then two, and finally three. It would be real baseball in the end. But I digress.)

I know that my vision of little kid baseball goes against the grain, but it would prevent at least one parent in every crowd from trying to hide from all the rest.

I do not remember which one it was, but I distinctly remember writing a note to myself to write something about my kid playing baseball. It was not about a great play or throwing the ball on a rope to first base to get the final out. It was not about smashing the ball through the infield for a double or stealing second base. If the boys had played much, I might have been able to write about those things. Instead, it is probably best that one of my most vivid memories of our boys playing baseball does not include a face on my player.

At every little league game I have ever watched, there is always at least one kid out in the field who is picking grass or running around like an airplane or just twirling around with his arms out wide trying to get dizzy. Even if you did not know any of the players, you could still tell whose kid it is by who is yelling at him to stop and get his head in the game. Or by who is trying to hide from all the other parents. You can almost see into that parent’s head (usually the dad) and see that he thinks all the other parents are pointing and laughing at the dad.

I have been that dad, but I was a little different. I might have yelled something at my kid (hopefully encouraging), but I know that at least one time, I chuckled and wrote a note to myself. “Mine is the kid who is twirling around in the outfield.”

I had been the embarrassed parent. I had been the proud parent. And I had been the parent who is a writer picking out something amusing to write about my own kid, apparently preparing for this article all those years ago. It is a good thing that I do not know which of my three sons was the culprit (maybe all of them were at one time), so they can laugh too. They can remember that their brother was the one sitting in the outfield pulling out clumps of grass or twirling around getting dizzy. They can remember that one of the others was the one I wrote the note to myself about.

My kids no longer play baseball, but when I go to the park or see baseball on TV, I cannot help but have good memories. I think of my kids and my dad. And when I see that embarrassed parent hiding, I look out onto the field to see who is twirling around or pulling clumps of grass. When I find him, I remember that my kids were like that too. As I chuckle to myself, I am thankful for the fond memories of my boys playing baseball.

© 2014 Michael T. Miyoshi

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Gol! Gol! Gol! · 5 July 2014

Gol! Gol! Gol!

It is time for crazy fans to strut their stuff. Time for flags to fly. Time for painted faces and noisemakers to crowd the stands. It is world cup soccer time.

We do not have any broadcast TV at our house so we do not get to watch the world cup except on the computer. But it does not really matter that much. As much as I love to play sports, I am not much of a fan. Unless my own kids are playing. Still, the world cup has special memories for me.

When we were kids, we watched the world cup on Grandma and Grandpa’s black and white console television. All the adults were working on the farm and my brother and I ostensibly took care of our younger brother and sister and our cousins. So we got to have some quality TV time. As we all got older, we still got out of some of the work to watch TV. And at least a couple times, we got to watch the world cup.

Even though the USA was not so good at the time, we still watched and had fun watching and cheering as the powerhouses of the day played their hearts out.

Four years ago, my family watched what games we could on cable TV (we had it then). But we had the most limited plan there was so we only got to see what few games the networks offered. Or at least that would have been the case had we not decided to watch the games on the Spanish channel. (That Los Angeles channel broadcasting in Spanish.)

The best thing about the Spanish channel is that the commentators were so passionate about the games. It did not matter who was playing, they were excited. We could not understand most of their words, but we knew they were excited. And we knew at least one word. Gol!

Whenever somebody scored, the announcers would shout, “Gol! Gol! Gol!” They were excited whether their team or anybody else’s team scored. “Gol! Gol! Gol!” It was great. It was exciting. It was one of the few phrases I understood with my limited Spanish. “Gol! Gol! Gol!

But a goal is a goal is a gol!

This world cup, with no TV reception and no cable, I have not seen any of the world cup matches yet. But we are going to my parents’ house and they have enough TV coverage that we ought to be able to see at least a couple games. So maybe our kids will have some similar memories to mine. Maybe they will get out of a bit of work to watch the best soccer players in the world play for their homelands. Maybe they will remember being at Grandma and Grandpa’s house and watching the world cup. Seeing the crazy fans with their flags and painted faces and hearing their noisemakers and cheering. Maybe they will remember the announcers and their excitement as the games unfold.

I am sure we will not watch the games in Spanish, but regardless of the language, I am sure they will know when somebody scores. And I am sure they will get excited and remember when the announcers shout, “Gol! Gol! Gol!”

© 2014 Michael T. Miyoshi

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Published 01 July 2014 in Take 2 | The Seattle Times