A Less-Than-Proud Moment And A Very Proud Moment, Courtesy of Youth Soccer

Soccer Saturday is, by far, my favorite day of the week. It’s not really even close.

My work schedule is such that I’m normally traveling out on Monday morning, working 16 hour days Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, and then flying home, dead tired, on Friday afternoon. Sunday is the day that I steel myself to do it all again. But Saturday? Saturday is the day where I either freeze in the cold, stand in the pouring rain, or endure third-degree sunburns to watch my son play soccer. Despite the always awful conditions, and the assault on my seasonal allergies, there’s nowhere I’d rather be than watching him play.

I’m a Soccer Dad, no doubt. I cheer loudly. I coach way too much from the sidelines. I pace and pace up and down the sideline during the games—I stopped bringing a chair years ago. I live and die with each play. My FitBit tells me that my heart rate more than doubles during the games. I know that my son cares immensely about winning and losing, and I know his day—no, his week is ruined if he doesn’t win.

This past weekend was almost like getting two-for-one, because we had a tournament! Over 150 top teams from Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, West Virginia, and Tennessee all came together in Georgetown, Kentucky, for the Stride tournament on Saturday and Sunday, and my son’s FC Kentucky Boys U9 squad was among them.

U9 is a little bit of a mix between kids who have been playing since they were 3 or 4 years old and live and breathe soccer (ex., my son, Kevin), and some kids who are still figuring out if this is something they want to do. Each kid is required to play a certain amount in each game, regardless if he’s a top player or not. U10 is where it gets super-duper serious, with more kids getting cut than making the squad, more intense travel, and no rules about the amount of playing time required.

But that doesn’t mean that U9 isn’t serious.

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Step On Up And Identify Yourself, Tournament Challenge winner

It all came down to the UNC-UK Elite Eight game. If UK had won, I would be writing this post as the winner of the Riverside Green challenge, sipping my tea bragging about my superior basketball knowledge. Instead, I finished fourth as UNC ended up not only winning that game but the entire tournament, making espn97517000 our annual winner. So, um, let us know who you are so I can give you your prize of your very own editorial column at Riverside Green. (And Lizzie, if it’s you, you already owe me a column.)

Colin Kaepernick Is Trolling All Of Us

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In the latest edition of “Things That Should Absolutely Not Be News,” Colin Kaepernick, the former starting quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers, has decided not to stand for the national anthem. This is only news because Kaepernick has about two more weeks before he’ll be sitting on his couch for the playing of the national anthem, having lost his starting job to none other than Blaine Gabbert. Prior to unseating Kaepernick in SF, Gabbert was formerly best known for being the worst quarterback in the league. So there’s that.

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This Just In: College Kids Like Sex (And So Does Rick Pitino)

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All eyes in the world of sports this morning are focused keenly on the Commonwealth of Kentucky, where there appears to be a preponderance of evidence that the University of Louisville organized private sex shows for basketball recruits. It’s a scandalous, salacious story that half of the state is sick about, and the other half is gleefully gloating about. You see, in the Bluegrass, you are often defined by which of the state’s basketball powerhouses’ logo you have chosen to adorn your car. If you are a Kentucky fan, you simply cannot drive a red car. If you are a Louisville fan, you would never dream of wearing a blue shirt. Every single flight I take to Lexington has at least five people wearing UK logowear, and often it’s as much as half of the plane’s passengers that are so attired.

But, I digress. There is one figure that is even more polarizing within the context of this rivalry, and his name is Rick Pitino. For those of you who don’t live and breathe college basketball, or even those who do but do it outside the borders of Kentucky, you may not know that there is nobody who is simultaneously revered and reviled like Pitino is. He led Kentucky to an NCAA title in 1996 and a runner-up finish in 1997, and then fled for the greener pastures of the NBA, only to return to college coaching with his tail between his legs after massive failures in both Boston and New York.

When he returned, however, he returned to the one school that UK fans could never forgive him for choosing—their archenemy, Louisville. Even worse, he turned Louisville into a national power again, winning a title in 2013.

It looks like he may have done it using some less-than-wholesome methods, though. In less than an hour, ESPN will have a live interview with the former escort who alleges that the ‘Ville paid her around $10K to provide strippers and escorts to prospective players when they visited the campus. Pitino has, thus far, claimed ignorance of the entire situation. However, if the allegations prove to be true (and everybody says that she appears to be credible), then it’s hard to imagine that Pitino survives.

But is it really that hard to imagine?

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It Is Good To Once Again Be Among Friends

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They can never take this from you, Mark. Never. You’ll always be a champion.”

It’s true what they say about time. Twenty years comes and goes in the blink of an eye. I could barely believe it when I got an invitation to return to my old high school for the twentieth anniversary of my state championship-winning football team. In the above picture, you’ll see nearly all of the young men and women who were seniors on that team and cheerleading squad, all of whom have gone on to have successful careers and families. Twenty years? How is that even possible?

Once I received the invitation, though, I never once doubted whether or not I would go. I wasn’t a star player, by any means. Just look at me, for God’s sake (I’m third from the right in the above picture—green shirt, green shoes). I’m not a large man. In fact, one of my colleagues at work told me that she didn’t really believe I had played high school football until she saw the pictures from the reunion on Facebook.

But there’s a certain bond that’s created when  you go through what we went through as a group. Mrs. Bark says it would make a great movie script, and I think it would except that it’s too damned perfect. The collective power of every screenwriter at Disney couldn’t come up a story that was as sappy and saccharine sweet as what actually happened to us. Let me give you the breakdown:

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Trophies For Participation Make Sense Until They Don’t

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James Harrison of the Pittsburgh Steelers created quite a social media stir on Instagram over the weekend by posting about some participation awards that his children “earned.”

Harrison posted a photo of the trophies with the following text:

I came home to find out that my boys received two trophies for nothing, participation trophies! While I am very proud of my boys for everything they do and will encourage them till the day I die, these trophies will be given back until they EARN a real trophy. I’m sorry I’m not sorry for believing that everything in life should be earned and I’m not about to raise two boys to be men by making them believe that they are entitled to something just because they tried their best…cause sometimes your best is not enough, and that should drive you to want to do better…not cry and whine until somebody gives you something to shut u up and keep you happy.

Like most things, this reminds me of a story.

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Soccer and its Uneasy Place in the American Consciousness

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Why is Soccer is the most popular sport in the world?

I’m no social scientist, but I’d suspect that there are socioeconomic reasons for it—it required nothing other than a ball and a field to play, making it possible to play literally anywhere that one can find a few square feet and a suitable amount of gravity. It can be played on the blacktop of the cities of Europe, in the savannahs of Africa, in the foothills of the Himalayans, and even in the Bluegrass of Kentucky. Even the poorest of the poor can play soccer, and some of the poorest nations in the world are among the elite in what the rest of the world calls Football.

Yet, somehow, it has become the Golf of team sports in America, played mainly by the suburban and the well-to-do. Perhaps it’s due to the English and European roots of the game—not many kids from the inner cities have had the privilege of watching a English Premier League match on television, much less in person. Maybe it’s cultural-while the best basketball and football players in the world tend to be black Americans, soccer is dominated by white Europeans and South Americans. There isn’t a lot of green space in American cities, either, and few urban schools field a varsity soccer team.

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