I don't know if I believe in God, or Gods, or not. I have just not had much evidence one way or the other. But last June I was struck down by a God, the Soccer God.
For me the season had been a troubled one. The ridiculous schedule that seemed to conflict with anything else I wanted or had to do, and the troubles with the league office were getting to me and I had gotten to the point where I was not enjoying playing anymore. I just seemed to be out of synch. One dark night in June I decided to let some nagging injuries heal and quit for the rest of the season. I didn't tell anyone, except for my wife (and she didn't believe me). I decided that unless the next game was a blast I was done for 1997.
The game was a classic confrontation between the Roadrunners and a depleted, demoralized squad. It was played at 10 am on the Sunday of a long weekend (see ridiculous schedule above). All was going well and we were in such control that I was sent to the forward line. Deep in their box Kirk passed me the ball (I should have known something was wrong right there). As I planted to blast a shot into the near open net a cold supernatural force gave me a brutal slide tackle. Elbow to the back, knee to the thigh, then ripped apart the ligaments in my ankle. A casual observer would not have been aware of this divine interference.
It was so comical that I was lying on the ground with no one near me that the understanding referee refused my request to leave the field. After my pathetic attempt to crawl to an on-side position he acquiesced and yelled at me for taking too long to get off the playing surface. By the next morning I was in a cast with the rest of the season to think about what had happened.
So there I sat. Like Ebeneezer Scrooge with the ghosts of Christmas present and future I had my cast to lead me through life without soccer. I still had to go to league meetings, argue about the schedule, and organize the new team player cards in our manager's absence. I didn't need a ghost of soccer past. The memories of happier times were constant: the anticipation before games, the stories of bravery and valor after, the glory of goals for, the agony of goals against, and sore legs the next day to remind you that something important had happened the night before.
This week I put my cleats back on. If, for some reason, the Roadrunners need a fullback with a bad ankle and limited goal scoring ability, I will take to the field. Not with the downcast stare of a man beaten by administration, but with the wide-eyed excitement of a child at Christmas. "God bless us, every one".