Wednesday, April 25, 2018

A Dark Rainy Night or Yoda’s Revenge (A Fictional Story)

By: Vidda Grubin

Rain cut through the black ash rising from the sentinel like smokestacks and chimneys that stood guard over the aging city’s trench coat wearing denizens. Hoods were pulled far forward over foreheads and dark eyebrows as ash turned to drops of airborne sludge upon mixing with the cold persistent rain. Body-length coats, sidewalks and streets were covered and flowing with the sickly-thick remnants of human comfort.

Behind the abandoned church on State St. in the East Franklinton area, a lone figure stood, his thousand dollar leather shoes acting as a dam against the sludge flowing like so much two-year-old’s snot down the crumbling church's rear entrance. He was motionless, having already glanced at the exposed metal-work above him, metal-work which should have been encased in mortar and brick. The missing brick lay on the ground at his feet, the mortar had turned to dust and washed away years ago. He didn’t need to look up again. If the ceiling of the recess was going to give-way and crush him, he simply wanted to be surprised. “Where the fuck are those damn baggers,” he whispered through clenched jaw.

“The baggers are here, you shit-heel,” came a voice from the flood of darkness.

“I was going to leave. I don’t need this cloak and dagger mess. Look at my shoes. I’m going to have buy new shoes.”

Two figures stepped into the recess, while glancing at the shoes of their late night companion. “Who wears Armani’s in weather like this. I mean, besides you.” The two new arrivals laughed.

Armani shoes pulled his trench coat tighter. “Let’s get on with it. I have a fundraiser that I’m late for, and there’s a dancer who wants to meet my wife.”

More laughter from the newest arrivals. “Fine,” said the one nearest Armani shoes, his own coat open from chest to neck, exposing expensive tweed jacket and silk tie. “We have to make this look good, but not too good. I, for one, don’t want to own a damn soccer team. And, I know neither of you do either.”

Armani nodded, shifting to face west, his gaze filled with memories of a childhood spent on the hilltop. “Okay. I think the number 125 puts us where we want to be. High enough to offer Pusscourt and Major League Slime a profit, but low enough that they turn us down. We end up looking like we gave it the old “we care about our city” effort and can wave goodbye to the Crew and get back to hitting on OSU coeds and Ballet Met dancers.

Silk tie rubbed his chin. “What if they accept?’”

The third man, dressed in fifteen dollar galoshes, jeans, a sweat shirt and wearing bifocals, cleared his throat. “Then we own a soccer team.” Armani and Silk tie measured their companion. Neither knew much about their very old and scar-faced partner, just that he had proven his bona fides and was willing to be the silent partner in case their plan to not buy the Crew went sideways.

Galoshes pointed at Armani. “You can rebuild the stadium with more American Steel than has ever been seen anywhere in this country.” His finger slowly moved to point at Silk tie. “You can charge the stadium trust you set up a super high premium for insurance, insurance provided by your own company. And you can slap your company name on another Columbus landmark. Maybe you can both talk that arts and panty design guy into jumping on board. He can design the hippest uniforms and soccer accessories in the world. He’ll sell tens of millions worth.” His arm dropped to his side.

Silk tie laughed. “He could hold a stadium lingerie show and have the models ride in on his wife’s horses.” The three men laughed, a little too loudly. Something moved near the fence at the back of the church property. They glanced that direction.

A man carrying a brown bag staggered through a hole in the fence and began making his way towards the covered entrance at the back of the church. A car horn sounded and car lights came on across the street to the north of the rotting church.

Galoshes stepped out from under the overhang and waved the car lights off. He then strode across to the stumbling drunk and whispered something. The drunk stood up straight and offered Galoshes the brown bag. Galoshes accepted. The drunk turned, disappearing through the fence and into the pissy night.

Bag in hand, Galoshes returned to the two men under the overhang. “Did you make a new friend?” asked Armani.

Galoshes smiled, the wrinkles of his old battered face rearranging into a full fledged grin. “No, I’ve known that gentleman since he was a child. Best soccer coach in the country. I think I’m going to keep him on when I take over the Crew.” He raised the brown paper bag, his hand inside.

Silk tie and Armani’s eyes went wide, lips parting, jaws sagging. Eight shots rang out as the bag caught fire. Armani fell first, clutching his chest. Silk tie splashed face first into the sludge as it flowed into the darkness. The two dead men blocked the flow of filth and were soon covered in slime. Galoshes nodded to himself and mumbled.

“Now, a similar meeting with my friend the Don and some other franchise peckers and USSF lackeys and I can get this party going the direction of it’s original promotional intention. Hate to have to relegate a few more owners, but it's promotion and relegation or bust from here on out.” The old man giggled a little as the car from across the street pulled up with its lights off. Two men got out of the back.

“What do we do with the bodies?”

Galoshes thought for a moment. “Zack, you and Wil put the bodies in the car, take them south of the city and dump them in the Scioto River. Freddy,” another man stepped out of the driver's door. “On the way to float the bodies pick up 3G. I don’t want him wandering around here. He’ll probably find a real brown bag and start talking one and two touch possession strategy with some homeless guy under a bridge.” They all laughed, because it was true.

The men began to drag the bodies to the car. Galoshes glanced one more time their way. Freddy turned, sensing Galoshes attention.

“Hey, Lamar, how long until Brian, Brian and Guillermo are back on board?”

Galoshes smiled. “Soon, Freddy, soon.” And then, under his breath, “All accounts are due. Time to collect.”

The eighty-six year young man turned and walked into the church, his secret sanctuary for the past twelve years. A poker table, cards and chips waited inside with five of his closest friends. Even Edson and Franz were in town.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Run, Jenny! Run!

The story of Soccer in the United States.

By: Vidda Grubin

Read the story in this link to Forbes

and then continue below.

At pick-up games at the local university, when I was high school age, I was “Runner” to my teammates. Runner, the not so subtle sarcastic reaction to the most obvious aspect of my game.

The university was Ohio State. The players ranged from wildly terrible to good local high school and college players to very good ex-professionals from around the world. This was the late 70’s and early 80’s.

I didn’t like the nickname. Don’t get me wrong, I could run fast and just about forever. But in the context of those games, “Runner” was definitely an insult. Pride and love of skilled sports would not let me wear that moniker for long.

I spent the entire summer before going off to play small college soccer working on dribbling and, more importantly, teaching myself to juggle without staring at the ball. My inspiration for using this training technique was basketball.

One of the first things you are taught in basketball is to dribble without looking at the ball. I surmised that if I could juggle without looking directly at the soccer ball, my touch and vision would improve dramatically. I was correct.

I could already juggle pretty well, but it took every day, an hour plus per day to become proficient at juggling without staring at the ball. The result by the end of the following year was a whole new appreciation for the sport of soccer, and a great deal more joy and success while playing. I was still a “Runner,” but I was a Runner that could play, bitches!

Back in the 80’s there were a lot of suburban kids who were “Runners.” Well meaning coaches, lacking real world soccer skills, tended to rely and fall back on fitness (running) as the answer to most issues with their teams. Three mile runs, six mile runs, twenty full field sprints, followed by a jog around the park were normal in a lot of suburbs back then.

Fast forward to today. Millions of kids in the United States have played, are playing. They watch the best teams and players in the world. They emulate those players and understand a great deal more about the game than me and my peers did at the same age. And yet…

The United States Soccer Federation just contracted to spend a billion dollars on wearable gear that tracks where, how far and how fast players in the states are running during training and games. As much as things change (almost entirely due to the beauty of the sport itself and the kids who love the sport), some things just simply don’t/won’t die. Is this an April fools joke?

Great players are great because they can settle a ball within an inch of their foot, even if that ball was played to them from sixty yards away and there is a defender with an elbow in their back. Great players are great because they can see spaces and movement on the field before those spaces and movement even happen. Great players are great because they can spin a defender with a simple, clever touch and then split three defenders with a perfectly weighted pass to a teammate rushing to goal.

For sure, to do all those amazing things listed above, the great player has to be fit, but a fit player who cannot do those things is only a “Runner.”

I learned my lesson. I had the drive and love of sport to improve. Even in my late twenties, while playing open amateur league soccer, I was still finding ways to get better. Racquetball courts are amazing.

If there are any kids out there that read this, learn to juggle, then learn to juggle without looking at the ball, then find a racquetball court and pattern juggle.

For instance: play the ball with the right foot off one wall so that it comes off the wall and over your head, as you turn, play the next touch left footed off the opposite wall so the ball comes off the wall and back over your head. Now start making up your own patterns, and use every possible body part. Have fun, bitches!

All the best,
Vidda Grubin
Former “Runner”
And The Ghost