Neighborhood Sports

I’ve been enamored of the Kingston Stockade since reading Dennis Crowley’s announcement of the team, but as time goes on, and as my nostalgia becomes more of an affliction, I wonder why, other than insufficient hours in the day, there aren’t teams in all of the river towns along the Hudson. It seems there should be in Beacon, Newburgh, Poughkeepsie, and Hudson as well as in Kingston.

Or, why, for example, is there such strong support for local football teams in Texas — and by strong I mean that high school games draw as well as the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys — that isn’t matched elsewhere?

Or, why, for example, if there is a team in the community, no one other than the players knows? There are, I know, amateur adult sports leagues, the Men’s Senior Baseball League and U. S. Adult Soccer to name two, but where is the rabid discussion of town rivalries? There may be; I may just be out of the loop.

Or is it that the organization, what there is of it, of local sports is uneven and hard to comprehend, while that of the national sports is well administered and, for lack of a better word, professional?

It is a known fact in human nature, that its affections are commonly weak in proportion to the distance or diffusiveness of the object. Upon the same principle that a man is more attached to his family than to his neighborhood, to his neighborhood than to the community at large, the people of each State would be apt to feel a stronger bias towards their local governments than towards the government of the Union; unless the force of that principle should be destroyed by a much better administration of the latter.  — The Federalist, No. 17

Or are our athletic passions reserved for the young and the professional alone? Why?

Leah Cox (no relation, as far as I know, though Leah is a family name on the Bell side) of Bard College, remarked in a 2017 Poughkeepsie Journal article on lifetime learning that “[u]nfortunately, dance is a discipline that quickly gets categorized as something for the young. Consequently it’s taught primarily to the young. This is such a disservice to everyone….”

This echoes the way I’ve felt about sports and movement since becoming the parent of dancers, swimmers, and soccer stars, yet it wasn’t until a back injury from sitting that I rediscovered what I’d wanted as a child: to run and jump and move. And realized while watching my sons tumble through gymnastics routines that I still wanted to learn how to flip.

Why are we relegated to the sidelines and couches, the audience of life? It’s almost as if in the same way that recess and gym are systematically cut out of a student’s routine as they age, movement itself is cut out of an adult’s, and granted only to the professionals.

“In sports we have created not a participatory culture but a Roman gladiatorial system in which most of us end up as passive spectators watching a few individuals on the playing field.” — Leon Botstein, “Music in Times of Economic Distress,” The Musical Quarterly, Volume 90, Issue 2, 1 July 2007, Pages 167–175, https://doi.org/10.1093/musqtl/gdn023

I took some ballroom dancing classes, and stumbled through them, but they fell to the side when schedules intervened. Meanwhile, I’d taken to lifting weights to stop a precipitous weight loss, encountering CrossFit and the Spartan Race along the way, and the novel idea that everyone is an athlete. It resonated.

No. 1 Son decided that soccer was his thing. He loved to play. He loved to run. He loved to turn cartwheels. (Baseball doesn’t offer much opportunity for cartwheels.) His coach left in the middle of the U9 season, and I, having no experience playing soccer, picked up the slack. My across-the-street neighbor from when I was 8-12 played soccer, but I don’t think that counts as experience.

I set out to learn.

The first thing I learned is that the organization of soccer in the United States makes no fucking sense whatsoever.

I mean, really, how is it that Team A and Team B, from the same town, playing similar players of similar ages and similar skills, play in different leagues, never play each other, and Team B is considered better than Team A because they pay more to play in League B? And there’s no way in hell that Team A will ever be able to play Team B without paying to do so. How fucked up is that?

And there are umpteen million different premier leagues. Premier, by the way, means first, so there should be only one, like the Highlander. Instead, not counting youth leagues, of which there are legion, we are confronted with the National Premier Soccer League, Premier Development League, the United Premier Soccer League, the Elite Premier League, the Premier National Judean People’s Front, the Judean Premier National Peoples Front, and the Monty Python Fund for the Implementation of the Possibility of There One Day Being a Premier League in the United States. So, obviously, Major League Soccer makes major sense.

I’m just looking for a local club to play with, while my son plays with the Beekman Soccer Club. The United States Soccer Federation says I should look at the United States Adult Soccer Association which says ask the Eastern New York State Soccer Association which OMG now I have to click among these various leagues just to figure out which one covers where I live is that what the Internet has come to since Google can’t differentiate between youth and adult soccer in Poughkeepsie and no one talks to their neighbors these days yes. It was easier when I worked in New York and I made fun of my co-workers playing pick-up soccer every Friday in Central Park.

It turns out that I live in the area covered by the Eastern District Soccer League, founded 1928, and invisible since.

This is absurd.

I live in Beekman, New York. If I, or my progeny, want to play soccer there should be an obvious choice: the Beekman Soccer Club, offering teams for anyone interested from /n/ to /n+1/. Or maybe we don’t play for Beekman. Maybe we play for the White Anglo-Saxon Protestant Club of Beekman while those Others play for the Irish Club of Beekman or the German Club of Poughkeepsie or who the fuck cares as long as I don’t have to call the national director to find out what the fuck local club offers an O40 team.

Instead, we have this situation where there’s no obvious progression from playing with a ball at home to a local club to the local club’s first team which plays in a regional league and eventually gets promoted to a national league because they are so damn good. What we have is I, the parent of a soccer player, not the player himself, will make decisions about the rest of his life based on how much I’m willing to pay for the possibility that he might one day be “identified” by the one scout for the U.S. Men’s National Team or get a Division I scholarship.

Fuck that shit.

He just wants to play.

I just want to play.

And when I’m not playing, and when he’s not playing, we want to watch someone else play. Here.

No way in Hell are we driving two hours to New Jersey or paying $170 per month to Comcast. I could start my own league for that.

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