My traveling companion quit soccer. That's it, just finished. His parents don't want him to play any longer. The boy had a scholarship to play soccer for an elite university and he is going to quit playing rather than accept. In the end it is "his" decision. I put “his” in quotes because the boy is run by his mother. As I write I'm shaking my head in dumbfounded disbelief.
Since we were tiny, we were kicking the ball; either with each other, against each other, or at each other. We inhaled the game as we drove to Springfield for practice in rush hour. We prayed the rosary on the way back, for the intentions of the Pope (and a win on Sunday if that's okay with you, God). Alone, we were the weird religious kids on the Springfield Cyclones. Together, we were the Cyclones; responsible for championships out the whazoo. We braced ourselves. We knew that we had a gift that our teammates didn't possess. It wasn't arrogance, it was just the truth. Our dads told us that we had to take care of that gift, and they showed us the way. We listened, and our gift got bigger and people began to notice.
In our high school years we were separated in every sense of the word. As the Frost poem goes, “Two roads diverge in a yellow wood…” I certainly took the road less traveled, going to school at the Foss Academy for the Athletically Inclined. In the past four years I've watched my teammate, my friend, and my little brother, change from all those things into a perfect stranger.
I got my license at 16 and 3 months...the first Friday after, my mom let me go out with friends. "Be home at 10." She told me. I came home at 9:47.
He doesn't have his license yet. I called him the other night to see if he wanted to go to a movie. "I can't, my mom doesn't want to drive to Reston Town Center." He said. "That's all right; I'll pick you up in 15 minutes." I told him. "No...she doesn't want me to drive with anyone in high school." I was back at 10.
We went traveled to a tournament a few weeks ago. All the way through the airport, until we got to security his mom was adamant in him not going. It was dangerous. He could get in trouble. He might get hurt. This was a terrible idea. My mom hugged me, fighting a mythical onion, and pressed a scapular in my hand. "I love you," she said, "Take pictures. Enjoy the trip."
Well, his mom was right. Some guys did get into trouble; big, illegal trouble. In the agreement we all signed, it was made clear if you got into this kind of trouble you would be sent home immediately. However, it was left to the rest of the team to come a conclusion on how the situation would be handled. One person suggested that this be dealt with when they got home, perhaps they write an apology? I turned around, ready to smack the head of whoever suggested such a ridiculous remedy. Instead, I sat down, slack jawed, when I realized he was the one who had spoken. After the meeting, I could only shake my head and mutter silently that what he just said went against everything our dads had told us and everything we had worked towards. For the first time, I was ashamed of him. Who the hell was this kid?
We got off that plane and continued on our separate paths in our yellow wood. A week later, he quit. His mom was finished with soccer, which meant that so was he. All that talent, wasted. The gift he was given, abandoned. That's the story. The death of a superstar. More raw talent than anyone I've ever seen. He could have been something incredible. When he reached the yellow wood, his path was chosen for him. That has made all the difference