Monday, November 03, 2008

NESHOF Induction Ceremonies

To wrap up one of the best days of soccer ever in my life - yes, life* - my busy Saturday (which opened in the early afternoon with Anchorwomen soccer) concluded with partaking in the New England Soccer Hall of Fame Induction Ceremonies. And what a night it was.

(*This should not be construed as an indictment on my social life, or lack thereof.)

It began by catching up with my good friend and former publisher Tony Biscaia. Those of you who follow the Revolution have surely visited his site at least once during the past, oh, 11 years it's been on the interweb. In fact, you may have even read a certain author there who tried to pass himself as a third-person journalist there. What can I say? The Sunday Morning Striker was a byproduct of an overactive imagination and a malnourished brain.

But anyway, Tony is really one of the good guys in soccer. He gave me my first shot at soccer journalism. His love for the sport is contagious. And it's because of him that I became involved in with the NESHOF committee, and was nominated to the committee as director of media relations/publicity.

Once the ceremony began, I was seated with Ben Brewster, the former Brown University star who went on to play in NASL and ASL before undertaking coaching position at Boston College. He claimed that he was the "Forrest Gump" of American soccer. He played with Pele (and later met him at a bank in Brazil with some of his teammates), Giorgio Chinaglia, Franz Beckenbauer. Wherever he went, he serendipitously crossed paths with soccer dignitaries.

The remarkable thing about Brewster's career is that he didn't play soccer before attending Brown. He was a hockey player. In fact, he told Tony and I that he tried out for the Brown soccer team just to keep himself in shape to play hockey in the winter. Funny how soccer careers get started, don't they?

All of the inductees had great stories to tell as well. Henry McCully spoke dearly of his late brother and fellow inductee Charles. As did Charles' widow, Rebecca. Luis Reis, the head coach for Wheaton's women's team, told us of his first coaching position at 19 years old. Jeff Causey quipped that when he played under the tempermental Walter Zenga in the late-90s, he had to be ready. Always. Frank Scarsella and Pasquale Puleo told us of their refereeing adventures. A kilt-clad Derek Rae* explained that while some of us may not be cut out to play soccer professionally, contributions to the beautiful game still exist, whether through broadcasting or other types of media.

(*So while I was talking to Tony before everything got started, this guy in a kilt catches my eye. I tried to contain my laughter. What, did he forget his bagpipes or something? Then I catch a glimpse of his face to discover that it's Derek Rae himself. The same Derek Rae that calls Champions League, The Euros, The World Cup, and other high profile international matches. Here. In a kilt. Priceless.)

It was an eventful evening, to say the least. My only sorrow was that it ended much too soon.* I could've stayed well into the early-morning hours listening to all of the colorful stories. I hate to resort to cliche', but it was living history. I was eating dinner with a man who played with legends. I spoke with another who broadcasted the highest profile matches in the world. It was a wild combination of dream and fantasy.

(*Okay, it was over at 10:30pm, which may be late for some. But STILL...)

Luckily for me, the history, the stories, and the memories didn't conclude on Saturday night. They'll continue at our next meeting. We'll begin looking at candidates for next year. I'm priviliged to be associated with an organization that honors and promotes the game's roots right here in New England.

There are so many over the years that have greatly contributed to the colorful palette that is region's soccer scene. And I'm proud to offer whatever I can to ensure they get their proper due.

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