(**I know, I know...I'm just like a week late on this. I'm sorry...Wait...what's this? SWEET! A Holiday Bustle Free Pass! Wooo-hooo! Woooo! Woooo....woo....ahem.**)
I'm sure I'm only like the 1,349,789th person to say this, but isn't it just awesome to see someone you frequently crossed paths with in a smaller arena really make it on the bigger stage?*
(*Feel free to answer that semi-rhetorical question in the comments section.)
The awesome-ness scale reaches even higher when that person is 1. from the same geographic area as you and, 2. is, by many accounts, a good guy, and 3. friends with some of your friends.*
(*Seriously, it's like two degrees of separation.)
So when the news of Geoffrey Cameron - formerly of the Rhode Island Stingrays, currently of the Houston Dynamo - getting called into Bob Bradley's first MNT camp of the year, I couldn't help but flash a dumb grin while after I read the one-graph blurb in the Providence Journal sports section.
Not that I had anything to do with his development. He absolutely did not need the help of a smalltime soccer journalist to make the leap. But in a way, it's as if his success is validation for what I do for the Stingrays.
Why? Because even though the Stingrays are about as smalltown as it can get in the US Soccer universe, I really believe that the club is great springboard for many young players. Geoff is certainly one of them. He's not the only one, either. Guys like Nico Colaluca, Danleigh Borman and Lukasz Tumicz, all sported the Stingray royal blue. All are playing first division soccer (Tumicz in his native Poland) as I punch the keys.
Don't get me wrong - I love covering the Revolution, the men's and women's national teams, and any other brands of big time soccer here in the States. But when it comes to the Stingrays, there's a greater satisfaction because I'm often the only one covering their efforts.*
(*During my first season covering the Stingrays, circa 2007, the team's director of operations mentioned Geoff was a potential MLS prospect, and an interview might be a good idea. I agreed. Unfortunately, Geoff got hurt like three days later, and it completely slipped my mind. I know: I suck.)
And that's fine. It's really a joy writing about these guys. They all have stories to tell.* Finding those stories is what makes journalism so rewarding.
(*Speaking of which...I've actually got one such story in the works.)
Sure, it also affords me a host of "I knew them when..." stories and anecdotes when some move on and play for bigger clubs. I love telling those kinds of stories. But even better than that is seeing how hard alot of these guys work on these proving grounds. They're hungry. Determined. It's borderline Clearasil clear, even from the press box. For me, it's actually a bit of thrill to watch.
And when a Stingray player, after paying his dues with hours of practice and training, "makes it" and jumps to the bigger stage?
Well, that just makes the matches ahead a bit more thrilling.