The greatest

I played soccer for about fifteen years.  Unfortunately I missed my greatest moment on the field.  It came at the end of my “career” when I was playing in an indoor soccer league at university. 

Fairly soon after I started playing soccer in 1981 the All Whites went to the World Cup in Mexico.  It was exciting stuff, and watching those games and Big Legaue Soccer on the telly temporarily filled my head with all kinds of soccer dreams.  However, in all my fifteen years of playing soccer I was never in a good team (and I was a mediocrity).  As I was a defender this meant I had a lot to do, because my team was never on the attack.  This was just as true on the day I started playing soccer in 1981, as it was on the day years later when I found myself standing in the gym at university losing five nil, drenched in sweat, doggedly following my team’s fairly well honed comedy-of-errors strategy. 

The ball came to me at the back, and I took off down the right side line.  As I reached about half way I was intercepted by a member of the opposition.  As he went in for the tackle and I began to fall over I fervently struck at the ball with my right foot and crashed into the spectators in a tangled heap.  When I stood up the fifty odd people sitting in the stand had all erupted and were standing on their feet screaming and whooping.  I assumed something had happened of great importance after I was tackled, but then I noticed everyone was looking at me with great admiration, and my team mates were rushing over to congratulate me.  It seemed that I had just scored an absolute blinder.  Only the second goal I scored in fifteen years.

My happiness was greatly reduced by the fact that I hadn’t actually seen the goal being scored.  In fact, I hadn’t even been really having a genuine shot when I flailed at the ball, so I hadn’t even seen the ball leave my foot.  Nevertheless, it remains my greatest moment on the soccer field, the sort of moment I dreamed I would be having pretty regularly when I first started booting a sodden ball around muddy fields a decade earlier.  Shame I missed it.

On a strongly related note, my greatest moment as a musician was at the Adelaide in 2009. 

My earliest fantasies about being a rock star probably started around 1984.  For a long time this fantasy involved me waiting until Mum had gone to work, cranking up the stereo  (in my memory it’s always Prince’s Purple Rain album), and playing air guitar to the ranch sliders in the living room.  Later I actually learned how to play guitar, and formed a band or two, and we played our muddy, stodge to a few unenthusiastic audiences in fifth rate bars.  By the time 2009 rolled around I was bald, middle-aged, paying a mortgage and still in a band.

The crowd at the Adelaide were fairly thin that night, and most of them regarded us without interest as we tuned up.  By now though, our band sounded not too bad, and once we had done a song and showed that we could at least operate our electronic tuner effectively the regulars clapped with more enthusiasm.  Somewhere in our third song something happened that I only realised right then I had been waiting for since 1984: two complete strangers got up and started to dance.  I glanced across at the bass player and he looked as shocked as I felt.  At the end of the song, the two strangers clapped, whooped and asked for another song.  We played another song.

Naturally enough, a few months after this our band folded.

In Boy there are the painfully funny moments when what the character thinks is going to be very cool is shown to be rather lame: Boy shows his Michael Jackson moves to Chardonnay, and Dad cries “Dukes of Hazzard!” and attempts to leap in the window of his car.  Then there are the opposite moments when we know that the act that is about to happen is going to be lame, but Boy gets a far away look in his eyes and the scene is transformed into what he wants it to be.  This is like rubbing your finger back and forth over a splinter; one way is painful and the other is soothing.

So in my head in 1984 I was the rock god of the living room floor, wowing the ranch sliders with my amazing guitar prowess and flawless moves, but if you had been standing outside, looking in you would have seen a frumpy school boy with lanky hair and glasses apparently re-enacting Daniel Day-Lewis’ physical performance from My Left Foot.  That’s the dream being in your head and the reality being cringingly bad.  On the other hand, if you had been sitting in the Adelaide in 2009, say you were one of the twenty year olds playing pool at the back, you probably wouldn’t have noticed the dude who looked like an accountant playing guitar with two other guys, and you wouldn’t have thought for a moment that he was actually living out a twenty-five year old fantasy. 

The two events are connected though.  It is the delusional, naive dream of 1984 that created that real moment in 2009, and even though the real moment where the dream became a reality was a far cry from the stadium of fans I saw in the reflection of the ranch slider when I was boy, that real, small, insignificant moment was like fireworks going off in the heart of that man.

What’s my point?  It’s something like this: dreams keep you going, but it’s hard to know which dream is a merely a delusion that leads down a pointless, heartbreaking dead end, and which dream might one day allow you to glean a little something worth having.  My soccer dream was not really worth having as it turned out and the fates rewarded a decade of tenacity with a solitary sizzling goal and then robbed me of the satisfaction of even seeing it.  On the other hand, as small as the success was (two people dancing in a bar on an open mic Thursday night), I’m going to say that the music dream was worthwhile.

Just.

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8 thoughts on “The greatest

  1. Actually you were a darn good soccer player.I remember standing on the sideline one Saturday with a group of other parents and feeling very proud when – after you had saved your team yet again from having a goal scored against them – one of the Dads said in tones of awe, “Who is that MAN”! Of course you didn’t hear the compliment – but I did.

  2. The only rugby team I ever saw wearing that colour in Wellington was Victoria University. Now, if John-Paul was at university at this time, the mystery of the jersey could be partially solved; maybe the soccer department borrowed them from the rugby department? However, as we know, in 1981 our young hero was about eight years old. Defies reason really.

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