The World Cup in Brazil brings backs memories of my soccer playing days and, in particular, a moment of failure. I was about 15 years beyond my hard-playing competitive era as a center half when a local soccer club coach asked me to stand in as a…goalie. It was a one match deal for a first-place team sponsored by a bar. I think all the teams were sponsored by bars. No matter that I’d never played goalie, my fullbacks were the best—not to worry.
I stopped everything in the first half which is to say I caught two balls. As I said, my fullbacks were good. I could feel my ego swell: stand-in goalie records a shut-out—a round of beers for that dude! All that was needed was the final whistle.
Then I had one of those stop-action experiences. An attacker is in the box facing my fullback. I step forward. My arms are out wide. Suddenly the white ball is floating high into the sun. It is moving so slowly. I blink. My arms go up. It’s a soft shot, a mistake. I jump. Was it an inch, that distance between my fingertips and the spinning ball? It was probably an inch, enough space to allow the ball to pass me and bounce on the goal line. Although we won, this was the first goal my team had allowed that season. It would have been fine if the goal been the product of a hard kick, a line drive into the upper right hand corner of the net. But it was a softie—“my kid could have stopped it.”
Funny, I remember this floating ball more than any goal I made in high school games. But that’s the price an aging jock pays for moments in the sun.