Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Younger Brother FC

Sacramento was all abuzz last week with the home opener of the inaugural season of the Sacramento Republic FC! Can you believe it? I know, right? Me neither. What the hell is the Sacramento Republic FC?

All the Facebook reports were that everyone was very excited, but no one was getting into any greater detail than “Republic FC, very excited!” I was starting to think it was a band or a concert of some kind until I Googled it and found out that FC stands for Football Club. I was mildly interested until I realized they meant Futbol. Soccer.

Professional soccer? Here in Sacramento? Why?

I have never been able to get excited about a sport played on 2000 acres of grass where the players run back and forth for an hour and a half, nothing happens, everyone starts faking injuries toward the end to run out the clock, the ref puts a random amount of time back on the clock after the final whistle - based solely on his interpretation of how well the players faked their injuries - and when that time runs out, the game ends in a tie.

Sorry. Not awesome.

Apparently, not everyone in this fair city shares my utter distain for soccer, as they had quite the turnout to the stadium on the first night. Is it called a stadium? I never know with soccer. I know that they like to call the Central Park-size expanse of grass that makes up a soccer field a “pitch,” but I don’t know why that is, either. Anyway, the place where they play was very crowded, and they sold out of Sacramento Republic FC scarves. Dammit!

After some further investigation, I found out that the Republic is part of the USL Pro league. I have to assume that USL stands for Unsatisfying Stalemate Letdown, or Uninjured Spaniards Limping, or something like that, but we will probably never know. The USL Pro league is one step below the MLS, which I found out stands for Major League Soccer! If you thought the MLS was just the Realtors’ version of Google, you were wrong! It’s also soccer! Or is it football? Or futbol? Why didn’t they go with MLF? Tough to say.

Anyway, our very own Republic FC happens to be affiliated with not one, but two MLS squads: The Portland Timbers and the San Jose Earthquakes, two other teams I have never heard of. 

Of the fourteen unknown teams battling in the USL Pro league, I’m proud to announce that the Republic is currently ranked third, with a record of 2-2-1. (That would be wins-loses-ties, in case, like me, you had no idea why we needed a third number until you remembered we were talking about soccer, where games regularly end in a tie. The only other American game that results in as many ties is Monopoly, and that’s only because no one ever wants to actually finish.) Anyway, we are absolutely trouncing the Pittsburg Riverhounds and the Richmond Kickers. Wow, great job on the club names, fellas! The Kickers. How many beers in were you guys when you came up with that gem?

I was also surprised to find out that our FC’s motto is “Indomitable City, Indomitable Club.” I was surprised mostly because I didn’t know what “indomitable” meant. Must be a soccer word, like “pitch” or “corner kick” or “hooligan.”

After looking it up in my dictionary, I found it to mean “unable to be subdued or overcome, as courage.” I would assume they meant it in the “courage” sense, since the USL Pro standings show the Republic FC has been domitabled twice already, and tie-domitabled once. It was also not lost on me that I found the word “indomitable” flanked in my dictionary between “Indo-European” and “Indonesia.” Perhaps they were searching the Merriam-Webster for a better place to have an FC, and came across a fun motto instead.

As ambivalent about the Republic as I am, I’m willing to give them some expert advice. If you gentlemen want to put some more ink in the win column, you need to take a lesson from Son Number Three’s soccer team.

During the very first practice of the season last year, we noticed something unusual happening with his six-and-under squad. It was the first time that this particular group of boys had ever played together, and we were afraid they were going to kill each other. They were not fighting or angry in any way, they were just all aggressive. And I mean AGGRESSIVE. Every time the coaches did a drill where the players needed to run to the ball and try to win it, we thought someone was going to die. Every single kid on the team went after the ball with their head down, charging like a bull. There was no fear and no timidness to be found out on the pitch that day, my friend.

As a baseball coach (a game that rarely results in an unsatisfying tie), I had never seen a regular-season team without at least one wallflower. Watching these kids throw themselves at each other reminded me of something, but I couldn’t immediately put my finger on it. Then it finally dawned on me; this looks like my house when the boys have been in a room together for more than two minutes. These kids are crazy. We knew about half the families on the team already, prior to the season starting, and I asked around to the parents I was just meeting to see if my hunch was correct. It was…

Of the twelve kids on the squad, eleven of them had older brothers. Most were the youngest in the family, and amazingly, there was not one sister to be found. The twelfth was an only child, but he had been blessed with the same genes as the rest of the group, and his main playmate was a boy three years older than him.

We had inadvertently created a team of younger brothers. They had been fighting for scraps their whole lives. They feared nothing. We had a perfect storm of five-year-olds on our hands. Left to themselves, it would have been Lord of the Flies, but with some excellent soccer coaching, they were turned into a truly indomitable force. Twelve hard charging, fearless, sister-less, head down, slightly crazy kids, unleashed upon the unsuspecting Rocklin Soccer League.

The first-borns and sister-havers of the league never knew what hit them. We found ourselves apologizing to the other parents after most games.

“Sorry about all that. They’re all younger brothers. Nothing we could do about it.”

So there it is, Sacramento Republic FC. Time will tell if Sacramento really is a soccer city, but if you find yourselves needing to kick it up a notch in the aggressive department, or you just get tired of having so many soul-crushing ties, you might want to think about recruiting players based on family demographics.

Younger brothers from all-boy families aren’t afraid of anything. They don’t like to tie and they REFUSE to be domitated.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2014 Marc Schmatjen

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