"Yeah! I'd love to, I'll run it by management and see if there's time on the schedule. I cant' commit yet but I'll let you know soon."
Seven to ten days later it was confirmed, I would be bound for Canada to play for the PEAS Farm Old Boys in Penticton British Columbia.
The invitation to play "Old Boys" soccer in Canada with my peers meant a lot to me. I'd been hearing stories for years now, about how much fun this tournament is. After a challenging but prosperous summer of work I was convinced that this might be just the thing to get me back into the swing of things with my soccer playing brotherhood. Reestablishing some of those neglected relationships with some good friends that I've missed over the busy months of June, July and August.
Soccer is something I'm very passionate about. I've been playing now for over forty years.... I'm not a particularly gifted player but I like to run hard, develop play, work as part of a defense or offense and revel in the security of friendship that my team provides. A place where men can act like boys and no one cares. Insulated from the judgment of the people in our lives that might actually expect something productive from us. I've said it before, a life spent in the constant shadow of responsibility is just as out of balance as one that is spent in the blazing heat of irresponsibility. The eight hour drive would be our buffer. Putting some healthy distance between responsibilities and entertainment. My buddy Scott said it best while we were there, "We're here to play soccer, but it's not just about the soccer.". Not all teams have that quality but my "Old Boys" team is the best group of comrades that I have had the pleasure of knocking it around with. Over four days we would vacillate between solving some of our biggest personal problems to revolutionizing the American political system and throw in a fair bit of idiotic behavior. Behavior that would cross the eyes of the women in our lives. We would achieve all this with a smile on our face and a beer in our hands. Those of us less fortunate than others would also be left with a limp.
My traveling companions would be Tim, Jim, and Tommy. We would be meeting up with eleven others who were making their way to the vineyards of Penticton. Scott, Marc, Charlie and Thomas got started a day earlier so they could spend some more time in the blazing heat of irresponsibility. The rest, with the exception of Michael would show on Friday. Michael's arrival, Saturday. Our team is comprised of doctors, business owners, a grant writer - mailman, a couple are employed at the University of Montana, some work for non-profits, ands one is an artist. We have varied political beliefs and varied religious beliefs. The youngest of us would be thirty-eight on game day, the oldest sixty-five. Soccer is the element that makes the chemistry work. The bonding agent. The thing that shows us we have more in common than we have in difference.
We would be playing in the over thirty-five bracket of the tournament. With a bit of wisdom under the belt a person might find themselves wondering who thought that was a good idea? With most of our team over forty-five and half of our team over fifty we were handicapping ourselves. The rational person would ask why, the emotional person would wonder about the possibility of staying at the top of the food chain. Explaining the physiological differences between a thirty-five year old and a fifty-five year old seems to be lost on this group. I think that as you get older taking risk in showing you can compete with the younger men on the pitch is a sexy notion. One based in millions of years of natural selection. Keeping the young bucks in check, showing we are taking the responsibility of keeping the herd strong, seriously. We might be older but we're not played out. At the end of the tournament two wins, two losses, third place. Still in the hunt!! Our brand of soccer produced a 3-2 loss against the eventual champions, a 3-1 loss against the second place team, a win against the Fijians, and a 1-0 win against Bellingham for third place. These results, in spite of the fact that our average age was probably more than ten years older than our competition.
During the tournament I got to;
play a little poker,
participate in midnight wiffle ball,
make breakfast for my mates,
see the beautiful wine country of Canada,
buy a couple of bottles for some lovely nurses from Vancouver,
party in the clubhouse of the Penticton Soccer Club,
drink more beer,
gather in a juggling circle under the lights of the pitch at night with my friends,
sleep in a room full a snoring men,
compete on the pitch,
drink MORE beer
remember the opportunities for humor with fifteen guys are infinite
remember that a drunk guy is has tremendous courage but is still obnoxious,
realize that we are nothing without each other,
understand that the best connections are real - individual - people,
reconnect with the human condition,
understand that relationships are our most valuable currency,
understand that sameness is a white sheet of paper and our differences are the words that tell our stories. This was a valuable four day refresh for me. I would encourage you to get out and get your own soon. Take the risk - role the dice!