* Note– I may not blog tomorrow night, or I may blog about Christmas, so this is my intro for Winter Ball, which is available Midnight, December 24th. Enjoy!
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A couple of weeks ago, when the excerpt was posted for Winter Ball on ARe, someone complained (they even tagged it on ARe, if you click the link.) It seemed that Richie calls the guy playing defender for the other team a “linebacker” because he’s big and he throws his weight around like a football player instead of a soccer player. This reader assumed that because Richie used the term, that’s what I thought a defender was actually called.
Not so much.
Those of you who have followed this blog have watched–for nearly ten years–as I gear up every season to be a soccer mom.
When Chicken was still in high school, we had three kids in outdoor recreational league soccer, and very often in indoor soccer during the off season as well. Now we only have two kids in soccer, but Mate is president of the local soccer club, and while not crazy about how much of my life the game has swallowed up, I am aware of the basic terminology.
And how, in the way all regions twist things a little, my area has twisted soccer.
The thing is, in my last year of teaching, my principal made a tremendous discovery. He realized that our high school was, in fact, a soccer high school. Our soccer players were our student athletes– we very rarely had to pull a kid out of soccer because of poor grades, when we had the problem with football and basketball all the time. Very often our soccer players came from soccer countries–I once made a scarf for a student in the colors of Portugal, his favorite FIFA team, and the kids who weren’t thinking of flashing gang colors were very often the ones already wearing soccer jerseys from around the world.
Because soccer can be played at all levels. You need cleats and a ball, and you can get a bunch of guys–some of them athletes even– and there will be soccer play. It needs a field and ready bodies and a willingness to fight for every point.
Tada– a rec league soccer team.
But the guys playing aren’t playing for FIFA– or even for local league guidelines. Just like the kids my husband coaches, they’re playing to play. Some of them will play for two leagues or for school and rec league, just for more time on the field. For the adults, that time on the pitch is me time–time to be competitive and fierce and to feel like the world is in that one strip of ground and you can have the thing you want if you fight hard enough.
Rec league is for sheer stinking joy.
Which is why small guys like Richie would end up trying to get the balls past giant Scotsman who could dropkick small guys like Richie into the opposite goal.
And why Richie wouldn’t get booted off the field for calling him a linebacker as sort of an acknowledgment that the guy’s heart may have been made for soccer, but his body was more made for football.
But that’s okay– because that’s why rec league. Everybody gets to play. Even Skipper, who never thought of himself as an athlete. Even Carpenter, his buddy, who never thought he’d want to be an athlete. Even Richie who is too small or Jefferson or Thomas or Owens or Galvan or Singh or Menendez or anyone else on the team who may not be the perfect player.
Because I like imperfect people– and that’s why I wanted to set a story in a soccer team that wasn’t perfect. What mattered was that the team played.
I hope you all enjoy Winter Ball. It’s a love story, really, and not a soccer story, although the soccer is a fun part of it. Enjoy the regional differences– the fact that our rec league teams play on swampy fields in the fall, when other teams play on perfect grass in the spring, and the fact that we say offsides instead of offside, and “the half” instead of halftime and a few other anomalies that have crept into my little corner of the world.
Mostly, enjoy Skip and Richie, who are my favorite kind of heroes– the kind that makes it up as they go along, and work as much as they can from good and loyal hearts.
And who fuck like lemmings in order to love like human gods.
by Amy Lane
Through a miserable adolescence and a lonely adulthood, Skipper Keith has dreamed of nothing but family. The closest he gets is the rec league soccer team he coaches after work—and his star player and best friend, Richie Scoggins.
One brisk night in late October, a postpractice convo in Richie’s car turns into a sexual encounter neither of them expected—nor want to forget. Soon Skip and Richie are living for the weekends and their winter league soccer games—and the games they enjoy off the field. Through broken noses, holiday decorating, and the killer flu, they learn more about each other than they ever dreamed possible. Every new discovery takes them further beyond the boundaries of the soccer field and into the infinite possibilities of the best relationship of Skipper’s life.
Skipper can’t dream of a better family than Richie—but Richie’s got real family entanglements he can’t shake off. Skipper needs to convince Richie to stay with him beyond winter ball so the relationship they started on the field might become their happy future in real life!
Available at Amazon
Available at ARe
Available at DSP