University of Portland Magazine

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University of Portland Magazine

Post by Geezaldinho on Wed Jun 10, 2015 11:40 pm

This came in this month's magazine from Brian Doyle.

My Season Tickets

In the mail this morning I find my Pilot soccer season ticket renewal form, and I sit and stare at it for a while, pondering.

Probably this is the year I should let these three friendly familiar sun-warmed rain-soaked steel spaces go. I have had them for twenty years, since the tiny calm astonishing whirlwind called Tiffeny Milbrett was the best player in America right in front of me and my children week after week. I sat in those seats with my lovely bride and our children and nieces and nephews and friends and donors on Sunday afternoons when it was so hot and bright that people wearing shorts yelped when they sat down. We sat in those seats under umbrellas and ponchos and rain-jackets and one time a reflector blanket that a child found in a secret corner of the car. We sat in those seats on the coldest most windless frozen night I can ever remember, as part of a tremendous standing-room-only crowd for a game against the University of Notre Dame. We saw the Pilots play all the best college teams in America and the national teams of Canada and Mexico. We saw a game pitting the Pilots against a Pilot alumni team which featured, by my count, half of the ten best players in the world on the field at the same time, laughing and razzing and trying to score from insane angles. From those seats we saw the single hardest shot we ever saw, a stupendous rocket from Shannon MacMillan, launched a second or two after she crossed midfield, and landing in exactly the tiny space she was aiming for, in the upper right corner of the goal, a feat that still amazes me when I think about it, which I do more often than you would think. How could a human foot speak to a soccer ball in such a way that the ball would do exactly what it had been asked?


Our seats had great neighbors, kindly funny affable people who would share water and programs and baseball caps if necessary. Our seats were not too high or too low. Our seats surveyed both sides of the field equally, so you could actually see a player streak into the far corner and rescue a ball and lash it back across the goal to a diving Megan Rapinoe or Christine Sinclair or Betsy Barr or Justi Baumgardt or Amanda Frisbie or Ellen Parker and thereís that split second when no one is sure if the ball actually went over the goal line and then all at once the whole crowd rises and roars and the Pilots caper delightedly and the other team looks dejected and the other teamís goalie is disgruntled and annoyed and she slams the post with her hand and says something vulgar and scurrilous under her breath and the Pilots are up by two with twenty minutes to play.

I would guess that we laughed at the hilarious student chants a hundred times from our seats, and grinned as the Villa Maria guys ran past our section with their phone numbers written on their backs, and smiled as the announcer rattled off all the girlsí soccer teams joining us this afternoon from Tualatin and Scappoose and Brush Prairie. A hundred times we stood and applauded as the Pilot players en masse ran toward our section, applauding us. A hundred times we booed the referee, and admired Coach Garrett Smithís calm dignity, and smiled at the tiny Pilot For a Day ballgirl sprinting out to stand with the Pilot starters before the national anthem. A hundred times we sang along with the national anthem, thinking of the men and women who had the courage to try to stuff bullies and criminals back into the squirming dark holes from which they came. A hundred times we sent the kids down to get hotdogs. Half a hundred times we got a cold delicious dense beer at halftime and savored every blessed drop.


We saw the best players. We saw the best teams. We saw a hundred victories. We saw not one but two national championship teams rise and soar before our eyes over the course of a season. We saw maybe the best college soccer coach there ever was. But it was never about the victories and the famous names. It was about something else altogether. It was about the general burble and chaffing before the game. It was about lounging along the rail and watching the teams warm up. It was about the Villa Drum Squad beginning their thunderous rumble way across campus and everyone in the crowd smiling and little kids saying excitedly here they come! It about the patent populous sigh when a Pilot just missed a shot, or the shocked silence as our goalie bent to pick up an opposing shot from the sagging back of her net, or the audible crunch of two superb college athletes colliding in the corner and amazingly both leaping up unhurt, wow, and the grim look on the linesmanís face as he ignores vituperative abuse from the other teamís martinet coach, and the brilliant colors of every uniform, and the whirl and furl of a hawk over the lush lawn of the field, and the plaintive finality of the horn at the end of play, and the way we picked our way slowly and lazily down out of the stands, and shuffled toward the parking lot with everyone else, but just before you get to the gate, you stop and turn and cast one last long look at the field, and think what a lovely afternoon this is in America, what a lovely example of college sports at its least tinny and shrill and greedy and false and violent. And then we went home happy, maybe honking cheerfully at the other cars with Pilot soccer decals, just to make the children laugh.

I renewed my seats. Sure I did. Some things are worth far more than their price.

Me too.

Geezaldinho
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Re: University of Portland Magazine

Post by DoubleDipper on Thu Jun 11, 2015 7:52 am

Yes, I'm biased, but IMO there is no better desciptive writer than Brian Doyle...

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