My dad was a soccer star

My father was a soccer star – not for an internationally renowned team, but for Williamsport (Md.) High School team in the early 1920s.  Soccer, not American football, was the high school team sport in Maryland during the first half of the 20th century and before. Unlike my dad, I was never on a team, but soccer was the sport we played during the late 1940s and early 1950s.

There were good reasons for this.  High school soccer was a fairly civilized sport in my day, but it was pretty rough in the early days of the previous century.  It was said that if you took an X-ray of the shin bones of the really tough soccer player, it would look as ragged as the teeth of a saw.  I heard there were even soccer riots; when the home team lost, the fans tore down the opposing team’s goal posts. If that is how Maryland farm boys of that era played soccer, you can imagine how they would have played football. And of course, in those days, schools had no money for fads such as helmets, shoulder pads or other protective gear.

The high school didn’t compromise its academic program for the sake of sports. Team members practiced after school hours and on Saturdays, not during class hours.  My dad and others of his generation participated in sports for the love of the sport and the desire to win, not for any material reward.

During my father’s time, people tended to stay in the place they were born more than they do today, or in my time.  My father encountered men he played soccer against all his life, and would sum them up based on their style of play – “[So-and-so] played dirty, but at least he never complained when I gave him a taste of his own medicine.”

My dad never was a soccer fan. He followed football and baseball. I’m not a sports fan at all.  If I was a soccer fan, I’d be content to have American soccer be as it is, something people play and watch for the love of the game, and not make it into a so-called major sport, where the athletic competition is subordinated to advertising, entertainment and money-making.

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