I have never played competitive soccer. I am not a big fan of soccer despite the fact that the college where I teach has the best NCAA Division III soccer program (men’s and women’s) in the country and has been chosen as the third best place in the country to watch college soccer.
But I am a sports fan and as a result will probably watch some World Cup matches this summer with my 13-year old daughter. She has been playing since she was five. She plays during the Spring for her middle-school team and the rest of the year for a traveling club team.
The only thing I really enjoy about soccer is when the goaltender makes a great save. For some reason I have always had a strong connection to the position of goaltender. When I was a kid playing ice hockey on the ponds of Montville, New Jersey I used to always play goalie (probably because I was not a very good skater). After the U.S. Olympic Hockey team won the gold medal in 1980 I took to the ice at Masar Park in Montville in the hopes of becoming the next Jim Craig. I played with a cracked Northland goalie stick in one hand and a baseball mitt in the other. Since the goalies in my neighborhood could not afford goalie masks there was a “no lifting rule” that applied to all shots on goal.
Then when I got to high school I became a lacrosse goalie. I was never that good, but I did manage to play four years of high school lacrosse and had a lot fun doing it. (I was recently inducted into my high school’s Hall of Fame, but not for my unremarkable lacrosse career). You need to have a certain mentality to play goalie in the sport of lacrosse. Hard rubber balls are fired at you at speeds that sometimes reach 100 miles per hour. Goalies wore a helmet, a chest protector, and some protection for the lower extremities, but that was it. In other words, we did not wear the kind of protective gear worn by hockey goalies.
We started lacrosse season in the late winter. Because of the cold and the off-season it always took a few weeks before my reflexes reached maximum efficiency. Until I developed something akin to quickness I tended to stop more balls with my body than my stick, resulting in welts all over my arms and legs. (Although some of my teammates might say that I stopped more shots with my body even after my reflexes had warmed up). We called the indentation made by the ball a “donut” because of the black and blue circle that always formed on the skin. Again, it took a unique person (read “crazy person”) to play goalie and I always took it as a badge of honor to be one of the proud and the few.
So needless to say, when I saw Howler Magazine‘s article “Fourteen Ways of Looking at a Goalkeeper,” I had to at least acknowledge it. Here is a taste:
- The goalkeeper as national identity
- The goalkeeper as victim
- The goalkeeper as crazy person
- The goalkeeper as tireless craftsman
- The goalkeeper as prisoner of fate
- The goalkeeper as intellectual
- The goalkeeper as tragic figure
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