Brendan LoParrino and his teammates had an interesting summer vacation. Their soccer club in Putnam Valley, N.Y., visited Italy, trained at the facilities of the fabled AC Milan squad, and attended a Serie A match at San Siro.
Christian Pulisic, the scoring star of the U.S. national team, moved from Chelsea to AC Milan during the off-season, and he was in the lineup for the match with Torino.
Not only that, but Pulisic scored one of his typical goals – sharking the side of an attack, waiting for the ball to come loose, and when it did, Pulisic kicked it into the far left corner.
Only Pulisic knows if he had spotted a noisy American contingent in the second deck, but that side was the closest to his goal, and he slid on the grass to celebrate as the crowd cheered, syllable by syllable: “Pu-li-sic! Pu-li-sic!”
That goal was not guaranteed in the prospectus for the training week -- and players and adults from New York appreciated it.
For American elders still boggled by the popularity of soccer in the mainstream of culture, this summer camp – a luxury, to be sure – demonstrates the hold of the world’s most popular sport on the younger generations, well into middle age by now.
Brendan LoParrino even carries a nickname, based on Jordan Henderson, the smooth and unselfish former captain of Liverpool, and also leader of the English national team (now playing for big bucks in Saudi Arabia). Brendan’s teammates call him “Hendo,” Henderson’s nickname, and during a training match, the opponents heard the nickname being shouted, and asked what that was all about, so the Putnam Valley players filled them in. Soccer is a language all its own -- and spreading around the U.S.
Brendan, age 13, going into eighth grade, recalls the trip: “Our team started training before traveling to Italy. We had normal training during the week at our club. We also had two practices in Italy, one with our coach, Angelo, and another with a professional trainer.
“I was not sure what it was going to be like in Italy. I was excited and felt that the players there were going to be really good."
He added, “I do not think soccer was that different and thought it was better in Italy. They have nice training facilities and I liked the locker rooms. The watermelon was really good at the concession stand. The coaches were more relaxed and let their players play.
“I learned about playing with kids from different coaching styles. It was also
different playing in such hot temperatures.”
"Our first game was against Pescia. It was 102 degrees and we won. I scored two
goals and one was on a free kick. We then visited Coverciano/museum and
trained in the morning. We tied the next game against Fornacette in Tuscany.
"We controlled the ball but could not score. The next day we went to a
professional game at San Siro stadium. AC Milan played Torino. AC won, 4-1, and
both Giroud and Pulisic scored. This was the best professional game I have been
to. We lost in our last game against (Pro Sesto) and they were very good. They
are the youth academy for the Serie C team in San Giovanni, Lombardy.”
The trip was not all soccer. The group made a side trip to Lake Como and took the ferry, visited Montecatini Terme and Florence.
“We climbed the Leaning Tower of Pisa with my sister Kaitlyn. I was happy to get soccer jerseys for AC Milan, Italy and Juventus."
Clearly, the vast majority of American youth players do not have the luxury of an overseas trip, but spend the summer working on their skills much closer to home.
Youngsters who do get to make a trip like this can bring home the feeling of how much soccer means to the fans – the tifosi – whose loyalties are often inherited at birth.
That comes across on television in the U.S. – and also in the fast-growing Major League Soccer with its middle-sized stadiums and rituals and traditions.
Soccer is here to stay, and young players like Brendan LoParrino are fortunate enough to bring some of that ambiance back home with them.
Brendan said: "I look forward to this upcoming season with my core team at Palumbo soccer club. We joined a new league and will be playing teams further north that are competitive. We have a tournament in Orlando this December and one next season in Portugal. I will be playing JV tennis this year and look forward to playing varsity soccer at my school. I am alsolooking forward to the World Cup in 2026."
The U.S. and Canada and Mexico will host a North American World Cup, "only" 32 years after the U.S. was host to a World Cup that filled stadiums from coast to coast and made millions of new fans.
The U.S. has not come close to winning a World Cup -- but the younger generations have their hopes, respectful of the history of soccer, over there.
Thanks to Brendan for sharing his impressions via his dad, Joe LoParrino.
I know Joe through a mutual friend, the garrulous and knowledgeable Alan Taxerman, an athlete and lawyer who worked with Joe LoParrino. Big Al often shared his strong pro-Yankee and pro-Mantle opinions with the world. through this site. When Big Al passed in 2018, Joe LoParrino invited me to a memorial I could not attend. We have never met, but we are bonded through our mutual friend, and now soccer. Thanks to Big Al, and Joe, and Brendan.
Measuring Covid Deaths, by David Leonhardt. July 17, 2023. NYT online.
The United States has reached a milestone in the long struggle against Covid: The total number of Americans dying each day — from any cause — is no longer historically abnormal….
After three horrific years, in which Covid has killed more than one million Americans and transformed parts of daily life, the virus has turned into an ordinary illness.
The progress stems mostly from three factors:
First, about three-quarters of U.S. adults have received at least one vaccine shot.
Second, more than three-quarters of Americans have been infected with Covid, providing natural immunity from future symptoms. (About 97 percent of adults fall into at least one of those first two categories.)
Third, post-infection treatments like Paxlovid, which can reduce the severity of symptoms, became widely available last year.
“Nearly every death is preventable,” Dr. Ashish Jha, who was until recently President Biden’s top Covid adviser, told me. “We are at a point where almost everybody who’s up to date on their vaccines and gets treated if they have Covid, they rarely end up in the hospital, they almost never die.”
That is also true for most high-risk people, Jha pointed out, including older adults — like his parents, who are in their 80s — and people whose immune systems are compromised. “Even for most — not all but most —immuno-compromised people, vaccines are actually still quite effective at preventing against serious illness,” he said. “There has been a lot of bad information out there that somehow if you’re immuno-compromised that vaccines don’t work.”
That excess deaths have fallen close to zero helps make this point: If Covid were still a dire threat to large numbers of people, that would show up in the data.
One point of confusion, I think, has been the way that many Americans — including we in the media — have talked about the immuno-compromised. They are a more diverse group than casual discussion often imagines.
Most immuno-compromised people are at little additional risk from Covid — even people with serious conditions, such as multiple sclerosis or a history of many cancers. A much smaller group, such as people who have received kidney transplants or are undergoing active chemotherapy, face higher risks.
Covid’s toll, to be clear, has not fallen to zero. The C.D.C.’s main Covid webpage estimates that about 80 people per day have been dying from the virus in recent weeks, which is equal to about 1 percent of overall daily deaths.
The official number is probably an exaggeration because it includes some people who had virus when they died even though it was not the underlying cause of death. Other C.D.C. data suggests that almost one-third of official recent Covid deaths have fallen into this category. A study published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases came to similar conclusions.
Dr. Shira Doron, the chief infection control officer at Tufts Medicine in Massachusetts, told me that “age is clearly the most substantial risk factor.” Covid’s victims are both older and disproportionately unvaccinated. Given the politics of vaccination, the recent victims are also disproportionately
Republican and white.
Each of these deaths is a tragedy. The deaths that were preventable — because somebody had not received available vaccines and treatments — seem particularly tragic. (Here’s a Times guide to help you think about when to get your next booster shot.)
From the great Maureen Dowd:
As I write this, I’m in a deserted newsroom in The Times’s D.C. office. After working at home for two years during Covid, I was elated to get back, so I could wander around and pick up the latest scoop.
But in the last year, there has been only a smattering of people whenever I’m here, with row upon row of empty desks. Sometimes a larger group gets lured in for a meeting with a platter of bagels."
--- Dowd writes about the lost world of journalists clustered in newsrooms at all hours, smoking, drinking, gossipping, making phone calls, typing, editing.
"Putting out the paper," we called it.
Much more than nostalgia.