Lulu has worn a lot of uniforms in her young life – from elite soccer teams in Pennsylvania.
In a year she will be wearing a college jersey.
Now she has a new uniform from another team, the Wegmans grocery chain, an institution in that part of the world. They screen and train their personnel well. Lulu’s brother George has been working there a few years, to help pay for college.
Lulu can start saving from her part-time cashier’s job. An A student, she wants to be a dermatologist. In the fall, she will make early-morning rounds with personnel from a local hospital, in a program for select pre-med hopefuls.
Soccer jerseys. Wegman’s uniform. Medical robes. Goal!!!
* * *
This just in on the family front: Another grand-daughter, Anjali, and family have driven from Sevilla to the Algarve, currently ensconced in a town named Lagos (Lar-gush). Anjali is not sending photos these days but we are getting the feel of the region.
Anjali and family are in Evora, a picturesque town, with its Roman temple of Diana.
Anjali spotted the ducks, venturing out of the shadows, as well as the reflection in the pond.
The stones look old. It’s Portugal.
When Laura was covering the great Algarve soccer tournament two years ago, she sent us daily photos of the specialty at her restaurant:
O Rei dos Frangos – The King of the Chickens, printed on every plate.
Today she sent us a photo of the main course in an outdoor cafe in Evora.
Cada um na sua, as they say in Portuguese.
To each his own.
Friday evening I was hugging them goodbye at JFK Airport.
Eighteen hours later, I texted with my grand-daughter.
“Yo Kid,” I typed. “How’s Lisbon? Send me a photo every so often.”
“Okay, I will,” she said.
But you never know.
“Hills. Old buildings. Flowers. Photos!” I urged.
“Not any that are impressive,” she said.
“You’ll find stuff,” I said. I know her.
“Hold on,” she typed. Then this popped in:
“Real peacock?” I asked.
“What I’m talking about,” I typed.
She’s on notice.
Tony DiCicco loved coaching women. I often heard him say how they made his life easier because they listened to what he said and they took care of their own locker room.
Of course, these were not just any female athletes. They formed probably the greatest national team the United States has ever produced, male or female, in that they were a long-standing team, not an all-star team collected for one event.
The American soccer players had talent and character – and good coaching before and after DiCicco – but he presided during two of the great tournaments in American sports history: the 1996 Olympics and the 1999 Women’s World Cup.
DiCicco died over the weekend at 68. His obituary was written by Jeré Longman, who covered the team he called “The Girls of Summer” in his insightful book.
As Jeré points out, DiCicco learned early on that female athletes do not appreciate coaches who zero in on one player for criticism on the field. All of this may sound like stereotyping of players and coaches, males and females, but DiCicco knew what worked, and so did his players.
The American team had a stunning collection of individuals. I compare them to the Founding Fathers of the United States: how did all those people (men, at the time) arrive with so much wisdom and so much courage at the same time? (Where are they now?)
How in the world did Julie Foudy, Michelle Akers, Briana Scurry, Joy Fawcett, Mia Hamm, Brandi Chastain, Kristine Lilly – just for starters – overlap in the same generation?
DiCicco (and his staff, and psychologist Colleen Hacker) helped them succeed, but it was the players’ team. He did not indulge in mind games and was not afraid of big personalities, welcoming Chastain, who had left the team but came back in 1999. (Julie Foudy, asked on a team questionnaire for her favorite actress, wrote down: “Brandi Chastain.”) Chastain’s nickname was “Hollywood.” She iced the clinching penalty kick, as Longman recalls in the obit.
Tony DiCicco was a teacher, as his players will testify in the sad days to come. He did not patronize reporters new to the sport. He loved his own craft, goalkeeping, and empowered Scurry with the tricks of the trade, including edging off the line to dominate a penalty kick – the fringe of legality, but part of that position, part of the sport, I believe.
When he left the job after 1999, it was to be a husband and a father to his four boys. Down the road, he hoped to come back, but strangely the federation did not use him. He continued to teach goalkeeping. My friend Alan Rubin, who often writes in to this site, is a former college keeper and retired businessman, still coaching young keepers in Massachusetts.
“Tony's book, ‘Catch Them Being Good,’ is one of about four go-to books that I regularly refer to for the human aspect of my goalkeeper training. Tony always emphasized the complete development of the athlete,” Rubin wrote me in an email.
“Tony gave a scenario in which a young keeper made a terrific save to recover from a significant mistake. ‘Praise the save and discuss how to improve upon the mistake several days later. You do not want to take the keeper off his/her high.’ I'm continually applying his logic.”
DiCicco had his own SoccerPlus GK summer camps and Alan mentors young keepers through his own J4K of West MA. Rubin said DiCicco was generous with advice and kind words. “Tony was one of those special persons that never lost touch….Sad, Sad, Sad!”
DiCicco was a presence on television during four Women’s World Cups – incisive and fearless, pointing out the good and bad from players, coaches, referees.
Laura Vecsey, a sports and political columnist for several newspapers, was covering the 2015 WWC in Canada and spent time around DiCicco, who was generous with his expertise. On Sunday Laura tweeted:
Truly a sad day in sports. Tony DiCicco was an institution in soccer, leading #USWNT to some of their greatest moments. A great person. RIP.
Father’s Day is here; a good book is always in order.
I just read a lovely book, not exactly a greeting-card image of a father or a mother, but better yet, Richard Ford’s “Between Them: Remembering My Parents,” exploring what he can remember and what he can only surmise about Parker and Edna Ford.
Any book by this Pulitzer-Prize-winning author is always welcome.
He came to them late, a surprise only child after more than a decade of marriage. He tries to reconstruct what it must have been like for them to become parents. “Between Them” refers to what their life was like before him; and also how his needs, as infant and boy, inevitably placed him in the middle.
They accepted the responsibility like adults -- two people from the rural south with modest schooling and an ethic of doing their best. His father was a traveling salesman, out Monday morning, home Friday evening.
The son cannot remember much conversation with his father, just his earnest presence; he has no complaints.
His mother was more lively, more layered, with more family support. After the father died, Richard Ford was able to say “I love you” to his mother, ask about her life as a widow. She grew, found a job she loved, remained independent virtually to the end; he salutes her.
The backdrop – maybe even the real subject of the book -- is the back part of America that suffered terribly in the Depression. Yet his father always had work. Ford says he never heard his parents talk of the racial divide that must have been obvious in their geographically-central chosen home of Jackson, Miss. They lived in a country that had two – then three – citizens. The family.
He remembers, he reconstructs, he imagines, the hopes and dreams of two people who did not complain; he notes the family stresses both brought to the marriage.
The book includes several snapshots of a salesman and his wife with a car, hats and suits and dresses, their final suburban home, their post-war dream, fulfilled by a salesman with a failing heart.
The dead-serious faces of these Americans – long before the plague of selfies, everybody a star of their own reality show -- reminds me of the collaboration between writer James Agee and photographer Walker Evans, “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men.” They caught the bravery and dignity of rural America, and so does Richard Ford.
Near the end, Ford notes that he and his wife do not have children. He admits he can only guess what it is like to be a father, a parent.
His parents did their best. What a lovely thing to be able to say.
* * *
Richard Ford’s book reminds me of Samuel Barber's haunting "Knoxville 1915,” based on Agee's memories of a hot evening at home, when he was a boy.
As with Ford, death lurks over the slow, sweet gathering as Agee recalls who is present. It ends: “One is my mother who is good to me. One is my father who is good to me.”
The older I get, the more I realize how my father and mother, in their own ways, were good to me.
Set to Barber’s music, Agee’s words never fail to make me mist up. Richard Ford’s memories touched me the same way. His mother and his father were good to him.
* * *
(As a companion to Richard Ford’s touching new book, may I suggest listening to the Eleanor Steber 1948 Carnegie Hall performance of “Knoxville 1915,” including the piano accompaniment by Edwin Biltcliffe.)
One of the more sordid scams in the history of book publishing began 50 years ago – and I had a modest part of it.
A bunch of us from Newsday collaborated on a tale of sex in the suburbs, titled “Naked Came the Stranger.” Some people bought it and read it and thought it was not so bad.
The legend does not die. The radio landmark, Studio 360, is recalling this assault on the reading habits of the American public in a podcast released Thursday evening:
The show was supposed to have been heard Thursday evening on WNYC-FM (93.9) in New York but apparently there was other news, and it was broadcast on Saturday.
It was fun to hear the able producer Sam Kim recreate the foolishness that began with a late-night conversation at a bar frequented by journalists, cops and criminals and other people who stay up late. (I was not there.)
From that conversation, Mike McGrady, a columnist, and Harvey Aronson, feature writer and wily manager of the Nightside softball team, decided to collaborate on a book about a woman looking for revenge on her philandering husband, by seducing every male in her Long Island suburb.
McGrady and Aronson set up some basic ground rules – mainly, descriptions of the main character's hair and figure – and invited people to contribute individual chapters of their fetishes and fantasies.
I found a request in my mailbox and assumed I was one of the chosen few. (Later I discovered McGrady and Aronson had stuck a copy in just about every mailbox at the office.)
They say writers should stick to what they know. I was (and remain) a rather boring husband and father with no personal knowledge of the “cheatin’ side o’ town,” as the country songs say. So I wrote about a schlubby suburbanite and his lovely wife, busy renovating their old house.
While tending to his lawn, he gets seduced.
Having taken typing in junior high school, I finished my chapter in half an hour. I wrote as artfully as I possibly could and turned it in. Weeks later, McGrady and Aronson told me my level of writing was exactly what they wanted. At the time, I thought it was a compliment.
Let me say a word about the Newsday of the mid-60’s, how it quivered with energetic young people, many recruited from the city. I still consider that Newsday as “we,” the way ball players talk lovingly about their first club, where they learned to play the game.
By 1969, I had moved on to the Times, as the book, doctored up (or down) by McGrady and Aronson, was emitted, under the name of Penelope Ashe, actually somebody McGrady knew.
We kept the secret as long as we could, while the hoax soared toward third on the best-seller list. A few reviewers even found literary merit – a piercing look at modern suburbia.
Sam Kim has tracked down some of my old pals who are still around to tell the tale, including Aronson, but Mike McGrady, so talented, has long since passed.
These two fine people had the idea and did most of the work, yet they shared the not-inconsiderable royalties equally among 25 people who contributed something. I rate this as one of the most generous acts in the cut-throat history of publishing.
Not everybody was charmed. A librarian in my town, Mrs Murray, would sigh and roll her eyes whenever she spotted me lurking in the book shelves.
A few years later, a movie was published under the same name but without the high literary quality of our book. My mentor, the whimsical sports columnist, Stan Isaacs, rented a hansom carriage to take us in style to the porn theatre.
I make no apologies for defiling the high standards of publishing. Mike and Harvey helped put our kids through college. I still mow my own lawn.
It has come to this with the Mets. The only reason to watch them is the commercial being played virtually every other inning on the local channel SNY in New York.
Of course, it’s also on Youtube (above) and all over the web.
But for all the dreadful events happening with the Mets, there is the consolation that when the inning ends there could be a visit from four weary monsters heading home for a well-earned weekend.
But work never ends for these four harried guys (what, no female monsters?)
They grumble about working conditions, particularly the werewolf who needs to howl on the weekend. (“A bit of me time.”)
I have seen that guy on the Port Washington line. Same whiskers. Same suit. Same weary grimace.
The Mets are not nearly as entertaining. They’re hurt or old or both, except for Michael Conforto (who is starting to go for that high pitch again) and Weepin’ Wilmer Flores, who in the eyes of the Faithful can do no wrong, even when he does.
Jacob DeGrom, a good athlete and seemingly a nice guy, is inconsistent.
But at least there is the commercial, by a group called Something Different.
Impervious to advertising, I couldn’t remember the product being hawked. Turns out, it is Spectrum. Okay.
Here is some stuff on the web about the commercial:
Somebody writing about the commercial mistook a commuter train (which are hideous enough) for the subway.
Most of the time, the commercial is shortened to a 30-second version, which downplays the werewolf and obliterates the last line (“He’s not waking up.”)
The good news? All four of these guys apparently will be back in three followup commercials. That is nice.
I’m watching Harvey, Reyes, Granderson and Cabrera all deteriorating in front of my eyes, but at least I can look forward to the four commuters. It gives me hope.
David Vecsey's sweet tale of distant love before the Web, now NYT Podcast, narrated by Griffin Dunne. Please see:
George Vecsey is Hofstra University's Alumnus of the Month! Read a Q&A with George here.