World Cup Madness Strikes NWS Editor

Once upon a time in one of Washington’s most well-known steelhead and salmon fishing valleys, yours truly took up the sport … of soccer.

During fall, when the Skykomish, Sultan and Wallace Rivers ran thick with Chinook, coho, humpies, chums and summer-runs and our fathers journeyed off the map of our grade-school world to hunt deer and elk, Lee Griggs, Chris Groeneveld, Jeff Gilman, me and a mess of other boys kicked the round ball.

My dad was our coach, and many of the players and I would ride the bus from Sultan Elementary out to my house at the end of Trout Farm Road along the Sultan River and with those lakes behind the back fence, wait for Dad to come home, then somehow all pile into our ’57 Mercury and head for practice.

At first, our field was next to an old cemetery that one day would hold the too-young son of friends of our family. Some nights, after practice, and before parents came to haul our team away, we’d chase somebody’s chickens among the gravestones.

Lotta energy the Sultan Eagles had, especially Gilman.

It took us a couple years, but by our third season in the Sky Valley league, we started to get good, crushing the teams down in Monroe and Snohomish. Lee scored most of our goals, but I put my share in the net.

Divorce ended those soccer days at the end of fifth grade.

Though I played the sport still in junior high and high school gym classes — much to the chagrin of the shins of several classmates — as well as on occasion in the years since, my career path circled back to the fish that filled the Skykomish’s rivers and the game our fathers chased far afield.

Sometimes I curse the fact I didn’t insist on continuing with soccer in the Northshore School system —  shown Toby Ziegler, Ron Woods and the others that poor country folk can kick it too — but in the meanwhile, I’ll be tuning in to the World Cup this month and next.

Today, the world’s game kicks off in South Africa, and Brazil is again favored, as are the Spaniards.

England stands a chance too, and believe it or not, the US could go deep.

Wish I was on that team.

Probably I’ll pull for England as well as African teams — I’m a sucker for kids from the continent ever since Cameroon’s improbable run in 1990’s cup.

And, of course, I’ll be rooting for Deutschland as my wife’s from Köln, her dad from Wilhelmshaven. Somewhere in our closets is a German soccer jacket we bought along the Rhein in Oberwesel or Sankt Goar or Bacharach one morning on our honeymoon in 2006 (yesterday was our fourth anniversary). I think before I knew the name Buzz Ramsey or Jim Teeny, I knew of Franz Beckenbauer and other West German greats my dad spoke of.

Then there’s France, Les Bleus.

One of my all-time favorite sports moments was watching the 2006 quarterfinal match between France and Brazil with Amy at St. Andrews near Green Lake, in Seattle. The soccer pub was absolutely packed; we had to stand for most of the first half before somebody at the bar inexplicably decided to go home.

You fool, I thought — and quickly shoved Amy into his seat and ordered more beer.

We were pulling for France — Brazil is the Yankees of the World Cup — when in the 57th minute Zinedine Zidane took a free kick deep in the Brazilian’s territory, lofting it over the heads of a phalanx of charging Frenchmen and scrambling defenders, and perfectly onto the boot of Thiery Henry, all alone on the right side.

One-nil.

St. Andrews exploded, I nearly wept — shit, I’m just about teary eyed writing this four years later — and the bartender shouted out mock instructions from the Brazilian’s coach, “Whatever you do, do not mark their best player!”

I can’t say there’s a lot of similarity between soccer and hunting and fishing, outside of the rarity of goals and shooting a buck or catching a steelhead, but there it is.

Ahhhh, and that’s enough blogging for deadline day.

I do actually have to get back to the July issue now, twist the boss’s arm for four more pages so I can fit in all these stories on albacore, Chinook, steelhead, etc., do my final edits, tweak the coverlines, come up with better headlines — somehow pull another edition out of the void and onto the press.

All with matches streaming live.

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