When I was a small blue eyed boy with a blonde-ish brown Bruce Lee bowl cut in the second grade my father took me to the football field of Bethesda Chevy Chase High School for my first soccer practice on the Our Lady of Lourdes CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) Soccer team. Soccer was new to this country and our team consisted of an amalgamation of a few different grades. Most of us had never heard of soccer nor had ever played anything more than the basic activity in gym class. We were a rag tag group of kids, but the Bad News Bears was a top box office hit in that era so we were En Vogue. After that first season with the Lourdes (OLOL) team I was picked up by one of our opposing teams of that year. FLANNERY. I had remembered them from the year prior....it as not just the fancy gold uniforms...they were better organized. Our lead player was one of the youngest and the smallest on the team...they ran plays...we ran the swarm. It was not hard to remember our opponents the FLANNERY TEAM as Dennis Flannery was not only the name of the coach, but also of their second grade star player. Our coach Bill Kirvan put me on man to man coverage of Dennis. I had been instructed. "STICK TO FLANNERY LIKE GLUE IF HE GOES TO THE BATHROOM....YOU GO TO THE BATHROOM!" It was like an assignment sending me off to war. Bill Kirvan with his Steve McQueen good looks and his game winning hook shot....he was the coach of all coaches with his wide hand wave in his little VW bettle with the horse hair seats. It was a fond memory of our game against Flannery.
(Bill Kirvan would remain an influence in my life as my basketball coach and as the father of the children who had the Kool Aid house in our neighborhood. I am sure that as he grew more familiar with soccer he grew to be the powerhouse coach for soccer that he was for basketball)
I had been scouted out. There was a league developing fast and furious and this was a good team to get on. So I did. I left the instruction of Bill Kirvan for the guidance of Dennis Flannery. We were older and the structure made sense. After all third graders should be paying attention when their coach is talking to them, not picking at the grass like some sort of who knows what taht children of that age tend to do. The league was the Montgomery Soccer Incorporated or MSI...their jerseys unlike our Lourdes jerseys had numbers and various sizes.
It was a new era. There was some sort of SOCCER EXPLOSION. PELE was in contention with LUKE SKYWALKER for the coolest guy in the universe award. Okay...my chronology may be off. Luke Skywalker may have still been in the studio, but you get the basic idea. Soccer was IT! All of the kids with any sort of European heritage had such pride. Their "football" was reclaiming the name from our football. This is not to say that most every kid in the 3rd grade other than me knew all of the words to HAIL TO THE REDSKINS. Afterall everyone watched football, collected football cards, played football, but that football was pick up and not the pad and helmet game that we saw on tv. Soccer was the game the kids were playing on Saturday and Sunday afternoons at every high school and elementary field in the tri-state area. It was all the rage and all the buzz. Teams had reputations. Coaches had identity. Every team was known by the coaches last name, not the team jersey color, as the team color was random and not chosen. But, the team name...that was determined by the team's coaches last name....and everyone watched out for the team's coach's son. Our team was no different. Denis Jr., which no one called him, we just called him Denis, was the star....and agile skilled ball handler with a keen sense of the game and an excellent leadership ability as well as know how to create plays....all at the standard age of a third grader.
this drunken red wine induced rant is starting to wander
my words are headed towards a Brazilian immigrant and his golden cleats rather than an over enthused mom and her well worn work boots, laces never tied, and her baggy paint covered jeans.
do not want to risk waking my younger son Grant whose crib shares a space with my computer
it is the next morning
let me see if I can regain my train of thought and finish this idea
as it seemed to be a good one last night
Our Flannery team grew and changed. There was the unsuccessful merger with the Saban Team (French father to Ariel Saban, the coaching personalities did not mix) Then there was the move to the "Select League." It was an emotional time. Basically the team went from a gathering of friends to a team that had try outs, recruitment, and CUTS! We became a traveling team with mandatory practices and games on both Saturday and Sunday. Dennis Flannery was an excellent coach that stressed fitness and skills as well as sportsmanship and teamword. We always ran a great deal and always concentrated on our drills and everyone treated everyone with the basic respect. It was an odd time for me....I was a bit of an introvert...well, okay I was a geeky kid without being popular, without many friends, and without fitting in with the rest of the group; some things never change. Yet, I managed to maintain on this select traveling team and fit in the best I could.
During these many years on Flannery I have many great memories. I can recall trying to keep stride with Mr. Flannery as we did our pre-practice mile runs. And I can also recall the cheering and support that was offered by Mrs. Flannery. She was at every game dressed in her casual garb. She was cheering and screaming with great passion. Mrs. Flannery like most parents was involved in setting up the fields, providing orange slices for halftime, and Cragmont soda at the end. But, somehow it seemed that Mrs. Flannery did not have time for the social banter with the other parents, she was too engrossed in the game. She did not just cheer and support for her son Denis, but she cheered for everyone on the team. It was humorous to watch her "mime" each trap, kick, and pass with her body as the ball moved up and down the field. I remember dribbling the ball up the sidelines or going to take a kick and having her run along side of me giving positive instruction and moral boosters all the way. There were times when she showed up at practice. Mrs. Flannery always got a kick out of my running with my mouth open rather than breathing through my nose, but over the years she accepted that it was my style. There were post season parties...sometimes at Shakey's pizzeria and sometimes at the Flannery House in Chevy Chase. These parental figures had a strong impact on my life.
Then as High School approached I grew tired of the select league and made the decision to quit Flannery so that I could move to an Open team and get that coveted center halfback spot that I had no chance of winning from Dennis. I moved to the less star studded Nolen team. Many of these players were the "rejects" from the move to select that happened some many years earlier. It was back to the Bad News Bears for me, perhaps a crowd that I better belonged to. We lost most of our games. I scored more goals than I had in the years prior, but my skills diminished. Enjoyed being one of the "stars" and did not mind moving to one game a weekend instead of two or three; the long weekend tournaments were not missed at all either.
Bethesda was still a bit of a small town back then and we belonged to the same Parrish as the Flannery family so our paths crossed from time to time. There were always pleasant exchanges. Then High School and then College came about and soccer moved to the high school and college level and so did I, although I managaged to make my college team for 4 years of varsity and my high school team for one year of junior varsity. During those years I would run into Judy Flannery more than Dennis senior. Either going into the grocery store, the library, or seeing her working at the local Racquet and Jog store. At each meeting she always went through a great inquiry of how I was doing and what was going on. I loved to talk about myself so I always loved these encounters. She was someone I respected and it tickled me to have her so interested in my "goings on." I had heard about her running growing into Triathalons, but never on these meetings did she route the conversation to herself. But rather, if I ever asked about such things she would give a short response and then bring it back to me. Always giving me a good boost to my moral and self confidence.
As the years passed our meetings grew to be more and more sparse. After college I heard more and more about Judy's successes in the world of sports. At parties I would see some of her daughters, the younger Megan and Shannon. They knew me as the kid whose parents got married in their back yard while they were in Europe. This was true, my father had married his second wife in their backyard while she was house sitting for them while they were overseas for the summer. I would ask about their mother, and their family and they would keep me informed. When their mother was mentioned in Sports Illustrated for her Master Triathalon achievements we knew that she was doing something big!
Then some years later while Lisa and I were just boyfriend and girlfriend we went traveling in Southeast Asia. While we were gone unknown to us Judy Flannery was hit and killed on a training ride on her bike. The specifics of the circumstances are unclear. As I heard it....basically, a car driver was drunk, too drunk to drive so he had his underage unlicensed 15 year old take the wheel. They were headed down River Road when the cyclists were coming the other direction. The father grabbed the wheel and forced the car into the oncoming paceline. The lead two cyclists were able to split to each side. Judy was in a tuck and was hit head on. Killed on impact. There had been no time to respond. The driver got a nominal fine. The story got blurred. The child passenger in the back seat told one initial story, then edited his tale. There was a service and a memorial, athletes from all over the area and all over the globe attended to pay their respects to this model athlete and friend. When I got home I was greatly saddened to hear this news of this family friend. My father had saved the newspaper clippings for me and shared with me an account of the services. I cried. I cried for many reasons. I cried because death is sad. I cried because a family lost its mother. I cried because I man lost the women he loved. I cried because I lost a friend. I cried because I would never see this person again.
The stories my father shared with me of all the men and all women that Judy was able to touch and inspire. I learned that this relationship that I had with Judy as a child was similar to the relationship that she shared with athletes of all ages and skill levels until the time of her death.
In my youth that soccer experience was a big part of creating who I am. My coaches had a great impact on developing my sense of self. Judy falls into that same set of influences. Earlier this week I had the opportunity to see a film called "JUDY'S TIME" This film is a short documentary created by Erin Flannery, the eldest Flannery child. Erin was a student at USC getting her masters in film when her mother was killed in this 'accident.' It was a touching piece, well produced, certainly as interesting and emotional to those who knew her and to those that did not. The story covered the tale of a women going from housewife to a World Class level triathalete. In this film the identity of Judy's personality was presented eliquantly. Again I cried. It was sad to see that so many people felt the same feelings of grief and loss for her senseless death. Again I mourned in my head for her loss of life and for her family's loss of her.
need to get back to work
I have babbled enough
I will be crying without a job if I do not get back to work
maybe I will proof this later
and try to make some edits so it makes more sense
have not read it
so I have no idea where it meanders