As I undertook the forty-minute drive to Saturday’s soccer game in Anacostia, I was in a grumpy mood and I started to wonder about retiring from the sport completely. I will be forty in the fall and I questioned whether it made sense to drag my body around the field again with people half my age. Given that it was ninety degrees outside, and I have a lot going on, I felt some incentive to leave it all behind.
What I did not like about the thought of retiring, besides admitting that I am not young and in shape any more, was that my daughter, almost three, would then never remember seeing me play. Soccer has been such a big part of my life that I want to show her for myself.
It is not as if my game was with a high-level, competitive men’s team. It was a coed team in a recreational league. On that team I usually play sweeper, the furthest back defenseman, a position that does not require as much energy as the midfield I used to play.
But with the game tied at the beginning of the second half, I had a chance to come up on offense for a play. I received the ball toward the left side of the opponent’s goal, about 25 feet out. With good concentration. I side-stepped two players, looked at the left side of the goal, and hit a hard, head-high shot with the outside of my right foot. I watched as it careened hard off the post. I put my head down, thinking that I had just missed it, heard a cheer, looked up and saw that it had gone across the face of the goal and into the net.
On the spot, I postponed my retirement. I felt good the rest of the day, in the uncomplicated way that sports can make you feel good. I had a second goal in the game, on a shot that bounced fortuitously of a defensemen, but that did not matter to me.
So the next day I was back for another game, even in 92 degree heat. I did not play particularly well in the Sunday game, but I still think I have a few more years left in me.