A few last kickoffs: A most unusual soccer match

NOTE: I’m rolling out three short pieces tonight. As the titles indicate, some fall sports seasons I’ve been covering are are wrapping up. At the same time, I’ve been catching up on my reading in one of my favorite magazines, The New Yorker, and if there’s a resemblance to that style in any of these pieces, it’s purely intentional. If there isn’t, well, I tried.

It may not seem a big deal to you to buy a ticket to a sports event and go sit in the seats or the stands to watch it. But I don’t do either very much – I write about most sports events that I go see in person — and I have a lot of respect for folks who are willing to submit themselves to the sports fan experience. It was never so great as on Wednesday night.

I attended an NCAA Division II men’s soccer regional tournament game Wednesday between Wingate and Flagler College of St. Augustine, Fla., played due to unusual circumstances at Mallard Creek High School, less than a mile from my house.

As you know if you’re a regular reader of this blog, I teach at Wingate, about an hour’s drive from my home. I enjoy watching my students play for our athletic teams, but it generally requires either staying over after work or a special trip back in order to do so. So I determined that I would take advantage of this opportunity and brave the rainy and windy weather conditions that were causing the game to be moved in the first place.

Wingate athletic officials explained that despite the bad weather, the game had to be played on Wednesday or the winning team would not be able to have a day off before playing a second-round game against a higher-seeded, and rested, team which had received a first-round bye. Mallard Creek’s football stadium was chosen over other, closer venues, because it had an artificial playing surface and was available – a tough combination to achieve on such short notice.
So I and about 30 other hardy souls – I counted umbrellas – made the trip over to watch the match. As my former students Ryan Brown and Hugh Patton said, calling the game for the WU Internet broadcast, “It’s not a bad crowd for a freezing cold night in a hurricane.”

(In the interest of full disclosure, I ended up in the warm, dry press box. I brought a notebook and collected some post-game quotes for the student newspaper, The Weekly Triangle, to justify my place in that safe haven.)

Wingate took an impressive 4-1 victory in a game playing in a driving, sideways rain until early in the second half. Weather reports had the game time temperature at about 47 degrees and winds gusting at times from 30-35 mph.

After the game, I talked briefly with Wingate coach Gary Hamill, a fiery Irishman (Belfast, Northern Ireland to be exact) who’s actually a former student of mine from my days teaching an MBA class. I also spoke with the Bulldogs’ top goal-scorer, Luke Mulholland, a junior midfielder from Preston, England. As I interviewed him, I couldn’t help but think, “Mick Jagger, circa 1964.” Well, maybe it’s a stretch.

And I also couldn’t help but think that a year ago Jayne and I were getting ready to take a quick trip from London to Belfast. We miss hearing those accents on a daily basis.


About theoldperfessor

I'm a college professor, teaching journalism and public relations classes at a small private university, and a freelance writer.
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