Monday, June 04, 2007

The Mystique of the Shirt

I shared a flight last night with two of the FC Boys (Andrea Lombardo and Gabe Gala) coming back from the National U-20 team's disastrous match in Ottawa. Nice guys - happy to chat, and happy to sign an autograph for my son (no, really, it was for my son). But chatting and listening to them I was struck by how unbelievably young they were.

Yeah, yeah, I know they're young - they wouldn't be on the U-20 team if they weren't. But damn, they're normal as teenagers go. The banter is banal, the idea of flying around the continent is still new, they're bemused by being recognized in airports by shmoes like Antonio - and really they just want to call their friends on cell phones and arrange tonight's party.

Now of course I shouldn't be surprised - they're 20 and 17, respectively. But you know, once someone puts on a team shirt and plays in front of 20,000 people every week, I at least (maybe you're different) subconsciously assume that they are mature, calculating adults - the kind you see spouting banalities every day on sports reports. The shirt itself, stepping onto the filed in front of the fans and the cameras, seems to me at least to confer players with level of maturity that may not always be deserved.

These two are good players (Lomabardo especially, who doesn't get enough playing time due to the bizarre infatuation for Danny Dichio shared by both the coach and the South Stands) able to compete at a level most of us barely comprehend. But that doesn't change the fact that they're still kids. They're self-absorbed. They don't pay a lot of attention to what they say (trust me, there was a lot of stuff there that their coaches wouldn't repeated on a blog). Basically, they're just having fun.

Worth remembering next time you're tempted to scream an obscenity at them for, say, missing an open goal.


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