Re: Academy Soccer

So I got relatively good responses from those that read my “Academy Soccer: Tradition Never Graduates” post and I had even submitted it into Mastermind Media and was awaiting a response because I do not think they had ever published an article written from an alum before. Well if they hadn’t, they have now. I have been told that it is in the November 2008 issue that I have put up scans of below and I even have the entire paper available if someone wants to read it.

The Lions’ Chase For Immortality

So every Thanksgiving, the Detroit Lions manage to make their way on the television sets of so many people at home with their families but this year, watching them is just going to be awful.

The Lions coming into this week are 0-11 with an average margin of defeat at 13.9 points per game. 4 out of their 5 losses at home have come by 18 points or more (lone close game was vs. Washington by 8 points). On the other hand, 4 out of their 6 losses and more specifically their last 4 road games have been decided by single digits.

They get blown out by an average of 20 points at home (5 games) while its only 8.8 on the road. Maybe it’s the pressure of being consistently being barraged by the home crowd and even the late acquisition of Daunte Culpepper didn’t help where they built a 17-0 lead IN THE FIRST QUARTER only to get outscored 38-3 the rest of the game.

This is where really awful teams need luck. It is really hard to go 16 games without winning one. The Miami Dolphins (1-15) proved that last year with an overtime thriller against the Ravens. The final 5 games for Lions are against the Titans, Vikings, @ Colts, Saints and @ Packers who are a combined 34-21 with Packers being the only team under .500 at 5-6.

I don’t think there’s anyway Titans lose tomorrow night after the beating they took against the Jets. The Colts who are still fighting to secure a playoff spot will not take the Lions easily and will look to dismantle them early. The Saints offense has looked explosive at times this year and they can easily outscore any team to win a game. That just leaves it to the two divisional games with Minnesota and at Green Bay. The Vikings is a home game where the Lions have done awful so I wouldn’t expect that to change this late in the season so I’ll mark that at a loss.

That puts them at 0-15 going into the final week of the season in Green Bay. This could be a vital game for the Packers as they are in a fight for the playoff lives with a 3-team race in the division. You know the Lions play tough on the road, Lambeau just doesn’t have the mystique and intimidation factor that it once did for the Cheeseheads and no player, on any team wants to go 0-16. I am just afraid with the up and down season that Aaron Rodgers and the Packers are having that they are going to slip up week 17 against a winless team and end up missing the playoffs by a week.

It is very hard to go 0-16 and even though no one deserves to go an entire season without winning a single game, I wouldn’t mind seeing it this year… although I’m quite afraid that the Packers just might ruin that for me.

So here’s the breakdown that I have for the Lions’ final five games:

Tennessee – Loss (14-31)
Minnesota – Loss (17-21)
at Indianapolis – Loss (14-28)
New Orleans – Loss (14-35)
at Green Bay – Win (21-20)

Pandemonium in Hoboken

In the famous words of Matt Fitzsimmons that was heard during the most watched telecast in Empire 8 TV history, there was “Pandemonium in Hoboken” last night as the Stevens Ducks knocked off the defending D-III Men’s Soccer Champions in Middlebury Panthers in dramatic penalty kicks fashion. The Ducks now proceed to face Amherst in the national semi-finals which are to be played December  5th in Greensboro, North Carolina and the final is played the following day at the same site.

For an in-depth recap of last night’s remarkable sectional final between two of the top-5 defenses in the country, go and read Rob Kulish’s recap on It just seems fitting where a Middlebury team that won it all last year despite scoring a goal in the Final Four (both games were scoreless ties from what I remember that went to PKs) lost their first NCAA game since 2006 on a scoreless tie. The Ducks scored only 1 goal in 220 minutes of playing time and still somehow managed to advance to the national semi-finals.

Hopefully I will be in North Carolina in two weeks and get to broadcast the Ducks game against Amherst but for those of you who are located on the campus of Stevens Institute of Technology and want to see yesterday’s game, it is available on SITTV’s website: (Men’s Soccer vs. Middlebury NCAA Sectional Final)

Sports and Politics: Do They Mix?

We have seen Congress intervene on Major League Baseball’s steroid policy and now Barack Obama is talking about using his influence to finally get rid of the hogwash that is the BCS system. The two ideas could not have been met with receptions from different ends on the spectrum.

The intervention by Congress was met by questions of skepticism and outrage that shouldn’t Congress be doing other things like improve the economy and figure out a way to bring our troops back home. Yet when Barack Obama suggested on Monday Night Football right before the election and on 60 Minutes last night that there should be a playoff in College Football, all hell broke loose and everybody thought it was a great idea.

So why the double standard? Don’t get me wrong, I have been a fan of Obama for President since 2004 when he first gave the speech at John Kerry’s convention but just notice the different that a likability factor or personality factor carries with a person or a body of people. Congress generally has low approval ratings and them trying to mess with America’s pasttime was not going to improve any matters. On the other hand, a well liked President-elect recently getting support of nearly 55% of the American electorate weights on a topic (sports) that politicans usually tend to stay away and he has rattled some sticks.

I certainly hope that college puts BS bowl system away and institutes some sort of playoff format to truly decide a national champion. Maybe this is the President who can cause change all across the board from health care to a vast majority of Americans to improved tax situations for the middle class and even a playoff system for the college football fan.

Conventional wisdmon is out the door with Obama in the White House, and your priorities don’t have to be listed in 1-2-3… they can be 1-1-1. Why not be able to tackle more than one issue at a time and be more efficient?

You’re witnessing history folks, and I have a feeling the next 4 to 8 years are going to be stuff that gets highlighted in history books for all to read when we’re gone.

Academy Soccer: Tradition Never Graduates

I attended the Academy soccer awards night last night and decided that I would put up the piece I submitted to the MasterMind Media about the group of guys and girls that I coached the past few months. They were truly a team in every sense of the word and while I may have teased them or pushed them at times,  I still gained a lot of respect for them with they way they work as a unit and have developed individually.

Although the Academy soccer team may not have had the greatest season in program history, the development of younger talent and establishment of camaraderie is unlike anything I have seen from an Academy team. I was part of the few students that lobbied the administration and the district for Academy’s first ever sports program and I have been a part of or have been following the team since its inception in the 2003 season.

When I first started assisting in coaching these young student-athletes, I really did not know what to expect. I had been removed from high school life for over three years and that certainly brings some change in the environment. However, these athletes were eager to learn in practice like I have never seen before. They were ready to learn and accept advice from each other and more importantly from a stranger most of them had never seen or even heard of before. Some were real easy to talk to because they would come seek your advice or just be around looking to discuss every other play while for others, it was a little more of a  daunting challenge but nothing insurmountable.

It is never an easy task to change the collective mindset of a team with 20+ bodies, but the learning environment helps. Coach McNulty long ago instilled the confidence and belief in me that individual talent can be beaten by a cooperative team effort any day of the week. That is one of the most visible trademarks of her teams and you can see from a mile away. She may not always have the most talented team but you know her coaching style is going to tap the most potential out of every player that steps into a game and in return the players soar to success that would not have been possible otherwise.

There have been Academy teams that relied solely on a couple of star players to carry the team then there has been a year dominated by 10 or 11 players from the same class year but this year was different. They had a few players with prior varsity experience, several more with competitive soccer experience but then there were those that joined the program with little to absolutely no experience. It’s never an easy task to play your first competitive form of soccer at the high school varsity level but it has been done before – I did it during the program’s first year along with a couple of my teammates.

There are moments during the course of a season that are similar to those in life. They have the potential of breeding leaders not only between the white lines on the soccer field but leaders of the next generation. Undersized, less experienced and even girls against boys, this team knows not to give up. There were plenty of opportunities for a team to pack it in when things were not going their way but that just does not happen here. It was vital for team leaders to rally the troops in the middle of the season and keep them working hard after each heart breaking loss. There will be games where the results will not come out in your favor but that does not mean the entire day was a waste – they rarely are at this age. The difference between the great teams and the rest of the pack is they take yesterday’s efforts and mistakes and incorporate them into a better tomorrow – into a more successful tomorrow.

They could have quit before the season was done but that is not way of Academy soccer. There may be different players year after year who wear the black and gold uniforms but tradition never graduates through the doors at the Academy.

My toughest loss in the two years that I played for the Eagles would have been a 1-0 loss to Highland Park in the GMC Tournament of 2004. We had previously lost to this team twice in the regular season by a combined score of 10-1. We were taught not to care what the score was in the regular season and believed we could keep up with the team step for step, play for play. It was probably the toughest one to swallow because that game seemed to be hardest we collectively played as a team even though we failed to capitalize on a couple of scoring opportunities. I know the motto has long been “next touch” for a while and apologizing for mistake is a big taboo around this year’s team but that was the one game I apologized to my teammates. It didn’t matter to me that I had made plenty of crucial saves in that made, stopped a penalty kick late in the second half to keep the game at 1-0. The one goal I did allow that game came off of a free kick just outside the box that had managed to roll past my fingers as I dove for the far corner.

I probably played the game of my life that Saturday – making saves that I had no right to make and stopping shots that would have gone in on any other day. However, that is what happens when there is a team chemistry built on confidence and trust. My backs knew they could come and talk in between plays to offer suggestions. The midfielders knew that if the goalkeeper was yelling, they would lend me an ear while continuing to focus on the defender. There are no individual feelings hurt during the game. You win and lose as a team. The standings following every game say whether Academy won or Academy lost. It doesn’t say the defenders lost the game, the forwards won the game or the goalkeepers forced the tie. Each and every result happens as a group.

We celebrated every victory with respect because we had come to a realization of what kind of dedication and hard work it took to get it but more importantly, we picked each other up after each and every heartbreaking loss. We took pride in the way we played and therefore personally took it upon ourselves after every loss personally and used it as motivation for the next practice, the next game.

It was one heck of an experience to work with the 23 people of the Academy varsity squad and I can only hope it was half as much of a learning experience for them as it was for me to be around them all year long. I was proud to be a part of this team this year and if opportunities allow, I would love to continue to help the program that has given me so much. I fully expect the returning letter winners from this year will continue to improve and push each other in the off season to improve the team full of plenty of young talents with a lot of potential.

As the seasons continue to come and go, let us never forget that no matter happens and no matter who is playing…

Tradition never graduates.