Hallandale Beach Blog -A common sense public policy overview offering a critical perspective on the current events, politics, govt., public policy, sports scene and pop culture of the U.S., South Florida, Europe and Sweden. In particular, Broward & Miami-Dade County, and the cities of Hallandale Beach, Hollywood & Aventura. Trust me when I tell you, this part of Florida is NOT the Land of Lincoln. Pictured in upper-left is Hallandale Beach's iconic beachball-colored Water Tower on State Road A1A; September 2008 photo by me, South Beach Hoosier. © 2013 Hallandale Beach Blog, All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Insight into my varied soccer resume and "expertise," gleaned first-hand from the sidelines & seats watching Pelé, the NMB Chargers, Miami Toros, Ft. Lauderdale Strikers, Indiana Hoosiers and Premier League; Insightful observations and good questions from @TimothyJPratton on soccer development in the United States


@TimothyJPratt  My first story w/the Guardian asks: Are European giants exploiting US soccer or improving it?









Me, I'm the sort of soccer fan who got up very early last October to watch SkyTV's EARLY morning reporting, via my desktop, on the new English National Team football HQ at St George's Park, in Staffordshire.

The cameras literally showed the sun rising on beautiful-but-dewy empty pitches that Prince William later came by to offically christen.
So, yes, with that said, I think this article is very timely.

When I was a kid growing up in South Florida in the 1970's, my Mother worked as a secretary for Pavarini Construction as part of the Pavarini Gerrits team involved in constructing One Biscayne Tower on the corner of Flagler Street and Biscayne Blvd, the heart of what was Miami for most people I knew at the time.

One Biscayne Tower in Miami, 39 floors, 1973 Pavarini Construction, 
http://skyscrapercenter.com/miami/one-biscayne-tower/4008

That mammoth construction project was just across the street from where the office was located until the bldg. was finished in 1973, which at 39 stories, made it the largest building south of Atlanta until some time in the '90's, when I was already working up in D.C. area and not quite so aware of what new taller buildings were going up.

Their whole office could bring their families in late in the afternoon on New Years's Eve since one of the perks of that location was we could all watch the Orange Bowl Parade from their second floor balcony as it made the turn onto Flagler. That was back when NBC aired that LIVE every year across the country but the local NBC affiliate in Miami aired it the next morning, because they wanted bodies on the streets, not ratings, at the behest of the Miami business community and powers-that-be tried to put on a good face for the rest of the country.

Mr Stass had all sorts of pull and despite the great competition to get them, managed to get some tickets for the January 1975 Orange Bowl Game between Bear Bryant's Alabama squad and Notre Dame in Ara Parseghian's last game as Irish head coach. 
And he gave some of them to my Mom!
We sat in the East (open) End Zone of The Orange Bowl and we were surrounded by the extra Alabama cheerleaders, pep team, and marching band. 

For a big sports fan like me who'd grown-up watching Lindsey Nelson's ND highlight show on Sunday mornings in the fall, it was like heaven, since by then I'd already been going to U-M home games for years when Chuck Foreman and Burgess Owens played for some truly terrible U-M teams. Teams which drew so poorly that I'd often have that end zone all to myself.

Years later I often wondered whether one of the cheerleaders near me whose good looks and sweet Southern accent made me melt in my seat might've included Sela Ward.

In those days, Sela dated future Dolphin 'Killer B' defensive star Bob Baumhower. 
The romantic in me likes to imagine that Sela was sitting there, somewhere, in that row behind me, so I'd like to think that game was where I first heard and saw the wonderful Sela, whom I've admired and adored since first seeing her on the big screen in Chicago at the theatre at Water Tower in 1986's "Nothing in Common," starring Tom Hanks and Jackie GleasonIronically, a film set in Chicago. 

My mother's boss, Frank J, Stass was also a public policy, civic-minded type -back when Miami
had more of them them- who was always willing to do his part to help local Miami businesses.
When the NASL came to Miami as the Gatos, he bought some season tickets for the games at the Orange Bowl, for employees and they were excellent seats!
Right in the middle of the stadium and about 15 rows up, back when the Tampa Bay Rowdies and the Cosmos were their biggest and most bitter of rivals.

I first started going when they were the Gatos in 1971, as a ten-year old, and kept going after they were re-christened the Toros. Before the Robbies moved the Toros up to Fort Lauderdale and they become the Strikers, they played the Cosmos in Pele's first game in Miami his first year in the NASL.

For some reason that I don't quite recall, they played the game out on the VERY NICE soccer field out at FIU which later became the FIU football team's many, many years later once they got D-1 football and expanded the facility. 

(That was the best soccer field in South Florida outside of Lockhart Stadium, where my junior year at IU, 1982, we beat Duke there for the NCAA championship on the 2nd or 3rd day of my Christmas Break, which created an awesome scene back at the Yankee Trader Hotel hotel afterwards with all my close friends on the team -and their parents and the whole IU and Hoosier sports administrators, plus Indy media.)

Team photo of 1982 NCAA Champion Indiana Hoosiers coached by Jerry Yeagley

But for the Pele first match, the capacity was just over 10,000 and since we were season ticket holders of a sort, we got first dibs and I was even able to persuade my non-soccer loving father to come long. He'd come to some of my youth games once in a while but he was not someone who was a natural fan 

Yes, I think it's fair to say that from 1971 to 1976, there were few people in South Florida who 
attended more Miami Gatos/Toros NASL soccer games at the Orange Bowl than yours truly.

I witnessed all their great FEISTY and bitter games against their arch-rival Tampa Bay Rowdies back when that was the only pro team Tampa had, and their fans WOULD travel in droves and tailgate HERE. I even witnessed their heart-breaking loss on penalty kicks in the 1974 NASL title game at the Orange Bowl -televised by CBS- to the Los Angeles Aztecs. AFTER two over-times on a hot and humid afternoon! 

Somewhere, I still have the Toros game programs, esp. the ones that on the cover proclaimed Kyle Rote, Jr. of the Dallas Tornadoes as "the American Pelé." 
As many of you may recall, Rote was a tremendously talented player who understood his unique role as an ambassador for the sport, but even though I was a kid at the time, I thought that putting things like that on the cover of game programs was FAR TOO MUCH pressure for a kid just barely out of college!

Because of our location and demographics, I was fortunate to play for some very talented Optimist teams in North Miami Beach -after football and baseball season were over- that had a mix of styles and lots of telnted kids from lots of different countries, esp. Latin America.
After that,  was fortunate to go to North Miami Beach Senior High, a high school in South Florida with a great soccer reputation, despite it being only a few years old, thanks entirely to the devotion, dedication and hard work of our head coach Victor "Vic" Cappillo, who also drove the team bus to all points on the compass. 
(Coach Cappillo later wrote a letter of recommendation for me to IU.)

While I was still in eight-grade at JFK Junior High, with my personality, nose for news and media inclinations being roughly the same as they are now, just less developed, in part because I was already known to most of the players, and a friend to many, I persuaded Coach Cappillo to let me be the Team Manager, attending all home and away matches and handled calling the two Miami newspapers afterwards to drum up support in getting us some publicity.
And I was very successful.
But our great talent on the field certainly helped!

The following year, 1975-76, when I was a freshman, this good relationship continued and thanks to a historic Ciro Martinez-led last-second Charger win at arch-rival North Miami, a game whose last two minutes seemed to go in slo-motion, we eventually won the 1976 Florida high Scool soccer championship.
Days afterwards at a team dinner to honor the team and its supporters, I unexpectedly received a blue Varsity Letterman's jacket that quickly became my most valuable possession for years afterwards, despite how impractical a jacket is in NMB for most of the year because of the weather.
I'd wear that jacket every chance I had whenever it got under 50 degrees.

In 1977, with most of the team returning, one of our two arch-rivals, nearby Miami Norland Senior High School, inflicted a painful loss on the Chargers, knocking us out of the Florida state playoffs at Lockhart Stadium and ending our hope of winning back-to-back Florida state soccer championships. The Norland Vikings eventually finished as the state runner-up that year.

When Joe and Elizabeth Robbie relocated the team to Ft. Lauderdale and Lockhart Stadium for the 1977 season, much closer to my friends and I in North Miami Beach, we were ecstatic. The drive to Lockhart up I-95 was so much quicker, as we joined other "Striker Likers," eager to literally yell ourselves hoarse watching their exciting brand of soccer, esp, against the dreaded Rowdies and Cosmos! 
Oh, did we ever hate them!

(This happened to coincide with a time period when the Dolphins were less successful due to the reign of the Steelers and Raiders and the rise of the Bert Jones-led Baltimore Colts, so it was great to be able to cheer in-person at a home game and not have it be sarcastic.) 

When the NASL folded and then went indoor via the awful MISL, I never looked back at pro soccer teams in the U.S. because at the time it meant that my IU friends -and neighbors like Mike Hylla and Dave Boncek, who were always doing impressive skill and control drills in front of the swimming pool at out apt. complex- could never play for teams outdoors in their own country, as soccer was clearly intended to be played.

Even now, after all these years and all the effort they've put into trying to make it palatable, I've NEVER watched even one minute of the MLS on ESPN. 

To me, it's largely unwatchable, so I just stick to English Premier League games. 
I did go see some of the WUSA games, though, while I was in DC when Mia Hamm played for the Freedom.

I will be updating this post over the next few days, looking to include some photos.

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