Recently, in conversation with a friend whose younger years were not spent obsessed with an inflatable ball likely hand-stitched by someone half a world away and half my age, I slipped into a reminiscent profession of my love for the beautiful game, and what I missed so much about it. More importantly, I found myself defending why I can be such an unforgivable snob when it comes to playing casual, recreational soccer. The analogy that came to mind was music. After all, when everything comes together just right...a perfect through-ball, the deftest of touches to fool a defense, or simply calming possession play...it feels like music. Now, I realize this may come across as merely putting a fresh coat of paint on truths we're all well aware of, but I think perspective matters. It's no enigma that athletes in any sport seek out other talent and strive to play with the best team they can. The simplest objective in any game is to win, so we might as well give ourselves the best chance to do so. It's probably even safe to say that playing alongside more talented teammates can make you a better player. But let's be honest, at this point in my life, my best playing days are far behind me, and I personally am not one to take the rec. league standings all that close to heart. So if all that's true, why not just strap on my boots and grab a hat-trick each weekend in the local pub league?
Well, firstly because I probably couldn't, let alone want to. But here's where the analogy came clear to me. I would never fault a musician for wanting to surround his or herself with others of their own caliber. You can't exactly expect a novice guitar player to slip into beautifully complex harmonies while you're jamming, or chime in with a nasty little solo when you set him up for it. But man, isn't it a glorious thing when that does happen? Try imagining Led Zeppelin without Jimmy Page or Robert Plant, Simon without the Garfunkel, or even Mick Jagger without Keith Richards...chemistry, harmony is what made them the unforgettable artists we love today.
There's a reason the words teamwork and harmony are considered synonyms. For example, Barcelona has become one of the most popular clubs in the world throughout their recent string of dominance, but not simply due to their success. They are so loved because when Messi, Xavi, and Iniesta combine, it brings music to our eyes.
Soccer was never just about winning to me; it was about making music. Granted, my music likely more closely resembled a middle school jam band than U2 or the Rolling Stones, but I could feel the music, and that's what I loved and miss so much about the game. I'm of course not too much of a snob to jump in a casual pickup game, but sometimes I just wanna play with some folks that can make music on the pitch.
To all those I had the chance to play with in the past: thanks for the music.