Stories Of Americans Passionately At Play

"Sport, at its best, at its most human, is able to inspire an innocence and joy that is unique to each of us."
~ Richard Corman ~

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The Biggest Super Bowl Underdog. Ever.

It’s finally here: Super Bowl L, which at first glance seems smaller than Super Bowl XL…but bigger than Super Bowl M, tentatively scheduled for February of 2967.

If the Super Bowl franchise does indeed last for 1,000 years, it’s unlikely that there will ever be as big a mismatch as that about to take place in Santa Clara, CA. I speak, of course, of the NFL vs. the Santa Clara Youth Soccer League.

(Photo by Gary Reyes/ Bay Area News Group)

(Photo by Gary Reyes/ Bay Area News Group)

See, the fields that the soccer league call home are directly adjacent to Levi’s Stadium, the home of the San Francisco 49ers and the host site for this year’s Super Bowl. And they are state-of-the-art. So much so, in fact, that the EPL’s iconic Manchester United club asked if they could use the pristine turf as a training site during an exhibition tour last year.

Check that…I meant to say previously pristine turf.

For the past several weeks, that turf has not seen the light of day, as the fields have been requisitioned by the NFL to fulfill their “back of house” needs. What was once a bee-hive of youth and scholastic soccer is now the setting for a small pop-up industrial park, housing the security, production and media functions of the Big Game.

As any suburban homeowner could have predicted, the combination of no sunlight and trapped moisture from heavy El Nino rain has almost certainly killed the turf by now. The full extent of the damage won’t be known until the site’s breakdown is completed at the end of February. This much is sure, however: it will be months before the field is restored to its original condition. If that is indeed possible.

In preparation for the game, the NFL has indicated that, in addition to severely compromising the turf itself, they will need to dig up the sprinkler system and remove dugouts and fences. “Not to worry,” they’ve said. “We’ll put it back to just the way we found it.” Or vague words to that effect. They’ve even gone so far as to ensure that there will be no paving over of the playing fields. Imagine the relief.

As you might expect, the amateur soccer community is experiencing a Stage IV Freakout. They’ve sought redress via the courts, leading to the following headline: Youth Soccer League Sues NFL.

I don’t think I’m in the minority here when opining that this court battle is shaping up to be a mismatch. David vs. Goliath was a pre-fight pick ‘em by comparison. Angola a solid favorite against USA Basketball’s “Dream Team” in the ’92 Olympics.

On this side…6,000 displaced young soccer players and the parent-based volunteer support system that sustains the Santa Clara Youth Soccer League and other organizations for whom that field is the lifeblood of their sport.

On this side…a dozen or so guys in suits. With more money than God has tucked away in His Roth IRA.

The way I see it, the only chance the kids have is to successfully recruit a universally beloved and respected arbitrator to whom everyone involved will defer.

Get the Kardashians on the phone, stat.

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