Hey...I Liked Eddie Too

As all y'all know, Real Salt Lake (or, for those who prefer to remember happier times, DC United) defender Eddie Pope will retire at the end of the 2007 season. Citing chronic physical pain, Pope will gut out what currently looks like a year of chronic psychic pain and humiliation before heading off into the sunset...no doubt with that same seemingly ambling, yet shockingly effective, pace that has made him one of the best defenders MLS has ever known.

I've always loved Pope as a player, in spite of every split-second, pants-shitting moment he had me convinced he was beat only to pull off a patented recovery and careful separation of the ball from the attacking player. His expression and body language so contrasted with my perception of the play in motion, that it's almost fair to say Eddie always knew he'd get the ball even when I didn't (I only say "almost" 'cause I'm pretty sure Eddie never once thought about me while defending - and thank god, 'cause that would be weird).

There's something in the tribute piece Michael Lewis wrote for MLSnet.com that gets at this mind-set I perceive. And, speaking from personal experience as a long-time and generally mediocre rec player, what Pope talks about in the quote below is precisely what helped me improve my game to the high end of mediocrity:

"At times you can look great and at times you can look bad, you can look horrible," he said. "But mentally you have to be strong enough to believe in yourself, to believe in your skills, no matter whether a coach thinks you're not any good or whether he thinks you're great...Hopefully, you are able to string together a lot of those good last games and to play well. When that bad one comes, and they usually do for every defender in the league, you take it with a grain of salt. More on, learn from your mistakes and get better."

The mind-set Pope describes should be pounded into the head of every kid playing the game. The key is to keep your head and keep at it.

Yessir. Eddie is a great player...I just didn't know he was a philosopher.

1 comment:

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