Way back in the old, old days when it was stilled called “Late Night with David Letterman” and the show still featured regular visits by Chris Elliot, Brother Theodore, and other marginal characters, Dave used to go out into the audience once in a while for a segment called, “Brush With Greatness.” During this segment members of the studio audience would recount to Dave their chance meeting with a famous person. The stories of these encounters were invariably disappointing, the kind of things that today’s youth might respond to with, “Cool story, bro.” Dave would then present them with a gift certificate to a local restaurant or something and move on. With no Revolution match this weekend and no Ross County news to report on either, I thought I’d open the microphone for you to share your brushes with football-related greatness! I, of course, will get the ball rolling so that you don’t have to feel self-conscious.
I met Kristine, Tiffeny, Christie, and Sara (all USWNT players) when they were all members of the WUSA’s New York Power. Through a connection one of my player’s parents had with the team I was able to get my players positions as counselors during a week-long youth soccer camp- the Power players were the coaches during the camp. I found them all to be very down-to-earth and my players found them to be downright inspirational.
One of the schools I taught at rented out the campus to a summer soccer clinic and during the week that my players attended the camp their coach was SWNT goalkeeper Gemma Fay. Gemma, a goalkeeper, is still a mainstay of the national team at age 31, despite earning her first cap in 1998! As you might imagine, she is the most capped Scottish woman ever. The best part of meeting her was the look on her face when she realized, without our being introduced, that I knew who she was!
I met Ally and Garry (and got their autographs) on May 26, 1996 just prior to a USA v. Scotland friendly at Willow Brook Park, New Britian, CT. All I remember from this encounter is that they were both polite, but very, VERY intense. The USA won the match 2-0 if you’re interested!
There’s a pretty good chance that you’ve never heard of Danny McDonald (above), but that’s okay. Danny played over 200 times Caledonian Thistle F.C. in the Highland League, and a season or two in the SFL for the newly merged Inverness Caledonian Thistle F.C.. Danny’s career ended very prematurely through back-to-back major knee injuries after which he went into coaching, bouncing back and forth between Ross County F.C. and Inverness Caledonian Thistle F.C. (last I knew he was a youth coach for ICT). I met him when he was an assistant to Alex Smith (see below) and this is why I’ve included him in my brushes with “greatness”: As many of you may know my love affair with County started in 2002 when I spent two weeks at the club observing training, explaining the world of collegiate soccer to the members of the club’s ladies team, etc.. I met Danny on the first day. Once I had explained my presence in Dingwall he wanted to know if I was happy with my lodging (I was) and how was I getting back and forth to the park every day. I told him I was taking the bus and he told me this wouldn’t do. Every day from the second day on Danny, who lived in Inverness, would pick me up in downtown Inverness (“enemy territory”) in the Ross County F.C. mini-bus in the morning, and drop me back at night. Unless of course he’d invited me over to have dinner and watch a match at his home, which he did on several occasions. He also snuck me into a sold-out cup match at ICT’s Caledonian Stadium using his connections there, and gave me the RCFC “player issue” winter cap that I still wear every winter.
Very much the dean of Scottish coaches, Smith had a lengthy- if unspectacular- career as a player, but made his name as a coach, coaching several SNT age groups teams, as well as seven different club teams in Scotland. My initial meeting with him was a little chilly- an introduction, a handshake, and the look on his face, “Who is this bloke?” Cut to match day at the end of my two weeks at the club when, just prior to kick off, he dispatched one of his assistance up to my seat with a notebook containing diagrams and explanations of all of the club’s set plays, a home shirt, and a very nice personal note- I still have all of those things. Class act.
Okay, Bode is not a soccer player, but my meeting with him was soccer-related. During a year off between teaching jobs I moved back to my hometown, one thing led to another and I found myself playing men’s soccer with most of my high school teammates and my high school coach. One of our away games was up in the White Mountains, near Bode’s hometown of Easton. During the first half one of the a winger was barreling down the sideline with the ball and I noticed how far out ahead of himself he was dribbling the ball, so I timed it and nipped in to get the ball. The player sped up, but I had already gained the ball and to turned into the middle of the field. We made contact but I (thank you low center of gravity!) remained on my feet and continued on while he went cartwheeling into the air and landed in a heap. Much to my surprise both benches erupted, which I did not understand until halftime when my teammates told me, “That was Bode Miller!” To say the least, I was not expecting to find him playing in a men’s league match in rural NH only five months after competing in the Nagano Olympics! In the years since it has become clear that I should have been surprised at all- he’s…different. I should point out two other things before I close. First, Bode was super-nice during the post-match handshake, saying something along the lines of, “DUDE! You blew me up!” Second, having seen him close up at that point I realized that if I had it to do all over again I would have run the other way- in the best possible way he was a physical freak, like a person from a different planet.