Wednesday, September 14, 2022

108 - The Lost Soccer Project

 I will be sharing a video at the bottom of this post, from 1998. This story begins four years earlier, though in 1994. I know, I have young readers. Some of you are 18 years old, and were not even alive in the 1990's. It's okay. This is my story and I am owning it. We'll find a way to deal with each other's different ages sometime later.

I made my first low budget feature film in the 1990's - shot in '97, it is listed as a 1999 film (Long Strange Trip, or The Writer, The Naked Girl, blah blah blah) because of the extra year it took to get it out in front of audiences. It's on Amazon. I keep being amazed that it still finds viewers (do they understand that the low budget means we had to shoot with an old 16mm camera that sometimes ate film, meaning we lost whole takes to a faulty film magazine?)

I was working on another project in the 90's though - actually I had a few other came-and-went projects. This one was a documentary. It was going to start as a book, inspired by George Plimpton's "Paper Lion."

Plimpton spent an NFL preseason training camp with the Detroit Lions, and wrote about it. It's a fascinating book. I wanted to replicate the concept with soccer.

But let's back up a little bit.

The USA hosted the 1994 world Cup. I loved everything about it. As an amateur socccer player myself, I couldn't get enough. Even better, the new league - MLS, or Major League Soccer - had announced a kick-off date in the Spring of 1995. Living in L.A. at the time, I was intrigued by the announcement of open tryouts for the league in L.A. that December. I started working out seriously. I wanted to be in my best shape. I knew I would not make it to an official professional roster, but I felt confident that I could go far enough to have something interesting to write about.

I was sure my George Plimpton moment was about to happen.

Then, about a month before the tryouts were to happen, MLS cancelled everything. The tryouts were called off. the league's debut was postponed by a full year, to Spring of 1996. It knocked the air out of my sails.

That next summer - 1995 - I moved back to my home town of Seattle.

As 1995 ended I felt a sense ot missed opportunity. I knew open tryouts were happening back in L.A. and I had no way of participating. The itch...ITCHED!

This is why, in March of 1996, when I saw a little notice in the local Seattle newspaper, that local lower-division team, Seattle Sounders, was having open tryouts that Saturday, I jumped at the chance. I didn't even know what to expect from it. It wasn't MLS, but as defending champions of what was then "The A-League," and still a month before MLS would kick-off, The Sounders were technically the top team in the country.

I wrote about this day as a Sounder here. I'm realize now that I'm repeating myself a little, so I'm moving on the video.

Two years after the Sounders tryout, the itch was still itching. My friend Smitty shot this little video of me during the 1998 World Cup.

By the way, one of the winners of that World Cup, French defender Frank Leboeuf, ended up on a field opposite me nearly a decade later. Then 40 years old, he was in L.A. studying acting, while playing recreationally for a team called Hollywood United. He shut me down pretty convincingly. Seemed to know every move I was going to make before I made it. Being shut down by a World Cup winner is one of my proudest moments in soccer.

As I sit here, nursing a slightly sprained ankle from playing recently, I realize it's time to shut up. No more nostalgia. The lost soccer project is relegated to that bin of history where so many lost creative projects go. 

Or is it?

Enjoy the video:

Peter Wick

September 14, 2022