Enjoying my days off from work, spending time with Katie and her mom and Elwood, decorating for the holidays, and unwinding from a long year. Tomorrow, we host our annual Christmas gathering with friends.

Anthony Bourdain (1956 – 2018)

Anthony Bourdain was a significant voice of the past few decades as he showed us the world, reminding us we don’t have to be scared of people in other countries and that there is a whole world that it is our duty to see.

It’s wrong to call myself a fan of Anthony Bourdain. That overstates it. I read Kitchen Confidential and enjoyed it. When I watched one of his shows, I enjoyed it. But I didn’t seek his content out, I didn’t wait for news of new seasons or projects. But above all, I held jealousy of the career and life he had. It is a romantic way of life.

The vision of traveling the world to eat food and experience life around the world. I’ve been able to see many places around our world, and yet there remains a whole world that I haven’t seen yet. What I’ve done is a step more than most people, and those places I have seen have confirmed this famous quote by Bourdain.

If I am an advocate for anything, it is to move. As far as you can, as much as you can. Across the ocean, or simply across the river. Walk in someone else’s shoes or at least eat their food. It’s a plus for everybody.

Bourdain summarized himself perfectly and succinctly in his Twitter bio: Enthusiast. And that is a great way to put what I wish my life was. I dream of being a professional Enthusiast as he was. Not because I think it is an easy and happy life. I knew his life wasn’t, and today’s reading by and about him reinforced it. Even when I travel for at most 30 days a year, I face loneliness on the road. Sure I might go out with friends or coworkers, but at the end I go back to the empty hotel room and am left with myself. Bourdain says he spent 250 days a year on the road. That had to be lonely.

Hearing the news about his death was tough for me this morning. Recognizing that a voice which spoke uniquely has been struck silent, and the resulting silence, would echo for many. Add to that for it to be due to suicide is to force us to recognize that under what he displayed sat the darkness which affects so many, and for someone like him to succumb to it… well, it’s terrifying. He wasn’t someone down on his luck, exhausted from the fight merely to exist. He was struggling, with demons, with loneliness, possibly with mental illness.

As death has a tendency to do, it puts the person front and center of social media. Twitter, Facebook, Reddit; all of them were heavily centered on the death of a voice. And I let myself be swept along, reading posts, watching videos, and participating in conversations. One notable post, which I unfortunately did not save, highlighted something that was an underappreciated feature of Bourdain’s television work. He was one television show, if not the only show on right now, which focused heavily on convincing us we didn’t need to be afraid of other people in the world. It’s so common and so easy to be afraid of people in a foreign country if we’ve never been there or never seen what their lives are like. And Bourdain discovered, through the vehicle of food, that the world was big and amazing and he could show it to us one episode at a time.

In his showing us the world we also got to witness the evolution of his voice. I love the below quote. I initially shared it on Facebook, coming from EveryDayShouldBeSaturday.com:

He started off as a Hunter S. Thompson-quoting dude who might have tried a little too hard to show you his cigarette, the scotch in his hand, and his punk rock roots, all maybe compensating a little too much for a childhood that included trips to France to eat at La Pyramide, and an education that took him to Vassar. He ended up somewhere else completely: As a truly conscientious traveler, as one of the only men to really publicly examine his role in encouraging terrible behavior in the restaurant industry, as someone who began to understand that the truths of his stories were at best partial and happily highlighted the fakery of storytelling while still trying to expand its possibilities. To believe in it, and in the end tell a story that was human, and at its best, humane.

This quote is in context of a scene that many people lauded, Bourdain dove into what the American food chain Waffle House was. He didn’t try to bullshit about it, he didn’t wax poetically. He talked about it from the start as being a place that beautifully served food that is good for hangovers and serving blue collar people at 3am. In the video we get to witness him experiencing a pecan waffle, lathered in butter, and maple syrup. It’s no Michelin star restaurant, it’s normal food. And it’s delicious. He didn’t try to make us forget that the food we, regular people, could get tasted good.

I truly loved when I discovered his twitter bio was the infinitely evocative and simple descriptor: Enthusiast. That encapsulates my vision of him so perfectly. Food, people, the world–He was an enthusiast. The enthusiast. An example of this enthusiasm is captured beautifully in this Twitter thread about a chance encounter with Bourdain at a food festival:

The whole thread is a delightful retelling of having got to meet him, showing him and his fascination in hearing her talk about her home country. He was enthusiastic to learn more about it. And when he did eventually attend, he was enthusiastic about it. It is a wonderful snapshot of what it could be like to meet him.

I spent a bit of the day swimming through these stories. His stories. Experiencing a life cut short, but one which uniquely gave us plentiful echoes to experience after he is gone. He began his journey by writing a book about his time in kitchens. It’s his book, Kitchen Confidential, which holds a poignant quote that reaches full meaning today:

[When I die], I will decidedly not be regretting missed opportunities for a good time. My regrets will be more along the lines of a sad list of people hurt, people let down, assets wasted and advantages squandered.

Bourdain’s voice and personality, his zeal for life and the world, are gone from creating those new things for us. But there is a lot of him out there. His book, his Ecco press book imprint on which he published numerous books, his articles, his shows. He isn’t gone. Not yet at least. Not until the last of us turns off Netflix and Parts Unknown.

Who would you want to write your life story?

I already wrote it. And though I don’t really care about what people say about me when I’m gone, I guess Jerry Stahl would make an entertaining — if not necessarily flattering — story of the gruesome details.

Interview with the New York Times

Added 10 June 2018:

CNN and Anderson Cooper did a fantastic remembrance of Anthony.

Books I Intend to Read in 2018

By this point you’ve probably seen a social media post about tsundoku, a Japanese phrase for acquiring reading materials but letting them pile up in one’s home without reading them. I do this quite often. But, it’s less obvious for me since my reading material is almost exclusively digital on my Kindle.

The holiday season is especially when I am prone to picking up ebooks for future reading. I do a good bit of reading, but it’s never as much as I hope to read. And so my stack of books to read continues to grow. Let me share with you the most recent additions to my tsundoku.

I’ve been a fan of Brust’s for literal decades. I’ve read every book of his Jhereg series, and I continue to be a big fan of his work. This one was suggested to me by a friend who spotted his books on our shelves.

This one was brought to my attention by an article pointing out this book as a first ever book translated to English from Madagascar.

I tend, most days, to check Amazon’s Kindle books on sale. This one was on sale and it seemed pertinent to today’s current events.

This one was brought to my attention by Matt Colville, in one of his YouTube videos. It explores the linguistic impact on the archaelogy and translation of the ancient written Mayan language. It sounds absolutely fascinating.

This one was on the reading list by @PaulStamatiou, part of his year’s challenge to read more. I’m eager to give it a read.

Ray Dalio, one of the world’s most successful investors and entrepreneurs, shares the unconventional principles that he’s developed, refined, and used over the past forty years to create unique results in both life and business—and which any person or organization can adopt to help achieve their goals.


I came across a list of US History books from unique / non-standard perspectives and this one jumped out at me.

Isaacson is one of the best biographers of the modern day, here he takes a look into the life of the inimitable Da Vinci.

A notable book on several important book lists. I think I originally heard it when Bill Gates talked about it, but I’m not positive. It’s been on my reading list for a while.

It’s been on the reading list for far too long, but the recent movie The Darkest Hour has further reminded me I want to learn more about him and his life.

Another book that I’ve had and been meaning to read for a while. It seems like a fascinating historical look at a thing I know very little about.

America is going through some things right now and this book has been given a fair bit of press and great reviews as a commentary and exploration on some of what is going on these days.

This is only a small selection of the books on my Kindle sitting at 0% read. We’ll see how many of these I knock off before the end of 2018.

Looking Back Over 2014

Farewell and good riddance 2014. That could be my comments on the year in its entirety but that is slightly unfair. So, to help me to look back over this year, I downloaded my Twitter archive and reread every tweet I posted in 2014.

January

This tweet took on unimaginable significance given how this year progressed.

I’d been doing WhatTheCast for years with the same crew of guys, but our lives changed. We moved. Changed jobs. Grew. And life changed around us. And so we made the decision to end the show.

February

A simple tweet that just shared the link to my blog post where I discussed grief around the loss of my grandmother. In many ways 2014 was a truly brutal year for me. I lost my grandmother and my father, while Katie lost her grandmother and her aunt.

Kudos to House of Cards for providing one of the most powerful moments of television of 2014.

Reblogged from my Magic Twitter account, because I truly enjoyed visiting Valencia and our venue was spectacular. I did do a fair bit of wonderful travel this year, including Valencia, London, Nice, and more.

March

Of course one of the most stirring international political incidents of the year, we can’t review 2014 without realizing that Putin launched his gambit this year.

teaching

My sister and I have always been fairly close, but this year I feel like we grew closer and definitely utilized social media for communicating more.

This tweet came after I made (and killed) a presentation at work.

April

This year is definitely marked by the fact we’re now homeowners. This is the first tweet I made acknowledging the process and in fact it was the day we put the offer in on the house that we would eventually close and move into.

May

Professionally this year was very much about learning to be a manager. Ed Catmull’s book was my favorite of the year that related directly to business and being a manager.

While this year was marked by loss, it was also marked by new life. I added both a niece and a nephew to the family, and it just so happened the niece was born as I was already flying to Atlanta for work.

This tweet encapsulates my love of Android tweaking and the World Cup. A good capture of the year.

June

How I announced that we had officially closed on the house.

This habit of dad’s was actually brought up by my nephew at his memorial service. It was a very endearing habit of his to click like on every post.

Facial hair is a subtheme of the year, with this shaving mishap and then my Movember beard it proved a diverse facial hair year.

I got very excited for the World Cup and USA’s performance at it.

Evidence my wife loves me very much, when getting cable set up in the new house they had some problems. It so happened the US Men’s team played that evening. She demanded Comcast get us set up and they sent out a cherry picker to fix the cable wiring.

Another tweet which is all the more poignant at the year’s end.

One of the first real big lessons which showed me how much I have to learn about being a homeowner. I couldn’t figure out why the washer was rocking hysterically, it literally damaged the floor it was on. As I learned, it was basically working with the parking brake on.

July

I did a fair bit of disc golfing this year, far from enough though. This comes from the arrival of two friends who moved to Seattle. I’ll have to look to do more in 2015.

From my trip to London, a truly awful selfie. But, I regret nothing.

August

Watched and read a lot of awesome things this year, including classics.

While not a member of family, given his improv background and his general omnipresence for much of my life, his death hit me pretty hard.

The biggest social movement of the decade, if not my life, happened in front of me and online. I am one of the unaffected but it still shocks me to see things like this happen in today’s world, when we’re supposed to be so sophisticated and, well, better than this.

As I mentioned above, this year professionally is about learning to manage as my team at work expanded to 7 in 2014.

The World Cup definitely fanned the already burning flame for my love of soccer, but I had several days like this where the entire day was watching soccer from around the world.

September

Work brought me back into the iOS world with a work iPad.

I bought the tickets back in 2013 and finally I got the opportunity to see Neil live when he came to Seattle in September.

October

Yeah.

Turned 31.

My buddy Drew flew in for my birthday and we went to the Sounders match that weekend.

As I learn to be a photographer here’s four snaps from a camera safari one day with Drew.

November

See, facial hair.

Moving into and customizing the new house continues.

December

The Sounders lost the western conference finals to Los Angeles, who went on to win the MLS Cup.

I could have kept the beard but decided to shave it off for the time being. It might make a return, we’ll see.

Some snaps from Nice, France.

Picked up a bug in France, and came back to the States feeling like crud.

‘Tis the season!

After a bunch of flying, and also headaches on various flights, it feels very awesome to finally get Gold on United. It brings a handful of benefits which are good, such as lounge access, but also picking seats (including extra leg room) at the time of booking.

Adding to the new tech of the year, an Asus Zenwatch!


And there we are, caught up to today, that’s the end of the year via my Tweets.

My Podcast Line-Up

I do not have a long commute to work. It’s only roughly 20 minutes, as such I have become very focused on getting the most out of that time. Rather than subscribing to dozens of podcasts and picking episodes with interesting titles, I’ve settled on a line-up of five shows which I find to have high quality on almost all of their episodes.


Serial

serialpodcast.org – New episodes every Thursday

Serial is the podcast everyone is talking about. It’s produced by the same people behind This American Life and, according to Wall Street Journal, “[i]t’s quickly become the most popular podcast in the world, according to Apple, and the fastest to reach 5 million downloads and streams in iTunes history. “Serial” is the top podcast in the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and Australia, and in the top 10 in Germany, South Africa and India.”

This first season focuses on the story of Adnan Syed, who was convicted of murder 15 years ago. But was he guilty? That’s the question Sarah Koenig, the host and producer, is endeavoring to get to the bottom of. We’re now (as of this post) 8 episodes in and I still haven’t firmly formed my own opinion.

Serial tends to run 30 minutes per episode and it moves quick, often I’ll sit in the car if my commute finishes before the episode is over.


Freakonomics

Freakonomicsfreakonomics.com – New episodes every Thursday

There was a time where this was my favorite podcast and I never missed an episode. Recently I’ve been let down by their episodes. Most notably was their Halloween episode about the economics of vampires. Info-tainment is a careful balance between actual knowledge and soft entertainment wrapping around it, and I feel they’ve slipped more towards the entertaining.

That said, they are still a core podcast for me. In the coming month or two though, if nothing changes, they may fall off my podcast roster.


Hardcore History

Hardcore Historydancarlin.com/hardcore-history-series/ – A new episode roughly every 3 months

Hardcore History has been around for years but it only came to my attention a few months ago, specifically it was his series he did that talked about Genghis Khan called, punnily-enough, “The Wrath of Khans.” He did five episodes amounting to more than eight hours of content that discuss Genghis Khan and his life as the emperor over much of Asia.

Hardcore History is different than most podcasts. The first difference is that Dan Carlin puts out 4-5 episodes per year. They are less podcast and more audiobook. Which is something he takes to heart. The last few episodes are still available for free but at a certain point they stop being freely available and are instead up for sale. Note, we aren’t talking weeks, we’re talking years.


This American Life

This American Lifethisamericanlife.org/podcast – New episodes every Friday

Notably the only radio broadcast podcast in my line-up, This American Life is quality radio and podcasting. Good storytelling every week from around the country. There really isn’t much to say other than I find their story telling and show quality to be top notch which brings me back week after week.


99% Invisible

99% Invisible99percentinvisible.org – New episodes every Tuesday

In their words, “99% Invisible is a tiny radio show about design, architecture & the 99% invisible activity that shapes our world.” It’s proven reliably fascinating and fun to listen to. This is the newest addition to my podcast line-up.

Design is something I’ve always enjoyed, whether industrial design, or the aesthetics of something. This podcast looks at these things, provides history behind it, and talks about it. They did an episode about the Ouija board (Ouija boards are made by Hasbro, the parent-company of my employer Wizards of the Coast) which I found fascinating. Hearing the history behind “talking boards” and the design of them was a really interesting show.


And there you have it. The five podcasts I listen to every week. I should note that while I do listen to some Magic: The Gathering podcasts, there isn’t one I listen to every episode of.

Words For My Father

Three stories I shared about my dad during his memorial service on October 11, 2014.

This weekend I spoke at my father’s memorial.

He passed away three days before turning 73, after a seven year war with cancer where he won three separate battles. Below is the text I wrote for his memorial. A recording of the service won’t match this verbatim, as I followed the outline and spoke freely except when things would get tough. I did my best to keep it light and fun, only turning serious and mournful at the end.


Good morning.

Many here watched me grow up, but for those of you who didn’t, my name is Patrick. But to dad I was more often Paddy. Or son. Or honey. Or sweetie. Or once or twice I was even Chester, which was the dog’s name. He had many names for each of his kids, but all of them conveyed one important thing: love.

My dad loved his family. He loved us more than anything else in the world. He loved us so much that much of my childhood is filled with memories of him bragging on me and my siblings to friends, customers, and strangers in the line at the grocery store. Anyone who would listen was subjected to these stories.

This habit of his was only slightly mortifying to a gawky teenage boy. And so, with that in mind, I stand up here to accomplish two things:

1) exact just a little bit of revenge on my father by sharing stories of his life, and

2) make us all smile and laugh a little as I share.

Dad would have loved to be here to see all his friends and family gathered together. It seems like that is said for every memorial but I know it’s the most true it ever has been here today. He would have loved to catch up and hear about what everyone was up to, and of course brag on each of his kids and grandkids.

Dad loved being involved in anything his kids did. For me that ranged from church choir to scouting to watching me play football. Dad felt football was a great teacher of resilience, teaching me to get back up after life knocks me down.

I was a sophomore at Edgewater and practicing with the JV squad after school when the coach came around asking if anyone “knows who that guy is in the bleachers?” We all turn around to look and there’s my dad. He had finished up work early and was just enjoying the Florida sun, the Orlando Sentinel (something he read cover to cover each day), and most of all his son’s football practice.

Coach Campana was quite upset by this spy in the stands. He clearly thought a competing school was doing some scouting. You have to understand doing that was tantamount to a declaration of war. So, he was visibly upset trying to figure out if we were under siege.

And so, slightly embarrassed to have stirred up this ruckus, I had to raise my hand and say, “That’s my dad sir.” I don’t know what I expected, I think I expected it to be something that would lead to me running laps or something. I’m not sure why. But the truth is that once the mystery was solved it wasn’t a thing at all.

So after practice, I told dad about what his appearance stirred up, and he just laughed and laughed. He loved that story. And as I think back I honestly can’t think of another parent who came and watched the team practice, just dad.

As I said at the beginning, dad never left anyone in doubt of where they stood. His kids and grandkids all got asked an important question, to which there was only one correct answer.

He loved to ask “Who loves you?” To which the correct answer was only “You do!”

But kids being kids, most of us discovered another game we could play, sometimes to exasperating levels for dad I’m sure. He’d ask us “Who loves you?” And we’d name anyone, everyone, and everything except him.

Mommy does.

Sister does.

God does.

The president does.

The dog does.

On and on we’d go. But he was persistent. You weren’t free to go until you said the all important, “You do.”

This was just one of the ways he made sure you could never doubt… never question… his love for you. For us. For me.

Another feature of dad was his keen engineering mind. He was always curious how things worked. He loved marvels of engineering and space, both were endlessly fascinating to him. He loved to explain how things worked, he loved to teach. I’ll tell you a story of one of his more unusual venues for a lesson I learned.

In 1988, when I was five, the family took a trip to Colorado for skiing. Being five years old I was old enough to believe I could do anything grown-ups could. Including ski.

Now, dad made sure both Charlotte and I took ski lessons and and then once we had mastered not falling down on the bunny slope through careful use of the all important snow plow, dad took me up on a green slope and after successfully making it down, I was handed between family members to keep me out of trouble. Dad… mom… my brothers.

My brothers, not to be dissuaded by being saddled with their five year old brother, decided that I was a good enough skier to join them on a slope more difficult than the beginner level “Green Circle.”

Now, for those of you who don’t go skiing, given the fact we’re here in Florida I am guessing there might be a few of you. Ski slope difficulties go bunny slope, Green Circle, Blue Square… Black Diamond.

Now, my brothers meant well, and knowing me I probably begged them to take me on a big boy slope. So when I tell you they took me up the mountain to a black diamond, don’t judge them too harshly.

I mean, I’m here today, I made it down in one piece. I knew enough to fall down quite frequently as a way to manage my speed. Get up, ski down, fall over, stop. And so on. And so we reached the bottom of the slope and I had survived.

Later, when my father learned that my excursion with my brothers had included this… experience. I think the only fitting word is that he was apoplectic.

As any good father would be.

BUT… and here’s the thing that is just so dad. Rather than let that experience just be what it was and admonish me to never do it again…

He took me AND Charlotte up to the slope again, and made us ski it again. So that he could show us how to do it properly.

Dad believed strongly in making sure his kids were prepared. Always prepared for what might come. And he wanted to make sure I knew how to handle a black diamond slope in case I should ever find myself at the top of a ski slope again whether by my, or my brothers doing.

I could go on and on with stories like this.

My dad’s legacy is in this family. He poured his soul into the family. He wasn’t perfect. But with those imperfections he loved us all and wanted nothing more than for us to love him and to love one another.

I visited with him just a few weeks before he passed and at the time he knew what none of the rest of us knew – he was dying. I wasn’t ready to accept it and I tried to convince him otherwise, but we ended up having the talk that only really happens in the movies. We talked as if it was our last conversation. Quietly, lovingly, holding hands. We got to have a closure he didn’t get when his father passed away.

He told me he was proud of me. He told me he was so excited for the family I’d eventually raise because he knew I’d be a good father and sad because he wouldn’t be around to see it. And of course he told me he loved me.

That conversation will stay with me for my entire life.

I don’t believe what he told me was unique, but that I think I was simply the recipient of the message from him. A message which is meant for the whole family.

He was proud of each of us. He was excited to see what the family would become, whether children of our own or just how it would grow. And he loved each and every one of us.

As if there was any doubt.

The Evil F-Word: Fine

Businesses have discovered that the less we move, the more they can market to us. Whether on our couch, on our phone, or in a theater, so long as we’re listening or watching their content then our wallets are open. Like slot machines, they have to keep pulling our levers and waiting to hit jackpot. Give them enough spins and they will hit. For this reason it is in their best interest to make sure we move as little as possible. If it means we all weight four hundred pounds and are more akin to sumo wrestlers—so be it.

In fact, I feel like as we are enveloped in a modern world which does everything to help us down the path to the dystopian Pixar-envisioned future in Wall-E. A future which seems all too scary to envision for the ease with which it could transpire. We’re already a Dr. Oz special away from drinking a slurry mixture for three meals-a-day.

Time for lunch, in a cup!

The truth is that it is very hard for marketers and businesses to make us truly happy. And they’ve discovered that it is much easier for them to manufacture happiness for us. The up beat music at the end of movies to convince you that you enjoyed what you just watched. The advertising campaign around convincing you that you find happiness in the bottom of a fry holder. The manufactured joy that comes with a shopping bag. It’s easier to convince us that what we’re feeling is happiness, simply because we can’t tell the difference. If I’m not in active pain, then I must be happy, right? I must be fine, right?

This future won’t arrive as part of a conscious decision to accept it. It isn’t a future being created by some super villain who is hatching a plot to ruin humanity through heart disease. No, it will arrive as we continue to take small steps towards comfort, accepting the comfort improvements as they come. Tiny offerings which drive our life to be unthinkingly “fine.”

Syndrome from Pixar's The Incredibles

In case you couldn’t tell, I have a serious problem with fine.

If you think of a scale of -10 to 10, -10 being “very bad” and 10 being “very good” then, to me, fine should occupy the space from 0.1 to 2. But life usually forces us to have it be -2 to 2. We’re fine when we’re acceptably bad. We’re fine when we aren’t happy, but aren’t bad enough to take action against whatever is making us that way. Markets go further and they mask what we might feel, or convince us that -2 is actually 0, or even 2. They convince us that where we are is good, and it’s easier to just believe them.

Happiness is, as my friend Joe put it recently, a choice. And the truth is that enduring happiness is more than that, it’s work. Either you work to accept the reality you’re given so that you can be happy, or you work to change your situation so that you are actively keeping yourself in your, yes I’ll say it, happy place.

This is my call to action for you all: Strive for a life that isn’t fine. Either be good or bad. Recognize where you are and if when asked how you are, your inclination is to answer with the F-word, then look around and figure out what you need to do to get to “good” even if that means going outside your comfort zone.

Society wants you to think you’re happy, but they want to do that by spoon feeding you endless amounts of fine and telling you it’s good. Smack society’s hand away and grab your knife and fork and cut off a slab of the steak that is true happiness. Continually work to get out of your comfort zone and never look back.

Life begins at the edge of your comfort zone

Why I Love the Un-American Football

I started this blog post literally months ago. And I’ve tried to write a similar post for the past two years only to abandon each of them. This one is the closest I’ve come to success, and I’ve soldiered on revising and editing and fact checking. With the World Cup happening, I believe now is the time for me to publish it.

It was at Georgia Tech in 2002 that I met David. We weren’t good friends, or even close friends really, but we did hang out from time to time and during those times I discovered David was ‘weird.’ Now, being ‘weird’ at Georgia Tech is saying something. It was (and most likely still is) largely a geek college with a heavily skewed male to female ratio. I mean, to be fair, I was weird at Georgia Tech too. But David was ‘weird’ because he was, well, he was a die hard soccer fan. Die hard despite lacking access to downloaded recordings of games or infinite satellite channels for European broadcasts. He had just grown to love the sport with what he had been able to catch and follow online over a decade ago. He was always checking ESPN’s soccer coverage website. Like I said, he was ‘weird.’

Of the things I regret in college, I regret not spending more time with David and not getting to know soccer through his eyes. He was an American kid who had fallen in love with a sport which was firmly entrenched as the least popular professional sport in America. Rather than learning to love the game through David, I took another path.

My education in soccer first started as a kid when I played on a YMCA team. I wasn’t good. My earliest experience was in an in-door soccer league in Kansas City. I have no real memories of it but I have heard a story which involves the mob of kids on the field chasing the ball and I eventually collapse on the ball and curl up over it, determined to defend the ball in the only way I know how. When viewed as an action by a four or five year old child, it’s adorable. So focus on that angle.

Soccer required an athleticism that I lacked such that I was often put on defense where the coach’s instruction was “stay near the corner of the box and keep the ball away from the goal.” Not a rousing coaching strategy but then it was YMCA. Combine my less-than-stellar soccer skills with television actively pushing me towards other sports which I could actually watch: (American) football, basketball, and baseball. Soccer was left in the dust. I grew up seeing it as a sport that kids played and adults elsewhere (not America) played and thus not something I should worry about. I mean, I wasn’t seeing a soccer player peddling a sugary drink.

Grant Hill and Sprite

And so it was all the way through college, despite a friend named David, until I returned to Orlando in 2005. During that time I reconnected with some childhood friends from church, a pair of Brazilian brothers named David and Daniel. They were members of my childhood church. David was two years my senior, and Daniel was four years my junior. I was in middle school for one year with David, and I can remember him playing soccer for my middle school’s soccer team. I don’t know I ever watched a game, but I remember him in the uniform and the team photo. I knew both of them much more from church youth group and choir.

It was with these brothers that I watched the 2006 World Cup in Germany. I contend that there is no greater event than gathering with a Brazilian family to watch World Cup soccer. It was a feast of food for every game and they were infinitely patient as they explained the rules of the game which I didn’t understand. I will always be thankful for that first spark that relit my love of soccer.

As a brief aside: I think I returned the favor. My contribution was to take them to Sci-Fi City in Orlando where they bought their first RPG dice sets, before we went on to play many wonderful games of D&D with them and some other friends. The older of the two brothers, David, passed away a few years ago and while the group continued to play D&D without him it wasn’t the same.

After the 2006 World Cup passed, my interest in soccer waned once again as the world around me turned away from soccer and back to those other popular American sports.

In 2009, tied to the fateful events which turned me down my current career path, I joined CoolStuffInc.com where my two bosses were both big soccer fans. When the 2010 World Cup rolled around we took our laptops down to the game store before it opened and watched the games on the television while we worked. And it was there my love of soccer was truly reignited. Again, I was swept up in the World Cup, and again I was educated by those who knew far more about the sport.

Again though, the World Cup left us, but this time the interest in the sport was buoyed. I began seeking it out by following some oversea teams. Though I was only casually interested, this time the barrier to entry was lower.

Television was changing. America was changing. The Internet was changing. And I had two new allies: one of my bosses and my fiancee. Katie, as it turns out, was a soccer fan as well so she was all too eager to share this love with me. As I grew to know more about soccer, as I began to find teams I liked, and as the world around me made soccer more accessible here in the states I began to find more and more to love for it.

Perhaps the most critical event of this timeline was just before Katie and I left Orlando. It was then that Orlando launched their NASL team (and now soon to be an MLS team featuring a famous player named Kaka) the Orlando City Soccer Club. Our first experience with them was at a friendly against Newcastle United. Katie and I were able to enjoy the excitement together and we were planning to buy season tickets for the next season were it not for the fateful opportunity that brought us to Seattle.

For those of you who don’t know, Seattle is home to the Seattle Sounders, an MLS club since 2010 (NASL team since 1974). And we are the only city in America to consistently draw European-level crowds for their soccer matches (2013 averaged 44,000 fans per home game.) Katie and I, as I said, had discovered the joy of watching and attending a soccer match while in Orlando and so we knew we had to check out the Sounders. We attended, I believe, two or maybe three games and watched others on television before we decided to order season tickets for the 2013-2014 season.

Sounders stadium

As much as the Sounders matches with Katie deserve credit for feeding the flame, the Internet and the changing landscape of American television deserve a great deal of credit too. The Internet has become an American soccer fan’s lifeline providing clips and full replays of games from leagues around the world, available with just a few clicks of a mouse. Watching them stream live or as recorded matches ripped from broadcasts. It is a common practice for me to acquire a match or two before a trip so I can watch them during a flight, I’ve found I prefer those matches to any other in-flight entertainment.

Additionally, the landscape of American television proper is changing. It is my belief that soccer in America was actively stymied by the proliferation of television and the rise of commercials. Soccer is not an easy sport to profit off of as a broadcast network. Where football, basketball, baseball, NASCAR, and any other sport has countless natural breaks where commercials can be run – soccer does not. And so for that reason networks, in search of profits during some previous decade, shunned soccer. Maybe this is unfair, or perhaps there is more at work than I am aware, but the logic makes perfect sense so I choose to believe it.

Now though, the world has changed. America is going through a soccer renaissance as MLS is on a growth spurt, and American networks are competing to broadcast more and more soccer. Those, combined with online access to games, and infinite clips on YouTube, makes soccer a very accessible sport for those getting into it.

So then why? Up to now I’ve walked you through my personal journey of how I fell in love with soccer, but I haven’t done anything to capture the why. Before I do so, let me first step into a discussion about what I think a few of the reasons are for why soccer has struggled in the United States.

I think part of the reason that soccer struggles is because our modern media machine has not been built to allow soccer to succeed. Television broadcasting relies on advertising deals for commercials and product ads, where NFL, NBA, MLB and other televised sports have many opportunities for commercial breaks (some initiated specifically for that purpose rather than used opportunistically)—soccer doesn’t allow for that. The game is two forty-five minute halves without stops. No chance for commercials, and thus not exactly the poster boy for profitability.

There is one thing which could force the broadcasters to eat this: public demand. And what brings public demand? National team success or the rise of a popular league. Neither of which has truly happened yet.

These issues are a chicken and an egg problem in today’s world. It is imperative for any professional sport that it not only get exposure but also the revenue from the coverage. With that coverage comes not only revenue but also the growth of a culture around the sport: kids watching and loving the sport’s stars. Lastly, this coverage is critical for also the reason of comparison against other sports. As a kid, why should I care about a sport I can’t watch on TV when instead I can follow Jordan and the Bulls, or Deion Sanders and the Falcons or Cowboys, or… someone relevant from baseball (Greg Maddux) or hockey (Wayne Gretzky.)

So, aside from the popularity, with the rise of attention that Americans give it around every World Cup there is still a problem of “stickiness.” It doesn’t grab Americans who aren’t indoctrinated in it. I contend one of the major reasons is the need for people to learn the sport beyond the base rules. Many people think soccer is slow, boring, or hard to follow.

The advantage other sports have that is that they are more “busy” than soccer. American Football is a multi-hour broadcast for less than an hour of active game play. Basketball’s last two minutes of action can take twenty-plus minutes. Baseball is a series of pitches which result sometimes in bursts of action. These sports are short easily processed chunks which create punctuations of action that make us believe that, on the whole, they are faster and more action packed than soccer. The difference is that there are nice and easy digestible bites of these sports. Whether the plays of football, or the shot-clock limited fast-paced action of basketball, these are benefits of short attention span because it lets you know for sure when a play or series of actions is complete.

Soccer is more like a marathon. The clock starts and runs without stop for forty-five minutes. You can’t stop and go to the bathroom without risking missing action unless a player is injured. And during this time, there’s no promise of a score, much to many American fans’ frustration. Games end 0-0 or maybe 1-0! Where’s the blow out? Where’s the double digit win?

Soccer’s continuously long period of motion creates a barrier to entry.

Next comes the lack of clear direction of attention. I sort of spoke to this above, but the trap of soccer is that following the ball is only part of what you should be watching. Soccer’s real beauty lies in the whole picture and not just what happens immediately around the ball. I’ll use the Seattle Sounders’ as an example, right now the Sounders have Nigerian Obafemi Martins and American Clint Dempsey as their star scorers with Clint leading the way. However to give either of them sole credit for their success thus far this season is a discredit to the other, and in fact the team as a whole.

Here’s a goal from the Sounders 2013 season, it’s Obafemi Martins who scores, but watch the passing that leads up to the goal:

So in that play you see a pass from Brad Evans (I can’t see clearly, but I think that’s who it is) to Obafemi, who immediately dishes it out to Andy Rose who is streaking up the side. It’s actually this run which is so crucial, without the run the three defenders around Obafemi would be focused solely on him, and thanks to the run they aren’t, which allows Obafemi to make the turn and get into position for Andy’s return pass before the score.

Now here’s another clip for you to watch:

What you see is Obafemi Martins streaking down the right side of the pitch, and doing so draws the Chivas defenders attention (as it should) we then see a pass to Mauro Rosales (now playing for Chivas funnily enough) who slips as he passes it on to Lamar Neagle who is left wide open because the defense has closed in on Obafemi and Mauro. Again, while the goal is exciting, it’s the movement leading up to the goal which is important.

Now for something a bit different, a defensive play that shows you the beauty of defense. A lightning quick foot move to stop an attack and then a tenacious defense.

Another shot from the World Cup which shows an amazing pass. It’s unlikely Guti, the player who makes the backwards pass, actually knew for sure a team mate was there but it shows the amazing team work where he felt confident a team mate would be in the area.

These aren’t plays which will convert non-soccer fans, but they are examples of the need to be watching more than just the ball.

So, now that I’ve just shown you the importance of not watching the ball – I’m not going to lie. Goals are amazing exclamation points, better than touchdowns, home runs, or three point shots. I mean sure, some are better than goals, but the best goals will defeat the best touchdowns in my opinion.

Alright, let me show you some amazing goals:

I could keep going. The fact that I can make those above embeds with only a few minutes of work is exactly what is going right for soccer now. Technology is opening up the world of soccer in new and Internet-friendly ways. The World Cup aside, it’s an exciting period.

MLS is growing quickly, they’ve announced their next four expansion teams in the next three years: Orlando (as mentioned above), NYC FC (a partnership between Manchester City and the New York Yankees), Miami (courtesy of David Beckham and LeBron James), and Atlanta (with the likes of Arthur Blank of the Atlanta Falcons). No other sports league in America is expanding like the MLS is right now.

In addition to these new teams, they announced a new landmark television deal with ESPN and FOX. This deal is exciting because the amount of money they’re talking about is actually more than NBC is paying for the English Premier League.

That’s exciting because it means that MLS is really starting to be taken serious by US broadcasters, and it also means that EPL is being broadcast in the US, and there is even more exciting news in that there is a deal for FOX to carry Bundesliga starting in 2015. My soccer excitement isn’t only because of the World Cup (though that is obviously part of it) but also because the years ahead are very exciting for fans of the sport.

Some may think I’ve strayed away from why and back to how, and that is understandable, except I haven’t. I’m still on why. I’m in love with the sport now because I have readily available access to it. Something which when I was in college wasn’t true.

There is another major factor which I shouldn’t overlook, though it is far from a conclusive one. Having a hometown team to cheer for is fantastic. Seattle’s love for the Sounders certainly plays part in why I love soccer. I love going to the matches and experiencing the atmosphere of it all. More so than going to a live basketball, baseball or football game, the soccer match experience is fantastic in Seattle.

As I write this latest revision to the blog post the United States Men’s team are on the verge of proceeding to the quarterfinals of the World Cup. The only time we have proceeded further was in 1930, when we placed third out of the eight teams that participated in the first ever World Cup. Interestingly, the first match we played during that tournament was a 3-0 win over Belgium.

Will we be able to overcome one of our most ancient of professional soccer foes? I suppose I’ll find out tomorrow. But regardless of how it ends up, I know I’m going to love to continue to watch the rest of the tournament (though I’ll love it more if I’m rooting for the good ole’ red, white, and blue.)

#IBELIEVEWEWILLWIN