|On Friday, October 23, 1998, twelve members of the
squad traveled to Pasadena, CA, to demonstrate the game at the Major
League Soccer (MLS) 1998 Championships. We left San Francisco at rush hour
and it took over
two hours just to get out of the San Francisco Bay Area. But spirits were
high as Brian Sarrazin, vice president of the
Rollersoccer International Federation
(RSIF) drove the rental van sometimes inch by inch up to the
Altamont Pass. We all laughed at the player biographies assembled at the
last moment. We snickered at one person whose Bio listed sex
as a major interest, and we hassled Brian for writing a very optimistic Bio
for himself, including phrases like:
"Brian is the epitome of balanced play ... his shots hit the
goal more often than not."
Yea, hit the goal and bounce off! ;-)
Well, at least he's willing to drive to and from LA.
We didn't really know what to expect. Zack Phillips, who
Soccer and is the RSIF president, told us that the MLS producers had
allowed us in at the last moment and that we were to have a small "footprint."
In other words, we were not to interfere with the event nor to make many
demands. We were essentially on probation and our success this year would
indicate whether we were invited back next year.
We pulled into the TravelLodge in Central Pasadena at about 1:30 am Saturday
morning. Zack had left early Friday morning to meet with Rollersoccer
Sponsor, Kappa, and to pick up the portable rink we'd use
to play on Saturday. He greeted us
with our room keys, wearing nothing but his undershorts and his bright green
soccer ball hairdoo (which you
can see if you click the hairdoo link to the left).
We divided up into rooms and tried to get some sleep.
It was a very warm night and we slept all night with the air conditioner on,
at least in our room.
The next day we got up, groggy and a bit disorganized. The
continental breakfast at the TravelLodge turned out to be
a gallon of milk, a plastic dispenser of cheerios, some Orange colored juice,
presumably originating from some kind of fruit, and coffee in a pot that
looked like it had never been cleaned. Some people skated to a corner
burger stand to buy breakfast, some braved the less-than-cheery O's, and
some left hungry. We all piled into the van at about 8:45 am and headed
for the Rose Bowl.
We arrived at about 9:00 am and started setting up. It took over an hour to
set up the rink (really just a string of low, canvas-covered foam borders held
velcro) and the goals (a cage made of 3/4 and 1/2 gavanized pipe and nylon
netting held on by dowels and string). Rollersoccer pick-up games are
played with traffic cones to mark the goals, so set-up time is about 20
seconds. After the set-up was complete, Brian mentioned how much of an
improvement the dowel and string technology was than previous approaches.
I guess goal technology is still evolving. ;-)
We set the rink up in Parking Lot B of the Rose Bowl. Perhaps ironically,
this was the handicap parking lot and our rink nicely framed a dozen
well-painted handicap markers. I scanned the team rosters and realized that
the team opposing mine had Kwame
Doug Goldfluss and Ezra
Alexandra Haines and
Gabe Effertz. It was a very
strong team wearing black shirts and blue shorts. I hoped the markers were
not forshadowing the day.
My team, in blue shirts and orange shorts, proved to be very competitive and
played with great intensity
and focus despite the heat and the strong offense of the black and blue
SkateBallers. We had Zack
and myself, Howard
We kept waiting for some kind of crowd to show up. Some people wanted to
play anyway, others wanted to wait for people to arrive. So, half the people
left to go get some food, water and snacks for the day while the remainder
skated and waited in the increasing heat of the morning. Just casual
skating left one sweating.
A few people noticed us, but the lot we were in was behind the exhibition
area. The exhibits consisted of a number of booths with information, free
givaways and concessions, plus a dozen or so soccer-related games. Most of
these were kick-for-accuracy games. The entire area occupied a field
adjacent the Rose Bowl. I think the organizers anticipated a much larger
crowd than actually arrived. It seemed like fewer than 100 people were at
the event at any given time. Alas, not only was there no advertising for
our demonstration game, but people couldn't see it from the exhibition
Our original plan was to stop playing by noon -- precious little playing
time for the effort and journey we undertook, but, we love the game.
We played anyway, because we'd come all this way to play and that's what we
wanted to do, whether anyone saw or not. We played an intense game while
one gentleman sat and watched. He was our entire audience. Few of us knew
it but he was actually a reporter from a magazine called
despite its name covers emerging and exotic activities. He had been
skeptical at first but soon realized that Rollersoccer is an exciting, real
sport with skilled players. The noon-day heat left us drenched in our shiny,
new nylon Kappa uniforms.
While we were playing, a film crew from ESPN taped us for
a while and then asked us to help them with an introduction to their
Worldwide Soccer TV program. They had us
skate around our
rink and stop right in front of their cameras, then we all shouted:
WORLDWIDE SOCCER IS COMING UP NEXT!
Then we returned to our game and played hard until we were all exhausted.
We took a long break while most of the SkateBallers went to the
exhibition area to try to promote our game and attract some viewers. While
they were there they learned that MLS player and 1994 World Cup star of the
U.S. team, Alexi Lalas, would be giving a soccer clinic at
1:30 pm, just when
we'd planned to play our next game. We realized that we wouldn't be able to
attract any viewers during the clinic, and several of our players wanted to
attend it, so the rest of us sat in the shade or practiced shots on goal.
When our players returned we were all ecstatic to learn that Alexi
had said he would come over and play with us. Minutes later there
he was, scruffy red beard and all. Ezra
Ekman graciously let Alexi borrow all his
equipment, and Alexi Lalas joined
the already powerful black and blue SkateBallers.
Zack asked Alexi if he'd ever been on inline skates before.
He said "No". He strapped them on and stumbled for a moment, then skated
rather skillfully around behind the rink and back. "You've never skated
before?" Someone asked. "Well, I've skated before -- I'm from Michigan,
it's a law, you know." He replied, smiling. His ice skating experience
was working well for him and he settled into inline skating almost immediately.
The we started playing, and Alexi showed amazing skill both in skating and
in his ball handling. He made a number of remarkable passes and fakes. He
scored three goals on me, despite my best efforts! He had several more
excellent shots on goal but I was able to defend against those. Alexi played
well with the black and blue -- they were very tough. My team
had mostly smaller but extremely motivated players.
We played a fierce defense against the black and blue onslaught starring
Alexi Lalas and Kwame
Jeffers, who was having an incredible
I think that Alexi wanted to try the game just to see what it was like,
and that he was more than pleasantly surprised. I'd might have expected him to
play for five or ten minutes and then to bow out. Actually, I didn't
expect him to come out at all. But he played for more than half an hour
and he really got into the game. It wasn't a situation where everyone was
ga-ga over playing with a bona-fide soccer star; rather, it was much more
like a pick-up game, where the game itself is what matters.
The whole time we played, a Goodyear Blimp circled above.
We wondered if they were filming us. We were the only thing happening at
the time in the area and they continued to circle during our entire game
with Alexi. As soon as we stopped playing with him the blimp went
elsewhere. We might never know if they actually knew we were playing with
Alexi, but it was fun to think they were taping us.
The play was intense and Alexi knew we weren't playing as if he were a
beginner. He knew we respected him as a soccer player and he showed us
some great moves. Fortunately we captured the entire game on Zack's video
camera. Playing with Alexi was certainly the high point of the trip for
me and it was great to meet him and talk with him. I really felt some kind
of connection with him and I was honored that he shook my hand and said he
had a great time playing. I congratulated him on his excellent play, "Hey,
you did great man! You scored three goals on me!"
"Yea, well, it was a slow day," he said, grinning.
He posed for a picture with us all and said it would be alright if Ezra posted
the picture on the Rollersoccer Web
site. He came off as just a guy, one of
us, someone who you could have pizza and beer with. It was refreshing.
He waved and left us, then promptly got into a car and left. There was
nothing else at the exhibition to keep him there.
Later that night we watched the video of the whole day's games and ooohed
and ahhhed at the shots and passes, the fakes and breaks, Doug's awesome head
shot strike from a throw-in and great saves by Ezra and I in opposite goals.
It was great fun to watch the game with Alexi Lalas and see his moves and
how well he played with his black and blue teammates. Keeton played his
heart out against the black and blue and we all smiled when he confronted
Alexi over a disputed charge of holding.
It had been a great day for the RSIF:
Our day ended very upbeat, after a somewhat disappointing beginning.
- Bikini Magazine would be writing about our sport
- We'd be appearing in the ESPN MLS '98 coverage
- We played a game of Rollersoccer with a great American soccer star,
The next day, Sunday, we all went out to breakfast and then attended the
MLS Championship Game at the Rose Bowl. The attendance was
about 61,000 and the
Chicago Fire won 2 to 0 over DC United.
MLS had given us all complimentary
tickets to the game and they were good seats too. We all wished we could
have played a Rollersoccer demonstration on Sunday. We knew people would
have loved to have seen it. Maybe next year.
During our stay in Pasadena we were joined by a woman named
Deva and her daughter Kalindi. Deva did
a fantastic job taping most of our game footage and young Kalindi
made a tough goalie during a practice game when some of the SkateBallers were
checking out the clinic. We dropped Deva and Kalindi off at their house
before we left LA.
Then we began the long trip back to San Francisco. There was a lot of laughing
and tickling, wrestling, and playing in the van. Kwame surprised everyone with
a backward flip in his seat to avoid a tickling rampage by Alex and Kim, with
the help of Keeton and Gabe. Kim paid the ultimate price in giggles when
Kwame sought his revenge. We got home at about
midnight, thanks to Brian's expert driving. All I can say is that Brian is
one of the most tolerant drivers I've ever encountered. If I'd have been
driving... I'd have been hoarse from shouting "Don't make me stop this van!
That's it! I'm slowing down... I'm stopping!" over and over and over again.
It had been a great weekend adventure, one I'll remember for a long time.
I wrote this while we drove back, while everything was fresh in my mind. I
brought my camera, but I didn't take many pictures. I was just too busy playingand participating. This log is my verbograph of the weekend,
read again when my memory fades. They say a picture is worth a thousand
words. Heres a few pictures worth.
Finally, on behalf of the SkateBallers, I want to thank
RSIF, Kappa and
Major League Soccer for making the trip possible.
I can't wait until next year!