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Bricks, glass, soccer, life

Some jerk(s) threw two bricks through my car windows in Norristown early Sunday morning.

I woke around 3 a.m. to the sound of rapping at the front door of my friends Nina and Andrew’s house, where I’d spent the night after watching Philadelphia Union’s 1-0 win over New England on Saturday. Police sirens illuminated the curtains. I stumbled into my jeans and shoes, stepped outside into the cold, and found my rear windshield and driver’s side window shattered, courtesy of the two bricks sitting inside my car. Broken glass was everywhere.

It looked like what Jose Goncalves has done to the New England Revolution’s season.

Norristown has its share of bad neighborhoods, but Harding Boulevard isn’t one of them. Police told me there had been a rash of these incidents around town during the night.

It cost me $567 to replace those windows Monday at Safelite on Potshop Lane. As I drove the slick roads through the last of the falling snow Monday morning, the icy wind flowed through my missing window. I had planned on returning home before the storm Sunday night, so I hadn’t packed gloves, a hat or a scarf before driving up from the D.C. area, where I moved to from Philly a few years ago. I was exposed, and it was cold.

Revs manager Jay Heaps probably feels pretty similar.

He placed his trust in a player, making him the league’s second highest paid defender. In the end, he will end up having wasted a lot of money, hurting his own regular season, and questioning his original priorities.

All those predictions of New England as a dark horse conference title contender were predicated upon Goncalves, the 2013 MLS Defender of the Year, anchoring the back line. Without him, they’re just another team without a proven, go-to striker.

There are only a few plausible explanations for why Goncalves sat out New England’s second game of the year. None of them are good.

A week ago, Goncalves surrendered a goal in the game’s first two minutes on Opening Day, opening the floodgates for Houston’s stunning four-goal explosion.

Did Goncalves tank it? Was he sending a message? Probably. He made clear in the offseason that he was not happy with his contract after New England exercised their option to buy Goncalves from FC Sion, despite the fact that his reported $450,000 salary made him one of the league’s highest paid defenders.

A reliable source told me Saturday that Goncalves may be on his way out of New England. His team’s playoff hopes could go with him.

But maybe not. Stranger things have happened.

Take the rest of my surreal Sunday, for example.

That afternoon, my writers group got together at that same house in Norristown. We’ve all been friends since I met novelist P.D. Cacek (Trish, to us) eight years ago at the Bucks County Writers Room in Doylestown.

First, Robert Thompson spilled some news.

After years of trying to crack the young adult fiction market, he had about given up. A master artisan carpenter by trade, Robert had nearly sliced his fingers off in an accident two years ago and closed his business. He took a job with a construction company, but at 50 years old, even this trained martial artist had tired of the back-breaking work.

And here he was, telling us that he had not only sold his first novel, but he had sold three — a trilogy — to a publisher who called him out of the blue. As if that wasn’t enough, the publishers want another trilogy from him.

Separately, another group member, photographer and psychologist Steve Schechtman, told us his winter had been pretty dark, and he looked forward to spring. His niece had recently died after childbirth, he said. Someone said they were surprised that still happens. No, I said, I knew of someone who had died that way recently. Though I’d never met her, her death had followed me to sleep many nights, because I learned of it during my wife’s very risky pregnancy.

The more Steve talked, the more a stillness settled within me. Finally, I asked him when his niece had died. He said Dec. 7. I asked him what his niece’s name was. He said Jessie Miele.

I froze. I told him I thought I knew of her. Steve looked at me quizzically. Then I walked over to a computer to doublecheck, to make sure I remembered the name right. I did.

Yes, it was Jessie Miele, the beloved Philadelphia Union fan.

I walked back into the room. I know of her, I said. Everyone knows of her in the Philly soccer world, I said.  We (PSP) had donated money to a fund for her, I told him. People across the nation had donated money too, because they learned of her online through soccer media and social networking.

Steve couldn’t believe it. He had no idea. Sure, he had talked to his sister, Jessie’s mom, about Jessie and knew about the fund, but he didn’t know the reach and scope of it all.

He told us how she had named her son after the skateboarder, Natas Kaupas. How Jessie was born on Veterans Day and died on Pearl Harbor Day. How this other woman he knows at work got pregnant the same time as Jessie, and how strange and unfair it would feel when she came back from a maternity leave from which Jessie would never return.

And again, how he wished winter would end already.

We have one more snowfall, I said. But spring is coming. With it comes rebirth. Go take your camera and shoot some photos of it, Trish and I said. Death, birth, growth, decay, repeat. Creation and entropy. It happens every year. Steve smiled. He said he might just do it.

There were other things in that get-together that had bigger impacts than we would have expected, but they won’t mean as much if you didn’t know everyone there. This is a soccer publication, so this is as far as I’ll stretch this story here.

Those bricks probably shattered more than just my car windows, but that’s a recognition probably meant for another medium. We all left that Norristown house with something that had intangibly changed for the better. Life plays out in strange ways.

Maybe the Goncalves brick that shattered New England’s expectations will do the same. Spring is almost here. Anything is possible.

(This song popped up on the radio as I drove back from Safelite. First time I ever heard it on the radio, but if you play FIFA 14, you know it. Surreal.)

11 Comments

  1. I am reading this at work. I am crying.

    • Me too. Good thing I’m showing a video and my seniors can’t see me…

      Great story Dan – It made me think about the dark days at the end of Nowak – the destruction and now the rebirth. I see Spring in the first two games of the season and I like the view.

  2. Nice piece Dan. Keep fighting the good fight.

  3. May those who shattered your windows have the fleas of a thousand camels infest their crotch.

  4. Southside Johnny says:

    Wow. Dark days. An old friend of mine passed Saturday nite which dampened the lift I got from the match as well. Thanks for sharing. Poignant articles on a sports page…you guys are the best.

  5. Small world – but stay on top of it!!

  6. Great article Dan. My first year here, but very much enjoying the variety of this site.

  7. Wow, what an incredible story. The way that the day started made you want to forget it, but as it went on, it became clear that you wouldn’t ever forget it.

    It’s very much a cliche, but the only things that we’re guaranteed in life is a beginning and end. Everything in between is what we make of it.

    Great read. Thanks for sharing that part of your life, Dan.

    • Thanks for the nice comment, to you and everyone. I’m glad this column didn’t suck. It’s obviously not what we usually do here, but it was such a crazy weekend that I had to share it.

  8. You know, I was pretty tired when I wrote this, so I forgot what my original closing was going to be. So I’ll share it here.

    I finished the trip Monday afternoon by going to Reading Terminal Market and getting myself a roast pork sandwich from Tommy Dinic’s and cannolis from Termini Bros. They’ll be the last personal expenditures for a while, but they were worth it!

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