Fans' View

Fans’ View: Saying goodbye

Photo: Staci Klemmer

As I have mentioned before, I had not thought of myself as a writer until PSP asked me to throw my thoughts out there and see what stuck. Until recently, I’ve had plenty of topics, and then things started to get a little more difficult. I mean, there’s only so much ranting I can do about parents ranting on the sidelines.

As I was pondering last month’s article, a wise man said, “Wait and see what comes to the surface after the game on Sunday.” That was the best idea ever. So I decided to try it again for this article.

It came to me. Saturday. After the final whistle blew, I wandered down to the corner near Section 111 and I waited.

As he walked across the pitch, it was weird because usually he’s coming from a different direction. It seemed strange to see him walking from the bench.

He came right over and signed my scarf. Yes, I’d bought each one of them, but the one from Saturday’s Houston game was special. This player’s name is on my jersey. It’s the first jersey I ever purchased with a player’s name on it. I worked hard to get it. I was told they don’t make goalkeeper jerseys for fans, so I had to call in a favor.

At this point many of you are thinking, “Suck it up, it’s professional sports, players get traded and moved all the time. They get benched, they get hurt, they do stupid things to get them kicked off the team.”

But for this soccer mom, who has never had a favorite player — not a Pele or Ronaldo or Girrard or Maradona — this was a defining moment.

When Danny Califf was traded in 2012, I looked at my husband and told him he had to tell our son. I was too chicken. His favorite player had been sent away, with no warning. I was upset because we never got to say goodbye, to let Danny know how much we appreciated him on and off the field. (He’s still the only player that consistently came over to 111 to greet the kids.)

I wasn’t taking the chance that I wouldn’t get to say goodbye to my favorite player. So I decided to be brave and go outside my normal self. I sent him a Tweet asking if he would come sign my scarf after the Houston game.

He replied “Yes”.

And so I waited — along with lots of other folks. I didn’t get the same easygoing guy who turned to hug me at the team dinner. I got a somber player who was all business. But at least I got the opportunity to lean in and tell him how I thought he was a class act for dealing with this uncertainty. I wanted him to know that fans appreciate how much he has grown over these past years.

Players may come and go. I may never have another player’s name on my jersey. I know I will continue to wear my MacMath jersey proudly, and I told him that.

Who knows? Maybe I’m being prematurely pessimistic. But I have to say, who of us could have handled the situation with as much grace and maturity as he has?

In the end, it wasn’t about the autograph. It was about saying thanks and au revoir, because I will see Zac again next season, even if its not in the blue and gold — or orange.


  1. Danny. Good guy. I see him all the time at YSC working with the little kids. Who knows maybe it is his aspiration to lead men/women on the field someday. Danny. Good guy.

  2. Wow and thank you !!!! Could not agree with you more !!!!

  3. Great stuff! It’s pretty much how i felt about Roger Torres last season, sitting behind me and the rest of section 103. I thought, I’d better get his signature while he’s still with us…

  4. My family and I live Michigan but are Philly sports fans. When Zac was drafted to the U. We couldnt have been more excited. We have watched him grow as a GK seen him plenty in Chicago and traveled to support him and the U.He is a class act guy. A role model to my kids and to myself for being grateful and respectful level headed young man.Any team would be lucky to have a guy like him. Thinking of you best wishes in your future where ever it may be. We support you Zac.

  5. I’ll root for the kid when he goes home to Orlando. Punt the ball to Kaka, kid.

  6. Formerseasonticketholder says:

    After what happened to Danny Califf I don’t get attached to players anymore. However I do appreciate your sentiment.

  7. Stacy – did you stay and talk to him a while? My daughter and I came down after a good long while – she was hoping other players would stop by and sign her jersey, but after 20 minutes or so we decided to make our way up to the corner where Zac was chatting. By that time, the crowd around him had thinned, but he was still gracious with my daughter as she stood patiently but quietly – she’s so shy it hurts – waiting for a chance. Zac noticed her and broke from his conversation for a moment to ask if she wanted an autograph. My rule for her is that no matter how shy or bashful she feels, she *better* say thank you to a player who takes the time to stop and give her an autograph.
    But then a funny thing happened. Zac thanked her before she could thank him. He thanked her for all the support and for being a fan. You could’ve knocked her over with a feather.
    I don’t think anybody would’ve been surprised if Zac – a 23 year old guy dealing with, effectively, being benched for the first time in his career was moody or snippy. But, publicly at least, he’s been the perfect teammate and handled it gracefully. Class act, all the way.

    • I didn’t stay long as there was a crowd growing. He came to me first. I am very mindful that there are a lot of folks who want autographs and I didn’t want to monopolize his time. I said what I wanted to say and left quickly.

      • So much for the edit button 🙂

        Anyway, I too appreciate how he has handled this whole situation. He was great on the KYW podcast a few weeks ago.

  8. Staci, thanks for that article. I know Zac is at a crossroads. But think about this avenue. Both Rais and Blake are Internationals featuring with their teams. The Union will need three keepers. I propose the Union loan out Blake to the NASL and use Zack as the backup. Pay him a little more. Rais will be with the team for a few years in which time Zac can learn more from the him.

  9. Great article; great replies. Class guy!

  10. Just wanted to say this article brought a tear to my eye. Zack is the most stand up guy I know. Always has a heart of gold! 🙂

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