Analysis

Losing streaks and love triangles

Photo: Marjorie Elzey

Did you ever read one of those stories about a guy who lived a boring and normal life, with the exception that he had a second family in a town down the road? They’re almost inconceivable: some otherwise unspectacular man with an entirely different life and an entirely different life – houses, mortgages, kids, etc – just an hour away?

Did you ever wonder how he did it? The logistics seem difficult enough, not to mention that super minor requirement for incessant lying and gaslighting.

Did you ever wonder how the one family never found out about the other? Eventually it all crumbles, right? It has to… right?

This kind of thing is apparently common enough to warrant articles like this one – there was even a family like this in my hometown allegedly.

The emotional drain behind keeping things afloat is something that always stuck with me. Maybe that’s why I think it might have a corollary with the Union’s current struggles.

A love triangle, in brief moments

The season started flat for the Union, a draw against Columbus and two home losses to Miami and New York City.

The marriage was fine, but maybe lost a little of its spark after the second kid and the responsibility of it all.

In Champion’s League play however, the team were humming: knocking out perennial power Saprissa and humiliating Atlanta in spectacular fashion – in front of their home crowd no less.

Every week he would travel for work, something he enjoyed for the adventure of it. The trips were never far from home, and after a while he started to regularly spend time with a colleague at his remote site. First it was for a drink after a long day, then more. Then too much more – but it was breathlessly exciting.

Then the Union took a break from international play to focus on the league, never regaining their 2020 form, but also hovering right around a Top 4 finish – something Union fans would have been ecstatic about just a year or two prior.

He knew it needed to stop so he decided to take a few months off from travel – he was in charge of the division and it was his choice anyway. So he didn’t call, didn’t text, forwarded her emails to Spam. She was just too much of a distraction and was pulling him away from his family, his wife, from everything he knew. His marriage was fine, he told himself, everything he had ever hoped for.

Finally the Boys in Blue took their long-awaited trip to Mexico to re-enter the regional competition, only to come away empty-handed and lamenting what might have been. When they got home, they were already in a slump which was then magnified into a fully-formed hangover. Neither their domestic nor their international campaigns were going in the right direction, and some of their players seemed unhappy – something that had been a rarity in recent years.

He caved – scheduled another trip, opened lines of communication, crossed the line again. Cold-turkey wasn’t working, he missed the thrill. But if he was honest with himself, the thrill wasn’t the same thrill it was before. There was too much at stake now, too much truth inside the lie. The new routine just wasn’t quite as enticing as the old routine and even worse, his fling on the side wasn’t really a fling anymore – he was about to be a father again.

Hyperbolic? Surely, but stay with me.

Being your best self

Double-Dad never planned on having two families. Little indiscretions didn’t seem to matter until the totality of the scene unfolded before him, an irreversible landscape. So, he kept on going, and going, and going,… the definition of insanity, hoping one or the other of the situations would work themselves out – whatever that means. If he could just make it to graduation…

Except that’s not how it works, there aren’t any easy outs when the future of your family(s) is at stake.

The Union tried their best to plan for their two-competition flirtation, knowing full well that focusing on one might mean ignoring the other. The problem was that they managed their two families in much the same way, ignoring the obvious issues in each one in hopes they would be so insignificant as to not matter in the end. If they could just get out of the semifinals or slip into the playoffs…

But that’s not how it works in soccer either. There aren’t any easy games when you’re not the underdog anymore or when you’re playing internationally.

It seems unlikely the Double-Dad was the best version of himself with both families all the time. It seems more likely that he was never quite himself, always distracted or distant, always on guard.

In the same way, the Union haven’t quite been themselves, always a step slow, never quite as focused as they were the year before. Even their best players seemed to not quite be all-in.

Being one’s best for two people, for two competitions, isn’t as easy as one might think.

The wisdom of Ron Swanson

As the famous Parks and Rec character Ron Swanson once said, “Never half-ass two things. Whole-ass one thing.”

This is solid advice, and easy for readers to understand with respect to Double-Dad: man up, do the right thing, <insert honesty metaphor here>.

It’s less straight forward for fans to understand about the Union’s problems: it’s a soccer game, get your best eleven out there and go try and win it. And yet, the Union aren’t alone in their struggles to succeed in simultaneous competitions. Even the giants of Europe regularly mention the difficulties. Domestically, where travel is significantly farther and budgets significantly reduced, the problems are magnified. Recent history says even the local greats have a hard time making this work.

The brilliant Matthew DeGeorge of the Delco Times summed it up nicely with this graphic:

The Union sit 5th in the East this morning, down 2-0 in the CCL.

Neither wife can quite figure out what’s wrong with their husband, but something’s off.

7 Comments

  1. el Pachyderm says:

    Interesting point of view and creativity. I appreciate the time and energy. It also resonates with degrees of truth.
    .
    The theme of the story makes me uncomfortable just thinking about. This is real and it happens. It is hard enough leading one familly let alone two.
    .
    But that’s just it, one thing I’ve learned about the psyche particularly as it relates to mal adapted behaviors, the ability to compartmentalize parses out the emotional drain.
    .
    You and I feel the sense of emotional drain. For the person leading the double life, it is often not emotionally draining at all. I lived a double life with alcohol for years. Wasn’t until I stopped that I actually realized the charade was exhausting.
    .
    If Union are drained because they tried to put their best foot forward in multiple ‘families’,in my opinion the General Manager and Manager are to blame for ill preparing the team or not putting more faith in young kids who have filled out the roster with more minutes, only to double back and start picking up ‘reserve’ players as the summer wore on then not actually having them take part in the key matches.
    .
    Frankly I think the entirety of both families is a quite dysfunctional right now as evidenced by abysmal play, and maybe Double Dad is down at Risque getting lap dances every night to effort away it all.

    • Chris Gibbons says:

      I appreciate your honesty, Pachy. I’m glad to know you’re OK.

      In a lot of these stories, the parents name the kids the same thing in both families so it’s easier to keep everything straight. I think there’s something to that too in keeping the same lineups and players in both cases: it’s hard enough to manage one team, let alone two.

      But you’re right, there is blame to go around at more than one level. In the end, it might have made more sense to play two squads a la Ilsinho’s Shaktar days: a domestic side of Ukranians and a European side of Brazlians.

      • Mr. Gibbons, please read Hope Soul’s autobiography. Start of your article, I thought you had. Your comment here is also very funny-read about her dad’s tattoo.
        UnionGoal

  2. everything said is true

    which is why itll be so “thats so union” when we beat america 4-0

  3. We are going to find out whether the kids are ready to play tomorrow.
    .
    The international absences have been projectable since last February, so the technical staff has had preparation for tomorrow on its mind at least that long.

    .

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