Thoughts from Dr. Joe: The beautiful game

I never played soccer. As a kid I boxed and played hoops and stickball. I just didn't see the big hoopla, nor did I understand the rationale as to why soccer aficionados call it "the beautiful game."

However, for the past two years I've begun to develop an appreciation for the game and through the tutelage of my buddies Don Sheppard, John Baxter, Jack McKenzie and Marco Quezada, I've begun to realize, there is a distinct Zen to soccer. If I could just crack the mystery of the Zen, I would find enlightenment.

I have a curious nature and I am drawn not to the overt essence of things but to the metaphysical quintessence of why the passions of the masses find such exalted exhilaration in the mere kicking of a round ball. It's "The ballet of the people."

Through the fervor of Marco Quezada my appreciation for soccer has evolved. I have gotten to know Marco quite well and through his eyes I see a game that makes me wish I had played.

I have always believed that a vitalized person vitalizes those around them. Such an individual is the tonic that enhances society. They become the benchmark, awakening us to the potential of the power of passion, and drive the great ambitions of life. Marco is such an individual; he gets you to take notice and is the catalyst that prompts others into the passions of life.

Do we all seek the meaning of life? Maybe what we seek is not the meaning of life but the experience of being alive. Marco has transcended the void and through his eyes I am able to see, but not understand, why soccer fuels the passions of those who believe it's a beautiful game.

During the dark times of the week when Penelope's is closed, I often find a quiet respite at Starbucks, to work on my book, read, or chat with friends. Occasionally, Marco will stop by for a cup of coffee and invariably our conversation will delve deeply into the Zen of soccer. His affability is most welcoming and with a patient demeanor Marco takes me closer to understanding that football is not football; soccer is football. I'm not sure I will ever get it, because from my perspective, football is football, and soccer is soccer!

I once saw the following unattributed quote on a pamphlet handed out at a professional soccer match: "Some people believe football is a matter of life and death. Football is much, much more important than that."

Marco, a former American Youth Soccer Organization commissioner, has an altruistic spirit. He has dedicated himself toward developing the community by developing kids.

"There are many kids who need attention," he said. "So I volunteered, raised my hand and said I will get involved." With two soccer balls, a gregarious personality and certain intuitiveness into the psyche of children his efforts have been indispensable in promoting soccer and making a difference throughout the foothill communities.

"Just as much as I am needed, I need. I need to feel that the kids are gaining from my labors," he said. "In order to raise yourself in life, you have to raise others and I hope that I can be an example, showing kids the importance of giving back to the community."

After numerous conversations with Marco I was still confused about the Zen of soccer. As I attempted to finish this write and struggled for insight, my little friend Cassy Quering suddenly appeared as though the soccer gods had sent her. Since she is a soccer zealot I asked, "Cassy, what's the Zen of soccer?" She looked puzzled and said, "The what of soccer?" "The Zen," I said. "OK, why do you love soccer so much?"

She broke out in a broad grin and exclaimed, "It's exciting!"

Fort Pitt, that's it! That's why it's called the beautiful game!

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