Indoor soccer, NFL follies, and a farewell to Hamm

Soccer Columnist

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Indoor soccer that plays like outdoor: The knock against most indoor soccer venues in the area is that they don't help players work on skills that help their outdoor game. With hockey style dasher boards and artificial carpets, these older complexes may make for higher scoring, but they can also lead to a higher incidence of injuries. More local teams, including several Striker youth teams have discovered an improved venue embodied in the new Schaumburg Sports Center, 1141 Irving Park Rd. This immense 100,000 square-foot multi-sport facility houses two larger than average rectangular soccer fields featuring the new style artificial grass (not carpet), outdoor field markings and full-size goals. With no dasher boards, players must now look to teammates to pass to. Balls out of play are re-started with a kick-in. Best of all, the facility is only 30 minutes away from Oak Park and River Forest! Would it be too much to hope that such a facility could be built within Oak Park and River Forest?
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Boring!  Were you like me, watching the San Diego Chargers play the New York Jets last weekend, and wishing for the soccer season to start soon? During the third quarter, I swear that during one drive alone, there must have been seven or eight penalty flags. And this from two playoff-quality teams. Ironically, the game came down to a duel of soccer-style field goal kickers. On a more exciting and alternative note, there was the FA Cup (English Football Association) on Fox Sports World where any soccer club in England, amateur or professional can challenge the big clubs for the opportunity to win the Cup. Watching Oldham Athletic, a second division team upset Manchester City 1-0 was more exciting than your average NFL game. Sort of like USC playing the Patriots. It got me thinking of this promotion-relegation concept that most soccer leagues use around the world: If you finish first or second during the season, you get promoted to the next higher league; conversely if you finish near the bottom, you get relegated to a lower division. If this draconian concept applied to our local teams, the Cubs, White Sox, Bears, Bulls and Blackhawks would be strictly minor league.
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Farewell Mia, you will be missed! With all the accolades recently given to Mia Hamm on her retirement from a glorious soccer career, allow me to pen a personal one. Like countless other young girls who have embraced youth soccer, Mia was a role model to my two daughters. Unlike many of the self-promoting "me" athletes of today's generation, Mia let her actions on and off the field do her talking. She played soccer with both style and grit, eschewing the limelight and preferring to give credit to her teammates for her legendary goal-scoring prowess. She refused to exploit her considerable beauty for commercial purposes (her famous "Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better" commercial with Michael Jordan promoted a sports drink, not cosmetics or shampoo), and she used her star power to help launch a professional women's league and improve the wages for Olympic and national team players. My youngest daughter was allowed to come into the 1999 US National Women's team locker room several years ago on her 9th birthday, and walked out with a soccer ball autographed by Mia and her legendary teammates. It was only recently, and with a touch of irony that we discovered that Mia's given name is the same as our oldest daughter's, Mariel. For me, the capper was that Mia had the good taste to marry a Chicago Cub!


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