Back during the summer I read Warren St. John's "Outcasts United: An American Town, a Refugee Team, and One Woman's Quest to Make a Difference." From the book's web site:
Outcasts United is the story of a refugee soccer team, a remarkable woman coach and a small southern town turned upside down by the process of refugee resettlement.
In the 1990s, that town, Clarkston, Georgia, became a resettlement center for refugees and a modern-day Ellis Island for scores of families from war zones in Liberia, Congo, Sudan, Iraq and Afghanistan. The town also became home to Luma Mufleh, an American-educated Jordanian woman who founded a youth soccer team to help keep Clarkston’s boys off the streets. These boys named themselves the Fugees -- short for refugees.
Outcasts United follows a pivotal season in the life of the Fugees, their families and their charismatic coach as they struggle to build new lives in a fading town overwhelmed by change. Theirs is a story about resilience in the face of extraordinary hardship, the power of one person to make a difference and the daunting challenge of creating community in a place where people seem to have so little in common.
I never played organized soccer, but I've had more interest in the sport as adult between following the World Cup and the boys each playing one or two seasons every year. The combination of the descriptions of youth soccer and the inspiring story of Luma doing whatever she can to make a difference in those kids lives makes for enjoyable reading.
Friday night the boys and I went to Midland’s 2nd playoff game (district championship). It was very similar to last week: early 13-0 lead, other team fights back to tie it up or take a small lead, but Midland eventually prevailed (link) while being aided in a big way by the opponent’s penalties.
Here are a few photos:
My buddy Madan is a Rams fan (he went to grad school in St. Louis), so we went together to the game Sunday at Ford Field. It was expected to be an epic battle between the 1-5 Lions (coming after their historic 0-16 season) and the 0-7 Rams (loser of 17 straight games). I was just hoping it would be a close game and that my Fantasy peeps would perform well (Kevin Smith and the Lions special teams/defense, the latter a bye-week pick-up chosen intentionally to help me care about the game). The game lived down to expectations as it was 3-2 Rams late in the first half. That’s when the first excitement came as the Rams scored a TD on fake field-goal and I got to see Madan get excited. The Rams ended up winning (link) and celebrated breaking their losing streak by dumping ice water on the coach (pretty sad when a win over the Lions is a cause for celebration). Also, my streak of consecutive weeks attending an NFL game was extended to 2 but is destined to end there. Here are a few photos:
Last weekend was our second-annual pilgrimage to Pittsburgh for a Steelers game. Lisa didn’t go this time because her back could do without the hours in the car, so her dad took her place. We drove over on Saturday, arriving in the late afternoon. We listened to the Vol/Crimson Tide game (link) on XM during the drive and then watched the disappointing ending at the hotel. We stayed at the SpringHill Suites Pittsburgh North Shore. It’s a nice hotel (the boys loved it because there was a Jacuzzi in the room), but you’re paying the big bucks for its location right down the street from the stadium. Last year (link) we also stayed downtown but on the other side of the river. I think we’ll probably save some cash and stay outside down during any future visits. We had dinner in the hotel, the boys went swimming, and then we followed the Michigan St./Iowa game (and its disappointing ending, link) on the web while watching Mythbusters.
Sunday morning we ate breakfast, checked out of the hotel, moved the car to a public lot, and then walked to the stadium. Here are a few photos:
The Steelers/Vikings game was a much better one (link) than the one we saw last year (meaningless game vs. the Browns, most notable event was the several minutes Ben spent on the turf before being removed on a stretcher). It was a low-scoring affair until the amazing 4th quarter which featured a fumble recovery returned for a TD by the Steelers followed immediately by a kick-return TD by the Vikings followed a few minutes later by a pick-6 by the Steelers that sealed the victory. The weather was beautiful (no clouds and warm, our necks and faces were sunburned). After the game we walked back to the car and then hit the road back to MI. Here are some more photos:
Here some video of the Carpenter boys from a week ago.
2nd Half: (Including Ethan hitting a lay-up from his knees at the 2:37 point)
The word around the league is that after finishing the season with two wins filling in as head coach, Tony will be looking for a new contract and a big pay bump next season...or a head coaching job elsewhere. ;-)
Here is some video of the Carpenter Street School Wildcats (2nd grade 4 on 4 basketball team).
Video from the 1st half:
Video from the 2nd half:
Video of Coach Herman's post-game pep talk:
Somewhere in the neighborhood of 35 folks showed up for the Super Bowl party Sunday night…friends from the neighborhood and church. With our Steelers on the verge of a 6th Super Bowl win, we were obviously very excited. Most folks hung out until halftime, and the Winters stayed with us until the end of the 3rd Q. By the middle of the 4th, it was just the three boys watching as the Cardinals took the lead while Lisa cleaned up upstairs. She came back down and heard the bad news…and then we watched the Steelers pull out the victory together. Here are some photos:
This afternoon Elliot had his first game in the 4 on 4 basketball league at the community center. He made 6 of his team's 7 baskets, and the game ended in a tie. His mom wasn't too impressed with his field goal percentage, though.
Here are a couple of low quality videos. He is # 2 in blue.