When I moved to New York City for college, there was a list of things that I knew I would need to do to take full advantage of my time here in between classes and, you know, working my way toward being a half-decent, functioning human being in the post-undergraduate world. Along the way, various items have been added, put on hold, scrapped altogether or forgotten. One of the tasks I knew I needed to complete once I decided on staying in the city for the summer after my junior year was to join and play in a recreational city soccer league. After extensive research with the help of some people on the world wide web, I decided upon ZogSports as my league partly for its relatively reasonable entrance fee and also for its association with charities in and around the city (ZogSports requires teams to play in the honor of a charity of their choosing). After unsuccessfully trying to get a few of my friends to join with me, I went for it alone. I paid the bill and began the waiting game, hoping the almighty Zog would not stall too long before alerting me of my teammates.
Within three days, an email thread entered my inbox from a man named Stuart, who went over a few team formalities before informing us that we had been assigned the color purple for shirts; with that in mind, we had to concoct a team name. After a few attempts at comedy, both high and low, a girl named Cori said that her friend suggested Purple Rain as a way of embracing our unique team identity. Everyone agreed to that, and, via an email thread among strangers, this was the birth of Purple Rain.
I woke up on Sunday morning and took my sweet time consuming breakfast and ingesting some light, motivational reading. Before I knew what was happening, it was noon, and I had a game at 1 pm. My first game of the season, and I’m going to show up late. A bus and two subway lines later, I was running down 138th Street to get over the bridge and into Riverside Park before the game started. I at least wanted to be there for team introductions, you know. Fortunately, the game before ours ran late, and I found the team in purple sitting in the limited shade next to the turf field. I went over, grabbed a shirt and joined my comrades in preparation for battle, which would appropriately occur against a team dressed in the secondary complementary color of orange. On this day, we would own the color wheel.
“There’s been a slight change,” Stuart said. “We’re still going to be Purple Reign, but we’re going to spell it R-E-I-G-N. Then people will know when we arrive.”
In short, the lesson here is that personal familiarity is almost entirely irrelevant when you are not playing major European league club soccer. Or rather, when you ARE playing rec league summer soccer. Despite our not having played together since the age of 12, Purple Reign prevailed against the orange, whose best player bore a slight resemblance to Neymar and whose passion for dribbling far exceeded those for passing or shooting. We prevailed, 4-1, with the lone opposition goal coming from an own goal that, all told, was quite impressive had it been in the correct direction.
For my part, I had a breakaway which concluded with a weak shot directly at the goalkeeper (and which will undoubtedly haunt my restless dreams for many supermoons to come) but somewhat-kind of-not really-at-all redeemed myself with a tap-in goal off a free kick as well as an assist on the go-ahead goal. The heat of the mid-afternoon New York sun did its part in reinforcing a) my Irish heritage and the resulting complexion issues resulting from spending extended time outside and b) my current athletic state, which is really more of an unincorporated hamlet between “former high school runner” and “you will spend many hours indoors, not exercising, upon entering the workforce.”
Those two aspects aside, I expect there will be a lot of excitement this season, at least as far as rec leagues go. We found out afterward that the other team’s players had not been previously familiar with each other either. The real tests will start to come with teams, corporate-sponsored and otherwise, who have played together before this one and what kind of impact that may have in the face of a collection of somewhat talented players*. Is the sum greater than the whole of its parts? Can a rag-tag group of twenty-somethings defeat the other gaudy, fluorescent versions of secondary colors and get promoted to the primary league?
Stay tuned to Purple Reign and find out.
*(Editor’s Note: When I say that, I ABSOLUTELY am not referring to myself but rather to most of my teammates. Some of these guys are good, man.)