This is the first in a three part Burgundy Wave LongForm piece about the US Open Cup and Harpo's FC. Warning: some language may be inappropriate for younger readers and those who are against Promotion and Relegation in the United States.
True: Conforming to reality or fact. Or conforming to a standard, measure, or pattern.
Real: Based on fact, observation, or experience and so, is undisputed; in other words, honest or sincere, not feigned
Can they exist separately - I'm thinking about the debate between the immovable object versus the unstoppable force - which one overcomes?
Suppose this as we venture up the dank cave and into the light; what is true in our beloved game of American soccer can also be false at the same time.
Let's start slowly, and tap-dance around the definitions above by using a subject (footballer) you're all too familiar with - David Beckham. David's a real guy. He's living, breathing, and currently existing. What then is true about David Beckham? Why don't we let Vancouver Whitecaps team President, Bob Lenarduzzi, take a crack at this:
"Not only was Beckham a good player, but a good looking guy, Spice Girl wife, it's the whole package. He got it as well. He went to play a friendly in Vancouver and he stood around to sign autographs. Henry (Thierry Henry) was a great player, but in terms of a role model in this league (MLS) he did zero."
Bob Lenarduzzi - Nov. 2015
Are Lenarduzzi's comments about Thierry Henry's contributions true or false? I doubt very much Thierry would agree with Lenarduzzi's outlook. How about the comments on David "getting it," as in, He got it as well. What did David get that Thierry didn't? I doubt very much that it was about scoring goals from the run of play.
Let's tackle the opposite of real then. What comes to mind: Imaginary? Invalid? Fake? How about nothing - that is to say, (no) thing exists. You might be thinking to yourself, what about, unreal or not real? Unfortunately, I theorize that both are attempts of the thinking mind (just doing it's job by the way), trying to compartmentalize through conformity, which is based upon our perception, which is based upon patterns we identify through our experience, which are based upon our beliefs. What is real, has also been (no)thing. There is no pretense in the real category - things simply are, or they aren't. Just as you are now, so too were you once not.
Now with a foundation in place, and my pontificating out of the way, let's talk about something real (and true) and much, much lighter! Harpos FC.
Nestled by the Flatirons - jutting rock formations pressed by the Gods - Jose Bueno (Real name - Real person) nervously paces, weaving in between Harpos FC supporters, much the way a three-year-old likes to explore the clothing racks at department stores (A playful activity I used to enjoy at the tender, yet salacious age of three.
Thirty odd years ago I was notorious. For defecating in my snug, husky-fitting corduroy trousers due to the apparent excitement and thrill of hiding from my mother inside the racks, while she and countless other women perused the sale racks for the season's hottest blouse, or so I've been told). Jose Bueno's frantic encircling could rival that of any wet hen about to meet her expiration date, but today's nothing of the sort. Today is the national title game of the Premier Arena Soccer League (PASL) tournament and we're waiting for its resolution through shoot out.
In the wintry shadows of the godly Flatirons, the Boulder, CO based semi-professional soccer team, Harpos FC, have huddled together - shoulder to shoulder, weaving their arms no tighter than an industry grade hemp knot - hanging onto every word of their coach, Steve Lepper, and Johnny Freeston - owner/manager and hawkish spirit animal of the team. With 28 seconds remaining in the title game, Harpos FC's Joey Matibag re-directed a ball goal bound with this forehead, just past the out-stretched digits of the opposing goalkeeper, leveling the score against the Rio Grande Valley Devils (Texas) at five a piece.
Among the many things about Harpos FC that I have come to appreciate over the past year, their incessant use of the huddle strikes me first. That, and their attitude for each other, especially in that exact moment as Lepper and Freeston wax emotive tactics.
In 2015 I contacted Freeston about interviewing Harpos FC before their U.S. Open Cup qualifier against Colorado Rush. Stock questions were up my sleeve; I'd interview them for a football podcast that I co-hosted with Jose Bueno, Flakoglost Futbol Pod, and then be on my merry way. But, as the Gods are emphatically aware, the law of attraction doesn't jive that way. And I'm sure if Jose Bueno would stop pacing he'd likely agree.
The Harpos huddle breaks and the inimitably tall, rabble-rousing forward, Shane Wheeler stalks over to the crowd, "C'mon!" he yells, clapping his hands together. "C'mon!"
Our response back is volcanic. "LETS GO HARPOS!" We scream and bang at the glass. The chaotic din of a thousand voices caroms off the white padded walls, hovering over the dense and dewless turf. I look over at Jose Bueno. He's a wobbly top helplessly running into screaming humans standing within a mere tongue lick's length from the glass. "H.A.R - P.O.S - HARPOS are the FUCKIN' BEST!" He sings.
Those around Jose Bueno are amused.
Nearly one year to the day I stood under the roof of the Holmesdale end at Selhurst Park, enjoying the predominant sounds of the male mating call for South London's, Crystal Palace (I am not a Palace supporter, but with the Crystal's and their high leg kicks, Kayla the Bald Eagle flying about before kick-off, and the supporters ceaselessly singing, every bit of it was authentic and felt like true community). One year later, in Boulder, to experience that same fervor and authenticity, similar passion for a team very much tied to it's own community - albeit on a minor scale, especially when 30 minutes away a Major League Soccer (MLS) game staring Steven Gerrard and Nigel De Jong, Shkelzen Gashi and Jared Watts ticked itself into the 90th minute - my love and support for a non-league, community football club was fully realized.
Jose Bueno tends to tell people in our football circle (or anyone willing to listen) why supporting community soccer in America matters, and why soccer fans should support the game at the grassroots level. When he's not met with a blank stare (And I assume the glances that Jose has received when talking about such a topic are uncannily similar to those that I likely received from some woman, who, while shopping for a blouse, was startled to find a three year-
old stinking of maple syrup, secretly shitting his snug-fitting corduroy trousers) he's occasionally met with criticism for wasting his time and support on non-league teams such as Harpos FC.
"You should feel lucky just to have an MLS team in your backyard!" The dubitable will criticize Jose Bueno, road testing the one-liners they read earlier that day from the "comments section" of a soccer blog.
Other comments Jose Bueno faces border willful ignorance - as to how the game has evolved globally - especially in pockets where professional leagues don't exist, not to mention impoverished pockets. "How can you watch a bunch of has-beens?" They'll sometimes say to Jose Bueno. "Harpos doesn't even play in a minor league!"
Undoubtedly Jose will say something polite (or reference the non-league troubadour, turned household hero, Jamie Vardy) and I'm 85% paraphrasing Jose Bueno, "Harpos are special because they do the little things right, they play for each other, they win and lose together, they're always striving to become better, without regard for money."
Kind of hard to argue with Jose Bueno there, isn't it?
Freeston, Harpos' spirit animal, told me the first time we met, "One of the common denominators across our team, is that everyone is passionate about wanting to be successful together, realizing that it's not all about themselves, or the team, or even the club, you're playing for a bigger reason, and that's to enrich your life."
If I were to ask Jose Bueno right now, while he frenetically paces, waiting for the shoot out to commence, "Jose! Does Harpos FC go above and beyond?"
He would nod his head approvingly.
"Why is that Jose?" I would then ask.
Jose Bueno would then likely become frustrated with my haranguing. And not just because we're about to watch a shoot out that will decide the national title, more so because the answer isn't easily explained away by language. The answer to this labyrinth takes crafting. Thought. What is felt - simply, honestly - together as strangers, together as a community, is special. Whenever I hear somebody talk or tweet about Harpos FC, my limbic system warms with positivism.
...to be continued...