Friday, August 27, 2010

Twenty Years Ago Today

I remember hearing the news on the radio. I believe it was the day after Stevie died, in the morning as I was pulling into the parking lot at Midlothian High School. I was listening to the long-lost Q102. A helicopter crash somewhere in the Midwest, and suddenly he was gone. Another great Texan musician, another Buddy Holly tragedy, 30 years on.

Stevie Ray Vaughan was a true Texas hero. More than that, he was a Dallas boy, an Oak Cliff boy just like my dad. Stevie and I were born just about 19 years apart in the same hospital, Methodist Hospital in Oak Cliff, Dallas, Texas. He grew up on the streets I knew so well as a kid. Although I grew up in little Midlothian, Oak Cliff was my second home. (It was actually my first home during my first two years of life.) My dad's dad (and my granny, who died when I was 7) lived on Catherine Street. My mom's mom lived on Marvin Avenue, not far from the Jeff Davis shopping center. Grandma was Stevie Ray's homeroom teacher at Kimball High School in the '60s. My mother's uncle ran the old Lamar & Smith funeral home and was a prominent member of the community, along with his wife, my Aunt Pokey.

Thanksgivings, Easters, family birthdays, Christmases--I spent most of them in Oak Cliff as a kid, just as I spent countless summer days there with my grandmother. I remember the huge pecan trees in my grandma's front yard; my granddad's back porch with the old metal chairs, where my granny would show me how she could take her teeth out; my cousins' yard, where we used to play football on Christmas day; some place called Soul Man's Barbecue, or something like that, which my granddad loved; my dad signing the Sunset High School theme song every time we passed his (and my mother's) alma mater. A lot of that is still here, but grandma and granddad aren't anymore, and neither are Uncle John and Aunt Pokey. And I now live about 1500 miles away. 

I would have loved Stevie Ray Vaughan if he had been from Idaho, California or Bangladesh. His music was that soulful, that skillful, that engrossing--he was a magical guitar player who also had the unusual advantage of having a blues-soaked voice straight out of the 1930s. But since Stevie was a Dallas boy, a bearer of my own and my family's heritage, I had begun to practically worship him by the time he died. As soon as we could drive--and that wasn't long before Stevie's tragic death--a friend and I used to go to Austin's Barbecue in Dallas (also long lost), at Hampton and Illinois, hoping that Stevie would drop by. My buddy's girlfriend's dad owned the place by then, and Stevie was known to drop in now and then. He never did while we were there, but we did have some great ribs.

Stevie Ray, not long before that fateful night 20 years ago, had kicked addiction, had turned his life around and had moved back to the old neighborhood, where he'd mow his mother's lawn and shop for groceries with the locals. He might have found his fame in Austin and conquered the world from there, but at heart Stevie was one of us, a Dallas boy who probably ate at Polar Bear Ice Cream on Hampton and maybe even played with the toys at ME Moses Dime store over in the Jeff Davis center as a kid before eating a horrid meal at the shocking J's cafeteria next door. Or maybe his family was sensible and went over to Sonny Bryan's on Inwood for some famous barbecue.

At the age of 16, hearing of Stevie Ray's death, sitting in that school parking lot, I was devastated. I had really just gotten into his music a few years before, and I had just come to understand who he was and why he meant so much to me. For all his brilliance, his mainstream career had only just seriously taken off when his life was cut short. Everywhere I go, people have heard of Stevie Ray Vaughan. People love him, revere him. But not many of us truly understand him, who he was and where he came from. I do, probably as much as anybody who didn't know him can. Today, 20 years after his death, I still miss him.  

Breakers to Become Road Warriors

An understrength Breakers side--missing Kelly Smith, Alex Scott and Ifeoma Dieke through international duty and Leslie Osborne through injury--just missed a miraculous comeback last weekend in Atlanta, dropping a decision to the Beat 3-2 after being down 3-0 in the 87th minute.

But the "home" loss--played in Connecticut--didn't really hurt Boston much in the WPS table because Philadelphia and Chicago also lost last weekend. So, the Breakers remain in third place, five points behind Philadelphia and four points ahead of Washington with a game in hand on both of them. Sky Blue sits even on points with Washington and also has a game in hand on Philly and DC.

Boston's playoff prospects look good--but it's a good thing that the Breakers seem to be peaking now because the toughest part of the season might be yet to come. Sunday evening begins a four-game road stretch to finish the regular season, with games at Philadelphia and Atlanta followed by a clash with regular-season champion Gold Pride and then a potential playoff decider against Sky Blue.

Aside from Gold Pride's dominance, nothing is decided. But with the returns of Smith, Scott and Dieke (and hopefully Osborne, although I'm not sure of her status) imminent, the Breakers should have every opportunity to consolidate the third spot in the standings and make a run for the second. Harvard Stadium is going to be quiet for the next few weeks, but a home playoff game in mid-September would liven it up nicely.

The Philadelphia match will be on Fox Soccer Channel live at 6 pm Sunday night.

For more on the Breakers, check out Boston Breakers Report

Monday, August 16, 2010

Breakers Thrash Sky Blue 4-0; Story up on Bleacher Report

What a night, what a team, what a town. Seriously, Sunday night's 4-0 beat-down of Sky Blue FC was as comprehensive a game as the Breakers have played all season. They were simply rampant. Jordan Angeli was probably player of the match, but all Breakers involved were fantastic. Get well soon, Leslie Osborne--she separated her shoulder on Sunday night and will likely be out for Saturday's match against Atlanta.

The full match report is up on Bleacher Report.

For more on the Breakers, check out Boston Breakers Report.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Breakers Improve Playoff Chances, Miss Chance for Second Place

The Boston Breakers, aside from Kelly Smith, are slightly less torrid than they were going into last Sunday's game in Philadelphia. But they're still on course for the playoffs.

The Breakers went into Philly with a chance to steal second place in the WPS table and came out with a hard-fought 2-2 draw--and a solid lock on the third spot in the standings. (The top four teams earn playoff berths.) Lauren Cheney found her way back onto the score sheet with an opening goal for Boston, only for Philadelphia's excellent midfielder, Holmfridur Magnusdottir, to cancel out Cheney's strike and then put the Independence ahead 2-1 in a busy first half.

But Smith, who scored for the fourth consecutive game and now has 10 goals on the season, equalized early in the second half, and the Breakers came away with a valuable point. They now sit five points ahead of fourth-place Chicago and have a game in hand. Perhaps the greatest threat to Boston in the standings at this point is Sky Blue FC, which trails Boston by five points but has a game in hand on the Breakers.

As luck (and the WPS schedule) would have it, the Breakers will take on Sky Blue on Sunday at 6 pm in their last regular-season home game at Harvard Stadium for 2010. As always, playoff implications will be strong.

Whoa, Canada! Canadians Win ONE Lowell World Cup

After a genuinely thrilling final, Canada earned the title of ONE Lowell World Cup champion in its first-ever OLWC tournament. I'll have more details on the tournament's final stages after I've slept a bit, but the order of finish was Canada, Brazil (the beaten finalist) and Colombia, which earned third place by beating Togo in a penalty shootout.

The final was an epic contest played in a tremendous atmosphere. Canada led 3-2 at halftime and hung on for the entire second half to take the victory by the same score. Colombia had the fans of the tournament, and the Colombia-Brazil semifinal had the feel of a real international knockout game, with fans stomping, singing, chanting and, yes, tooting on vuvuzelas.

There's a lot to talk about from this tournament, including the lady in the photo above...who was Canada's coach! But I'll save the details (and many more photos) for later. For now, it's time to congratulate the ONE Lowell staff on a job well done and get some rest.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

One More Day of the ONE Lowell World Cup

In not quite eight hours from the time when I'm typing this, the last day of the ONE Lowell World Cup soccer tournament will kick off. Here's the schedule for the round of 16, which begins at 8 am on Sunday at Cawley Stadium:

Stadium Field
8:00 am: Canada vs. Mexico
9:00 am: Guatemala vs. Jamaica
10:00 am: Brazil vs. Northern Ireland & Scotland
11:00 am: Ghana vs. Colombia

Varsity Field
8:00 am: Honduras vs. USA
9:00 am: Togo vs. Romania
10:00 am: Somalia & Djibouti vs. Vietnam
11:00 am: Ireland vs. Uganda

Togo, Canada and (as always) Brazil look like the strongest sides so far, but anything can happen on day that will see the round of 16, quarterfinals, semifinals and final all played in the span of about 12 hours. The final should start around 6 pm tomorrow night; don't miss it.

As usual, I've taken a ridiculous number of pictures of the tournament so far. You can check out last Sunday's or today's (Saturday's) set on Flickr. Check back tomorrow night for a recap of the action--or, better yet, head to Cawley Stadium for the culmination of the tournament.

Friday, August 6, 2010

ONE Lowell World Cup Continues This Weekend

If you've been reading this blog at all lately, you realize that the ONE Lowell World Cup soccer tournament started last Sunday and will continue this weekend. Needless to say, the images you see above come from Sunday's action, which was fantastic. I could write more about the OLWC, but since I've already written a press release that I think is not too bad, I'm just going to post the release here and take the quick (and easy) way out. Do try to make it to Lowell this weekend, though. This is a fantastic event. Here's the PR:

On Sunday, August 1, more than 1200 people attended the ONE Lowell World Cup, a number almost as large as the attendance for the entire two-day event in 2007. Saturday also brought in almost as much money for the non-profit organization as last year’s two-day tournament did.

“We’re very pleased with the way the people of Lowell and the surrounding areas responded to the first day of the tournament,” said Victoria Fahlberg, director of ONE Lowell. “We saw on Saturday people’s desire to connect with each other and build a strong community here. The money raised will go to worthwhile causes, such as help for children who are having trouble in school. And the soccer on display was incredible—the best we’ve ever seen in the tournament.”

Teams participating in the tournament are made up of immigrants and recent descendants of immigrants from countries on five continents. The goal of the tournament is to bring together immigrants from diverse communities, along with native-born Americans, in order to foster better relations among people from different backgrounds. The tournament raises money for good causes, such as citizenship classes, school programs and assisting newcomers as they integrate into American life.

With some nations yet to play, a few standout teams emerged from Saturday’s first-round games. Canada impressed with wins over Jamaica and Ireland, and Guatemala also won two games, scoring 10 goals in the process. Brazil and Somalia, who finished first and third last season, respectively, played a thrilling match that finished in a draw. The US team impressed in its only performance of the day but lost to Colombia, 2-1.

Aside from captivating soccer, this weekend’s activities will include a penalty-kick shootout on Sunday at 3:00pm that is open to all kids ages 8 to 14, and a youth exhibition game featuring Brazil vs. the US on Sunday at 5:30pm.

The event is very affordable. Tickets for the ONE Lowell World Cup are $5 per day. Matches start at 9:00am on Saturday and at 8:00am on Sunday; the final will take place around 7:00pm on Sunday. Limited parking will be available for $2 per vehicle. For more information, go to

About ONE Lowell
ONE Lowell is a non-profit organization dedicated to increasing the integration and self sufficiency of Lowell's many immigrant newcomers. Proceeds from the ONE Lowell World Cup will go to help promote academic success among immigrant and refugee youth, provide citizenship services and leadership development, and promote self-sufficiency, justice and equality among all residents in the region.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Torrid Breakers Look to Move into Second Place

Who would have thought back in early June that the Boston Breakers would be making a serious run for second place this weekend? Yet, on Sunday, Boston will travel to Philadelphia with the opportunity to take sole possession of second place behind the untouchable FC Gold Pride.

It's Philly that sits in second now, just two points ahead of the Breakers. It's hard to imagine, though, that the Independence are looking forward to facing a Boston team that is absolutely on fire. In the past week, Boston has racked up two more wins, a 3-1 home victory over Washington and a 2-0 decision at Harvard Stadium over the lowly Atlanta Beat.

Kelly Smith and Jordan Angeli are on fire, and Boston's once-leaky defense is holding steady in the stretch run. It seems as though whispers in the Harvard Stadium press box about the future of Tony DiCicco as Boston coach must have trickled down to the pitch and inspired the team. The Breakers are 6-1 since the beginning of July after winning just one match from April through June. That one loss in July came at home to Gold Pride, the club that has torn through the entire league this season.

Seven regular-season games remain for the Breakers--just one at Harvard Stadium, on August 15 against Sky Blue FC. The team's final "home" game will take place in New Britain, Conn., against Atlanta on August 21. Five away matches plus one displaced match might cause Boston some difficulty, but two of those games are against Atlanta, and only one of the final seven matches involves Gold Pride.

With Philadelphia and Sky Blue FC rounding out the rest of the slate, the Breakers have an excellent opportunity to solidify second place or, at the very least, a playoff spot. At this point, with the club playing its best soccer of the season by far, who would bet against Boston making a playoff run? Anything can happen, but August thus far looks a lot brighter than June did.

For more on the Boston Breakers, check out Boston Breakers Report