Oregon was beautiful, only slightly less serene than my hometown of Sandy, Utah. The rosy oranges and sunglow yellow of the sharp Wasatch Mountains, the ice-capped Lone Peak, the broad sagebrush fields full of grouse; Sandy was supreme when it came to splendorous scenes. I had now been in Oregon for 68 long, blistering hours now, but I was just beginning to comprehend what Oregon meant to me. Oregon didn’t mean gorgeous, lush volcanoes, dark-blue, crystal-clear lakes, or endless evergreens. It didn’t mean prominent vineyards or the world’s largest airplane. It meant Linfield. A small red-brick college just outside of McMinnville, a drunkard town, full of ageless, ivy cinemas and broken-down diners and faded pubs where friends were made and memories recalled. Linfield started my dreams, but ended them as well. All within five days.
Let me explain why Linfield is such a special college. Linfield takes the finest 18 soccer athletes from each state (in Region IV(states west of Colorado)) and brings them up to Oregon for something called Region Camp. At Region Camp the states play each other and scouts select the 40 best players. Those best 40 players form the Regional Team and make National Camp where the process is repeated, only instead of states playing each other, regions play each other. I had been fortunate enough to make Team Utah and fortunate enough to go to Region IV Camp.
Our first game was against New Mexico, a powerhouse. We weren’t supposed to win, but we did. It was a massive upset in the billowing eyes of the staff and the rest of the campers. I didn’t start, which was expected, but something I thought I deserved, after all I was the leading scorer in Utah, right? Alejandro had already scored once and he was now racing down the field, he beat one kid with a scissors, another with a kwrafe till he got to the keeper. He shot, the keeper blocked it, and the ball fell to my scratched, blue, kangaroo-leather cleats. A small, chiseled grin fell onto my splintered, chapped lips, the cold sweat rolled off the back of my buzzed head. I knew I was going to score. I picked up my left foot and swung it like a pendulum, back and then forth. The connection between my foot and the ball made the loud boom when the ball is stricken correctly. Goal. This is the moment my dreams commenced. I had just scored on against New Mexico at Region Camp. This week was my chance, I could get a seen by a coach, I could let my name be heard…these five days could change my life.
We played Idaho the next day. My coach started me for the first time ever. The statement of my name in the starting line-up sent a rush of excitement creeping down my spine, walking on each vertebrate as if they were steps. I figured I could score again today because of Idaho’s weak defense, which meant I could prove I was the best. But we tied Idaho 0-0 that day and I didn’t realize it then, but I know see the instigation of my brutal awakening of my fantasy-full slumber.
I didn’t start the next two games. I didn’t score either. I didn’t really do anything…but that’s just because my coach didn’t play me enough, because Gerry was playing with me, because I didn’t have the opportunity. I ignored any advice given, even from our team’s Region Trainer. He spent 15 minutes of his life giving me an evaluation and I didn’t listen to a word he said. I didn’t care who I offended, I just wanted to score; if Jesus was playing out there on the field, I would have found one of his faults. The success of the team didn’t matter.
Day 5, the last day, included the final assembly where they would announce the Regional Team. I knew I didn’t make it, but at least one kid from Utah would make it. The head director walked up to the podium and started to say words no one understood due to his bromken english. He started to call names of campers whom had made the team: Mike Hassel, Dave Bocker, “Tree”, when their names were called they would line up on the stage. Alejandro. That was obvious, Alejandro had played the best for us. Hookiadad Ajebro, Sam Weston, then Josh Chavez. The name amazed me. Josh had been injured for half the camp; my mind ran with the ideas of jealousy and unfairness. Then Trase Stapley’s name was called. The name stung my brain with a throbbing brand that was stamped into my conscious. Trase had scored less goals than me in Utah League Play. If my mind ran when Josh’s name was called, my mind flying was now flying in a F35 Bomber. I should have made it over Trase.
The thought of Trase making the team pained me to think about. It was like a Giant Water Beatle sucking the dead life of a gold fish. I asked, “Why didn’t I make the team?” I had led the league in goals that season for club. And I hadearned that prestigious title. I ran sprints in the blazing hot sun that summer; every single day, till I couldn’t run anymore. Then I went home and did pushups, till my arms gave out. I had deserved to make Regional Team. I had worked harder than anyone.
The tears smash into my filthy keyboard as I am typing these very words because I haven’t learned a lesson from this experience. As of 400 minutes ago I lost in the semi-finals of state cup. This time I had experience from Region Camp to know what it feels like to fail. I didn’t want to feel that pain again, but I let it happen. The emotion I felt when I heard that game-ending whistle blow is indescribable. The best way it can be explained is this: I haven’t slept. That’s why this very word is written at 3: 14 A.M. I can’t stop eating, I can’t type a history paper, I can’t function correctly. You only have so many chances to make your life unique, to make your life worth living. And I don’t know to say or to think about how to take full advantage of these. I can only say one thing. Arete, a Greek word, best described by an old pal of mine, Mr. Bennet. His definition is a quote from his nephew. “I’m not losing to these assholes again.”