Give a man a Cookie…

A wise man once said that the way to a man’s heart it through his stomach.

Another wise man once said give a man a cookie and keep him happy for a minute, teach a man to cookie and keep him happy forever. This man was apparently so busy being wise, that he didn’t have time to write his name down for our admiration.

One day, I had an intense craving for a nice warm homemade chocolate chip cookie (yes ladies, sometimes us guys need a chocolate fix too) and since none of my lovely sisters were around to oblige me, I was very unhappy. Let’s face it, none of us want to be unhappy. This, of course, meant that I had to learn how to make them. So, I emailed home with the urgent subject line “TEACH ME HOW TO COOKIE!?”

Apparently, there is actually a cookie dance! Amazing what you can find on the internet these days:

My kind sister Mary was nice enough to send me the complete idiots guide to baking cookies. What I essentially learned is that cookies are so good because they are basically made up of sugar, butter and as many chocolate chips as you see fit…surprise, surprise!

Now, whether it’s driving or putting together a piece of furniture from Ikea, we all know that men are often too stubborn to ask for or follow directions. I am certainly more than guilty of this…and proud of it. On the other hand, our female counterparts, often find it easier to ask for or follow directions without hurting their pride.

Sounds about right

Sounds about right

I’ve noticed; however, all this turns on it’s head when it comes to baking/cooking. I am lost, scared, and hopeless without some recipe or directions to follow, whereas, my sisters and my mom seem to effortlessly whip up all sorts of delicious goodness without a single guideline.

Inevitably, after living on my own, I’ve gotten fed up (no pun intended) with frozen pizzas, pasta, and bacon, so I’ve tried to make some improvements on my cuisine. I’m happy to say improvements are being very slowly made…or, in other words, I can now eat what I cook.

Despite the little I’ve come to learn about cooking and baking, I’ve realized that it’s not an exact art – even on one of those really brutal cooking shows, like Top Chef. Sure, there are general guidelines given to provide a certain structure to the competition, but even with all the same ingredients, the cooks come up with wonderfully varied dishes.

Once you get to now the general patterns in food, then you can experiment and develop different things from there. It’s just like colors. There are a few primary set’s of colors that all artists draw from and mix together to create a huge amount of other colors and tints to please the eye. It’s about knowing which colors go together to make new and exciting colors and, likewise, which foods and tastes go together to create new and exciting dishes to please the palate.

This makes me think that more men would be willing to cook if they knew they didn’t have to ask for directions!

Do you want to know what else cooking is like? Yes, you guessed it: soccer. There are a few ingredients and basic principles that give a backbone to the entire sport. The “staple foods”, so to speak, which include things like players, a ball, goals, etc…. Out of those staples of the game come an endless number of outcomes; different formations, different styles and so on. Hundreds of thousands of unique players throughout the game, mixed together to make thousands of teams; each with their own special flavor.

Spain has it’s “Tiki Taka” quick passing game that simultaneously dulls and tires the opponent until the opening presents itself and they pounce at just the right moment with a clinical execution and finish.

Classic Tiki Taka in the video below:

Germany has recently developed it’s game into a high pressing, energetic and exciting brand of football; with the purpose of overpowering the opponent with constant surges of pressure and precision. How distinctly German.

English football is known for it’s relentless pace, energy, and physicality and it’s inability to score penalty kicks when it really matters.

Brazil are historically notorious for using their wonderful flair and trickery to beat the opponent. The coined the term Joga Bonito after all (The beautiful game). They, along with many of the South American countries, are also streetwise footballers, meaning that they find clever ways to bend the rules as well. This is actually meant to be a compliment not a criticism.

It’s a pleasure to watch:

In the past, Italy was famous for it’s “Catenaccio” football, which focused on defending strongly at all costs. Nowadays, these tactic are lauded as boring and “anti-football” by purists, but the value of a strong defensive unit is invaluable in modern football, nonetheless.

All these are different versions of the same game, with the same ingredients and the same guidelines. Maybe that’s why we like sport so much, because just like painting, cooking, or writing it is an art form with an infinite number of possible outcomes. We are entranced with the variety of these outcomes and can be inspired by them as well. I guess that’s why we call it the beautiful game.

Clearly, the next logical conclusion to make here is that great managers/coaches are essentially great Chefs. Try telling that to the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson or Pep Guardiola, current manager of Bayern Munich, who are considered by many the best club team in the world. They might take as a complement of course, but they would probably miss the point.

SEE! I told you he was a great Chef

SEE! I told you he was a great Chef

What they are good at; however, is being able to mix the right ingredients together in the form of players and tactics. The reason it can be so hard to do is that sometimes ingredients have a bad attitude and talk back – imagine if that happened in the kitchen!

On the other side of the coin, as a player, you want to become an ingredient that can make any dish a bit better…you know, like bacon. Every player wants to be the bacon on the team. The bacon is more often than not, the MVP. The guy that stands out. However, you can’t have a team with just bacon and the best chefs know that. You also need those players that are the steak, the potatoes, and the greens. The standard and foundation to a team, the core. These players are a constant and rarely hurt the team, whereas, we all know that bacon is not always good for you.

Well, that’s Cooking for Soccer 101 in a nutshell. I hope it provided you with some enlightenment about the beautiful game and some of it’s intricacies.

I’ll admit there’s a bit of a stereotype here as well, because I know there are plenty of wonderful male chefs. I just happen to know far more who are not.

The important thing; however, is that you all know that I can now make myself a mean Chocolate Chip Cookie. I still won’t invite you over for the main course, but you’re welcome to dessert.

The proof is in the pudding

The proof is in the pudding

Until the next meal, go head first.

Peace,

Seano

The Process

I feel like I need to introduce myself again, it’s been that long. So, first I should apologize for staying away so long. I have had plenty to tell you, but never the inspiration.

There have been numerous other attempts to start blogging again; posts with titles such as “Square One” and “The Return”. However, they never really got past the introduction phase. In recent weeks, though, I have been on a quest to resurrect my creative writing urges. Where did they go? I’m not really sure, but I’d like to think they are there somewhere. So, in writing this post, I’m really just playing hide and seek with my inner author.

The first thing I had to do was commit to staying off of other sites while I write this post. I was going to go down to the local coffee shop with no wifi, so I wouldn’t even be tempted, but I’m weak, so I’m at the one that has wifi because I have a loyalty card here and God forbid I have to get 10 coffees before I get my free one as opposed to the usual 9.

Anyway, I really am going to have to push through this first post. I won’t be able to go into much detail because I’ve done quite a bit, but I will try to give you a good update of where I am and hopefully reignite my writing bug for the future.

It’s hard to admit, but if I really look at it, I think I haven’t been writing because of my own perceived failures. I haven’t really been achieving the success or consistency I had hoped to upon my return to the UK, which was back in July. In preseason I was all over; training with 4 different teams and ultimately living in 4 different places.

I won’t bore you with details, but it has landed my in Southern England about an hour west of London in  a little town called Newbury. I moved here to play with an ambitious team called Hungerford Town. I came down during preseason and did well in training and a few practice games (including a great goal in one – if I may say so myself). I was looking forward to the new start after the lack of opportunity and progress I made at Guiseley last year.

The Newbury Train Station - my link to the outside world

The Newbury Train Station – my link to the outside world

Unfortunately, things haven’t quite gone as planned on a personal level. First of all, it took a number of weeks for me to get my international clearance (because I had played in an American League over the summer). Then once it came through and I was eligible to play, Hungerford immediately started a turn around from a dreadful start to the season and have won every league game since losing 4 out of their first 5. This made it hard for the manager to change too many things in regards to personnel and tactics.

Hungerford Town ground - Bulpit Lane

Hungerford Town ground – Bulpit Lane

Since I wasn’t playing as much as I would have liked, I spoke with the Manager about the possibility of going out on loan for a short period with any other local team to maintain fitness and sharpness. He immediately helped set me up with another team in the division below called Thatcham Town FC. I played a game a few days later, which was great…except we lost. We managed to lose the next two games as well, which was painful and not the biggest confidence boost. However, I was getting good and fit and starting to improve, and playing is always better than not playing.

Thatcham's Ground - Waterside Park (located by the side of the Kennet River)

Thatcham’s Ground – Waterside Park (located by the side of the Kennet River)

Timing, however, was not the best, because, due to scheduling changes we only had 3 games in a period where we could have had up to 5 or 6. To add to that, the poor run in form meant that the manager of Thatcham Town, quite a friendly bloke, was shown the door. Meaning, I don’t know where I stand with the changes at hand and I will probably be going back to Hungerford, without any guarantee of time, despite the work I put in.

So many great and wonderful stories in life have a “right place at the right time” element – mine seems to have a persistent “wrong place at the wrong time” theme.

Deep down, I find myself fighting my own self-pity. What gives? I ask myself. Of course, this is really pathetic, and when I really think about it, I’m embarrassed at the very thought of pitying myself. I’m blessed beyond what I deserve. I know that, but I’ll still find excuses and injustices against me like Sherlock finds the crook. It’s a special gift.

All that moaning and complaining has, thankfully, led me to an improved outlook. As so often happens, this change came about originally from the unlikeliest of sources. An English player named Joey Barton, who is quite an entertaining, but also controversial character over here, was in an interview and mentioned the importance of the process. He was talking about developing players and he said something in the vein of “no one appreciates the process anymore”.

Essentially meaning that we all just want the outcome. For footballers that’s making a good living as a professional for a big club team, or for your country and making plenty of money. However, no one wants to think about putting the work in every day behind the scenes; there is a lack of appreciation for the blood, sweat and tears that no one sees.

This made me think about things and a few days later, I was talking with my sister, Clare, and Barton’s comment tied in with our conversation, so I brought it up. Clare and I chatted about it and I suddenly came to this realization that the story is always in the process; never in the outcome.

So, here I was, not blogging because I wanted to blog about the big outcomes! I wanted to blog about the great step I was making here or there. I wanted to blog about achievements. That is probably precisely why I haven’t been inspired to blog. There is no story in the outcome. The story is in the process.

I’d like to think that I’ve always appreciated the process of anything. I’m never afraid to put in the work and I will always continue to do so. Yet, I never realized until recently that there is no story in the achievement itself. The achievements are what we put on a resume and that’s why they are only a few pages of lists. Stories lie in creating that achievement and that’s what we find in the intricacies of a journey well told.

I recently read a book called “A Long Way Gone“, about a young man who had been a boy soldier in the Sierra Leone Civil War. He survived this ordeal and eventually made his way to the USA where he has recovered and now works to fight worldwide injustice. In a nutshell, that last sentence was his achievement so far, but it’s not the story itself. That lies within the pages of the book and in the depths of his heart and soul.

Having said that, the process of the last 5 or 6 months has plenty to say for itself. I’ve been all over the place, I’ve got to explore a new part of England, including the ever intriguing city of London. I’ve even managed to get home once for a wedding, which was an incredible blessing for me. I haven’t even had the chance to blog about my incredible mission trip to St. Lucia, all the way back in May.

I’ll save all that and more for another day in the process of pursing my dream one mistake at a time.

Until them enjoy the process of life!

Peace,

Seano