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My Conversion Story

It dawned on me the other day that I haven’t really shared my conversion story.  In the circles I run in, it’s a pretty common question to ask - everyone has one, but everyone is different.  Mine is a pretty standard story - some seeds were planted when I was young, a variety of people and experiences broadened by awareness along the way, and eventually understanding dawned on me and I considered myself a believer.  After the conversion, I sought out others with like mind in order to bolster my own understanding, and began to equip myself with the proper conversations in order to convert others to my way of understanding.  I share the story of my own conversion here, in the hopes that others may also be inspired to see the light.

As a child, my parents made a point of broadening my horizons and encouraging me to try new things.  I was a pretty shy kid, but at some point my parents decided to take me to a weekend activity popular with many families in the area - AYSO soccer. Next thing I knew, I was signed up in the league and practicing a couple times a week for our Saturday morning games.  I was hesitant at first, but eventually came to enjoy playing soccer with my friends.  After a couple years of playing, I even gained a decent understanding of the game.  After a while though, other distractions entered my life and my love affair with soccer - tentative at best - slowly dwindled.  

I spent the remaining years of my youth - and the better part of my teenaged years - completely oblivious to soccer.  There were sporadic invitations to come join a game.  I even took a friend up on the invitation once, and soon regretted saying yes (particularly after running up and down the field for over an hour!).  I had some people in my life that practically lived and breathed soccer, but I didn’t really understand why.  In fact, I found that it was much easier to simply not bring up the topic anymore.  

It wasn’t until I edged past the quarter-century mark that things started to change. With the new wisdom of a 25-year old, I had begun to be more open to new experiences.  And it is with that mindset that I said yes to an invitation to watch my first professional soccer match.  I’ll be honest, I was a bit nervous going to my first game.  The examples I’ve seen of soccer fans on TV made them appear crazy fanatical.  I was sure I’d stick out like a soar thumb when everyone else around me jumped around like a maniac.  

I tried my best to pay attention to the game - I had a basic understanding from my younger years, but didn’t fully grasp the nuances of the plays.  Besides, paying attention to the game was the most polite thing to do - I was already there, may as well try and make the best of it!  Overall, the experience proved to be interesting, and the fans entertaining, and soon I found myself returning to another game.  

It was this second time around that things changed.  I walked in to the stadium more invested in the outcome than I was the first time.  I had already watched the home team play, I’d sat next to their fans, and now I was actually rooting for them to win.  They seemed like nice guys, and I wanted them to continue their winning streak!  
It was at this second game that I became a convert.  I started to see the bigger story at play.  Soccer isn’t just about low-scoring games and numerous failed goal attempts.  Instead, I saw the inherent drama in each individual kick - each shot on the goal - was a chance at redemption for the team, for the game.  Every play mattered, every kick filled with suspense, precisely because one kick could make or break the outcome of the game, or the season.  Once I understood this dynamic to the game, I understood the passion of the fans.  Who WOULDN’T jump and cheer wildly when their team scores what could very well be the game-winning goal - especially when it occurs after numerous near-misses?  The feeling is on par with Kendry Morales hitting a game-winning grand slam in the bottom of the ninth (well, minus the season-ending broken leg)!    

Now, I consider myself a soccer fan.  I’ve been to quite a few professional games.  I’ve done the “wake up at the crack of dawn to watch Team USA in the World Cup” twice.  I felt a certain swell of pride for the USA when Lando Donavan scored his amazing goal during penalty time.  And yes, my chair may have fallen over when I jumped in excitement when that happened (sorry, random stranger at ESPN Zone, if my chair crashed into your legs).  I even woke up early again this weekend to catch the Germany v. Argentina match (sorry that was so painful, Argentina).  My phone sends me alerts when either Chivas USA or the LA Galaxy score (so, I get, like, one alert every few days.)  I’ve found myself defending the game of soccer in multiple conversations with friends.  I get annoyed when the media in general makes fun of soccer, or when people blow off the game despite never watching a single match.  And I look forward to the day when soccer is embraced en mass, and is a respected part of the American culture.  

Perhaps MLS soccer and the Church should form a partnership - they may find they have more in common than they first realize....

Comments

This is one of the best stories I have read in this entire blog. Please keep posting.
Joe Aldeguer

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Grace makes beauty out of ugly things. I'm no relationship expert, but when my marriage fell apart, God's grace was extended through His community. This is the place to explore that community together.


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