Tag Archives: Dan Woog

And Now … “06880: The Podcast”

Westport is full of interesting people. Every day since 2009, I’ve told their stories in “06880.”

But hey, this is 2021. It’s time to spread my wings. Let’s add some audio and video to those stories!

Thanks to a partnership with the Westport Library — and their state-of-the-art Verso Studios — today we launch “06880: The Podcast.”

Every other Monday, we’ll release a new casual conversation with one of the many people who make this such an intriguing town. We’ll talk about what got (and kept) them here; what they love (and don’t like) about this place; what they do, how they do it, and what it all means here and in the world.

My first guest is Tom Scarice. Nine months into his gig as superintendent of schools, he chats candidly, passionately (and with humor) about his decision to sign on in the middle of a pandemic; his goals for the district; students and staff today, and how education will change in the future.

I’ll post a new podcast every other Monday, at noon. It will be available simultaneously on the Westport Library website.

Watch or listen at your leisure. Enjoy “06880: The Podcast” — the newest way in which “Westport meets the world.”

Happy Birthday! “06880” Turns 12!

364 days a year, “06880” chugs along quietly.

A few times each day, I post something: a 5 a.m. feature story. Breaking news. A roundup of upcoming events, new business openings, whatever. An Unsung Hero, Friday Flashback or Photo Challenge. Every night at 9, a Pic of the Day.

I do it all as my contribution to Westport. One day a year, I ask you for a contribution to “06880.”

I do it on the anniversary of my blog’s birth. It began in early March, 2009. In 12 years I have not missed a day of posting — ever.

This man is smiling because he loves writing “06880.” (Photo/Pam Einarsen)

Last year’s “please contribute” story came 10 days before Westport changed forever.

When our schools, stores, restaurants, library, Y — and everything else — shut down, I worried I would have nothing to write about.

Hah!

For the past year, I’ve worked harder and longer at “06880” than ever. I’ve written about how to get COVID help, and how to help others. The pandemic’s effect on people, businesses, the town and the world. I began the daily Roundup and Saturday art gallery.

When WestportNow folded, I added obituaries and a bit of meeting coverage. I hope to do more.

“06880” is now, pretty much, my full-time gig. I spend nearly every waking hour working for you.

You see the stories I write. But there’s so much more.

I conduct interviews and research. I take, find and edit photos. I moderate the comments section. I answer every single email.

When a natural disaster like Tropical Storm Isaias hits, I find a place with power to work. And I keep working.

When Isaias hit, “06880” provided information on road closures, where to get help, and how to help others. (Photo/John Kantor)

I even spend my own money on “06880,” on software upgrades, hosting — and keeping this space ad-free.

Which is why this year, more than ever, I hope you will respond to my once-a-year appeal for donations.

I’m honored that more than 11,000 of you are daily (free!) subscribers. Another 5,000 to 8,000 check in each day, without subscribing.

I love you all. But only a small percentage of you contribute each year.

That means the vast majority of you enjoy my 1,200+ stories a year, and our wonderful online community, for free. You are, to use the technical term, moochers.

So: If you like what you read, please consider supporting “06880.” Click here for details (via credit card, check, Venmo or PayPal) — or scroll to the bottom.

Am I worth $1 a month? $1 a week? Perhaps (my choice!) $1 a day. Choose whatever amount you’re comfortable with. It’s greatly appreciated!

I hope that if “06880” has ever:

  • made you laugh, cry, think or wonder
  • spurred you to go to an event, read a book, try a restaurant or patronize a store
  • helped you meet a neighbor, or connect with an old friend
  • kept you up to date in a blizzard, hurricane, windstorm or power outage
  • made you feel connected to your new town (or the place you grew up)
  • alerted you to a new housing or zoning development
  • provided a forum for you to rant about an issue, rave about a place, or complain about my own personal politics
  • delivered news about a favorite person, place or thing
  • galvanized you to support a cause
  • publicized your event, book, appearance or concert
  • published your photo
  • honored someone you loved or admired, or gave them a kind “Remembering …” sendoff
  • connected you to your hometown from many miles away
  • saved you time or money
  • opened a window on Westport’s history, helped you think about its future, introduced you to someone in town you never knew, or helped you look at someone or someplace in a new way
  • inspired you
  • made you sit up and say “Wow!” (or “Holy f—!”)

you will consider tossing something my way. First-time supporters are joyfully welcomed!

Just a suggestion.

Thanks for 12 great years. I’ll keep doing what I’m doing, whether anyone sends an anniversary gift or not. I’ll still answer every email.

It’s all part of “06880.” It’s my honor and privilege to help share it with you.

You can donate by PayPal or credit card: click here. It’s easy, safe — and you don’t even need a PayPal account. 

Checks can be mailed to: Dan Woog, 301 Post Road East, Westport, CT 06880. Put “06880” on the memo line. It won’t do anything for the IRS, but it may help you remember at tax time why you sent me something.

I’m also on Venmo: @DanWoog06880. Thank you!

Happy 216th Birthday, Horace Staples!

From the opening of Staples High School in 1884, to a few years after he died 13 years later at age 96, students and faculty celebrated January 31 — Horace Staples’ birthday — as “Founder’s Day.”

That tradition — dormant for over a century — gained new life today. The Staples chapter of Rho Kappa — the national high school honor society — brought Founder’s Day back..

Exhibits outside the auditorium, created by nearly every academic department, portrayed life in the late 19th century. The culinary classes dedicated one to onions. After all, when Staples’ High School (as it was punctuated then) was dedicated, the Westporter newspaper proclaimed, “A good high school will increase the value of property, and raise the price of onions.”

1880’s music played between classes.

And “Horace Staples” — the founder who was a businessman, merchant, factory owner, bank president and farmer — roamed the halls again today. He wandered into classrooms, discussing the differences between his school in 1884 and the 2017 one that sits, a few miles from his original Riverside Avenue building, on North Avenue.

"Horace Staples" posed with students in Barbara Robbins' English class this morning.

“Horace Staples” (center) posed with students in Barbara Robbins’ English class this morning.

Students asked questions. Mr. Staples answered everything from what Westport was like back then (“there were not as many very large houses”) to what he thought of the school today (“you have so many wonderful teachers; be sure to listen to them, read, think, and make your mark on the world”).

And who was “Horace Staples”?

Why, the guy who wrote the book — Staples High School: 120 Years of A+ Education — about his own alma mater.

"Horace Staples," with his portrait near the front entrance to Staples High School. He hasn't aged a bit.

“Horace Staples,” with his portrait near the front entrance to Staples High School. He hasn’t aged a bit.

Here’s One Fundraising Auction I’m Pleased To Promote

Westport is filled with worthy fundraisers. Many include auctions, with residents offering the use of exotic 2nd homes, tickets to sold-out concerts and sports events, and plenty of other way-cool, 1%-type stuff.

I can’t publicize all these great events. If I did one, I’d have to do them all. Besides, “06880” is a blog, not a community calendar.

Well, here’s one fundraiser I’m happy to promote. Because “06880” is my blog.

And I’m the auctioneer.

EarthplaceOn Saturday, April 2, Earthplace hosts “Mother Nature’s Masquerade.” There’s food, drinks, and a silent auction.

But (I’m told), the big deal is the live auction.

I’ll pump up prices for:

  • A sunset sail along the Sound in a classic sloop — restored and captained by Earthplace executive director Tony McDowell himself.
  • VIP garage/pit passes to a NASCAR race — and an autographed helmet.
  • Jam at a real gig with local legends the Vamp Kings.
  • Tickets to “The King and I” on Broadway, with backstage passes and a tour led by Anna — Westport’s own Kelli O’Hara.
  • A week at a luxury Cape Cod condo.

Those are fantastic items. I’ll have a great time selling them. You’ll definitely enjoy bidding on them.

But first you have to be there.

For more information — and tickets — to the Earthplace “Mother Nature’s Masquerade,” click here.

Going once ... twice... sold!

Going once … twice… sold!

 

“06880” Turns 7. Let’s Celebrate!

This week, “06880” turns 7 years old. My, how our little blog has grown!

365 days a year — often multiple times a day — “06880” (aka “yours truly”) posts stories. They appear on your phone, on your laptop, in your inbox — without fail. Like wacky weather, entitled drivers and the Minuteman in your driveway, “06880” is a part of Westport life.

In those 7 years I have written more than 5,300 stories. Whew!

Just as impressively — because “06880” is not really a blog, but a community — you all have posted nearly 60,000 comments. Holy ****!

The controversial Bridge Street Bridge. You read about its possible reconstruction here first. (Photo/Fred Cantor)

The controversial Bridge Street Bridge. You read about its possible reconstruction here first. And you got its entire history here too. (Photo/Fred Cantor)

“06880” covers the waterfront. And by that I don’t just mean Compo, Longshore, Old Mill, Sherwood Mill Pond, Burying Hill, Saugatuck Shores, Nash’s Pond, the Saugatuck and Aspetuck Rivers, and Muddy Brook.

I mean everything that goes on in this town.

The good — no, the incredibly amazing — things that Westporters do. Raising money for Bridgeport fire victims, local organizations and African villagers. Starting businesses and raising families. Living life fully every day, while nurturing the town that nurtures them.

The bad. Enough said.

And everything in between. Schools, the Town Farm, cops, the library, real estate, religion, commuting, the Y — if there’s a Westport connection, I’ll find out about it.

Then I’ll write about it.

Will work for food.

Will work for food.

I do that 365 days a year. But once a year, on the 365th day — my anniversary — I put out my tin cup.

Because I do a lot more than write what I hope are moderately interesting stories.

I also do research. I interview. I moderate and respond to comments — and to every private email. I scour the interwebs for photos, and take my own. I also size and frame them.

I answer all kinds of questions. Like “What was the name of the restaurant that used to be where…?” And “Can  you forward my email to…?” As well as “Will you fix the typo in my comment?” Plus (OMG) “My daughter is selling Girl Scout cookies. Can you let everyone know?”

I even spend money on “06880.” I pay to keep it ad-free. I pay for domain mapping. I pay for photo-editing software.

If you like what you read, please consider supporting “06880.” Scroll down — details at the bottom!

Am I worth $1 a month? $1 a week? Perhaps (my choice!) $1 a day.

If my 5,300 stories are worth a penny each, that’s $53. If half of them are worth a dime each, that’s $265. I’ll leave other calculations to you.

I hope that if “06880” has ever

  • made you laugh, cry, think or wonder
  • spurred you to go to an event, read a book, try a restaurant or patronize a store
  • kept you up to date in a blizzard, hurricane, windstorm or power outage
  • alerted you to a new housing or zoning development in town
  • delivered news about a favorite person or store
  • galvanized you to support a cause
  • helped publicize your event, book, appearance or concert
  • published your photo
  • paid tribute to someone you loved or admired
  • connected you to your hometown from many miles away
  • saved you time or money
  • opened a window on Westport’s history, helped you think about its future, introduced you to someone in town you never knew, or helped you look at someone or someplace in a new way
  • given you a voice in the “Comments” section
  • inspired you
  • made you sit up and say “Wow!” (or “holy f—!”)

— you will consider tossing something my way.

Only a suggestion.

Only a suggestion.

Thanks for 7 great years. I’ll keep doing what I’m doing, whether anyone sends an anniversary gift or not.

We’ll still have our annual summer “06880” party at the beach. Plus the weekly photo challenge.

But hey. You tip a taxi driver you don’t even know for a 5-minute ride, right?

You can donate by PayPalclick here. It’s easy (and safe)! You don’t even need a PayPal account. If you get an error message, try www.paypal.comthen log in, create an account, or send money from the drop-down menu by entering this email address: dwoog@optonline.net. Or click the “Donate” button on the home page of “06880.”

Checks may be mailed to:  Dan Woog, 301 Post Road East, Westport, CT 06880.  Put “06880″ on the memo line.  It won’t do anything for the IRS, but it may help you remember at tax time why you sent me something.

Is this a great town or what? (Photo/Betsy P. Kahn)

Is this a great town or what? (Photo/Betsy P. Kahn)

 

 

 

Happy Anniversary To Me. Now Pony Up!

This week, “06880” turns 6 years old. My blog has already lasted longer than “The Twilight Zone” (5 years). And it will soon surpass “I Love Lucy” (6).

Both of which — as alert readers know — have very strong Westport ties.

That’s the thing about “06880”: You never know what you’re going to get. But whatever it is, there will be some connection to this town.

When I hurled my 1st post into cyberspace in 2009 — click here for that baby — I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

If spring ever comes, you'll read about it first on "06880."

If spring ever comes, you’ll read about it first on “06880.”

I thought I’d offer some moderately interesting stories about the people, places, events and history that make this town our home. My goal was 1 post a day.

I had no idea — even though my tagline was “Where Westport meets the world” — that I would find connections everywhere: from Broadway to the Boston Marathon bombings, from Saugatuck to Syria.

I had no idea either that so many talented, accomplished people could suck so bad at parking. I did not realize that — right here at home — so many amazing people are doing such amazing things. Children, teenagers, busy businesspeople, retirees, merchants, volunteers — this town rocks the universe.

That 1 post a day is now, sometimes, 4 or 5. In 6 years, I’ve posted more than 4,200 stories. You’ve read this far, so I’m guessing you like at least some of them.

For me, “06880” is a labor of love.

But like any love, it takes work.

As “06880” has grown, so have the hours I spend on it.

Will work for food.

Will work for food.

There’s writing, sure. But also interviewing, researching, responding to comments (public and private), moderating comments (removing those from people who do not use full, real names), taking and sizing and framing photos, and scouring the web for appropriate (and occasionally inappropriate) graphics.

I spend a few bucks too. I pay to keep “06880” ad-free. I pay for domain mapping. I pay for photo-editing software.

So, once a year — on my anniversary — I put out my tin cup.

If you like what you read, please consider supporting “06880.”

Am I worth $1 a month? $1 a week? Perhaps (my choice!) $1 a day.

If my 4,200 stories are worth a penny each, that’s $42. If half of them are worth a dime each, that’s $210. I’ll leave other calculations to you.

I hope that if “06880” has ever

  • made you laugh, cry, think or wonder
  • spurred you to go to an event, read a book, try a restaurant or patronize a store
  • kept you up to date in a blizzard, hurricane, windstorm or power outage
  • alerted you to a new housing or zoning development in town
  • delivered news about a favorite person or store
  • galvanized you to support a cause
  • helped publicize your event, book, appearance or concert
  • published your photo
  • paid tribute to someone you loved or admired
  • connected you to your hometown from many miles away
  • opened a window on Westport’s history, helped you think about its future, introduced you to someone in town you never knew, or helped you look at someone or someplace in a new way
  • given you a voice in the “Comments” section
  • inspired you
  • made you sit up and say “Wow!” (or “holy f—!”)

— you will consider tossing something my way.

Only a suggestion.

Only a suggestion.

Thanks for 6 great years. I’ll keep doing what I’m doing, whether anyone sends an anniversary gift or not.

We’ll still have our now-annual summer “06880” party at the beach. Plus the weekly photo challenge.

But hey. You tip a taxi driver you don’t even know for a 5-minute ride, right?

You can donate by PayPalclick here. It’s easy (and safe)! You don’t even need a PayPal account. If you get an error message, try www.paypal.comthen log in, create an account, or send money from the drop-down menu by entering this email address: dwoog@optonline.net. Or click the “Donate” button on the home page of “06880.”

Checks may be mailed to:  Dan Woog, 301 Post Road East, Westport, CT 06880.  Put “06880″ on the memo line.  It won’t do anything for the IRS, but it may help you remember at tax time why you sent me something.

Is this a great town, or what? (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

Is this a great town, or what? (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

Happy Anniversary To Us!

Today, “06880” turns 4.

When I hurled that 1st post into cyberspace on March 6, 2009 — click here for that trip back in time — I thought I had a few things to say about Westport.

My biggest fear was not finding enough material to fulfill my goal: posting once a day.

I shouldn’t have worried.

"06880" helps Westport weather good times and bad.

“06880” helps Westport weather in good times and bad.

I did not foresee windstorms, hurricanes and blizzards. Great Cakes. Church Street. Newtown.

I knew there were amazing Westporters, doing incredible things. I didn’t realize I’d find so many of them. They paint and preach and run 86 flights up the Empire State Building. They run for office, and run our town.

They drive too.  Though not very well.

Four years ago, I envisioned an ongoing “06880” conversation. I hoped there would be some interesting back-and-forth. I had no idea dudes like The Dude would wade in with such gusto, commenting and opining and inciting near riots.

It’s been a wild ride. In 4 years I’ve posted over 2,600 times — an average of well over twice a day.

Commenters on "06880" have called this man a socialist and a bully.. Whatever.

Commenters on “06880” have called this man a socialist and a bully.. Whatever.

You’ve made more than 30,000 comments — an average of more than 10 per post.

For me, it’s a labor of love.

And time.

As “06880” has grown, so have the hours I spend on it.

There’s writing, sure. But also interviewing, researching, responding to comments (public and private), taking and sizing and framing photos, and scouring the web for appropriate (and occasionally inappropriate)  graphics.

I spend a few bucks, too. I pay to keep “06880” ad-free. I pay for domain mapping. I pay for photo-editing software.

So, once a year — on my anniversary — I put out my tin cup.

If you like what you read, please consider supporting “06880.”

A suggested donation to "06880."

A suggested donation to “06880.”

Am I worth $1 a month?  $1 a week?  Perhaps (my choice!) $1 a day.

If you think “06880″ deserves 10 cents a day, that’s only $36.50. (If you think it’s worth more — and you can afford more — well, who am I to argue?)

I hope if “06880” has ever

  • made you  laugh, cry, think or wonder
  • spurred you to go to an event, read a book, try a restaurant or patronize a store
  • kept you up to date in a blizzard, hurricane, windstorm or power outage
  • helped publicize your event, book, appearance or concert
  • published your photo
  • delivered breaking news
  • opened a window on Westport’s history, helped you think about its future, introduced you to someone in town you never knew, or helped you look at someone or someplace in a new way
  • given you a voice in the comments section

— you will considering tossing something my way.

Can't we all just get along?

Can’t we all just get along?

Republicans: Think of me as a small (ho ho) businessman doing his best.

Democrats: Help a non-union worker get some benefits.

Libertarians: You won’t find a “Comments” section like ours anywhere else in the world.

Thanks for 4 great years.  I’ll keep doing what I’m doing, whether anyone sends an anniversary gift or not.

But it would be nice.

You can donate by PayPal: click here, then click “Transfer” and select “Send Someone Money” from the drop-down menu, and enter this email address:  dwoog@optonline.net.  You don’t even need a PayPal account!

Checks (or cash, if you’re paranoid I’ll find out who you are) may be mailed to:  Dan Woog, 301 Post Road East, Westport, CT 06880.  Put “06880″ on the memo line.  It won’t do anything for the IRS, but it may help you remember at tax time why you sent me something.

True Stories From The Youth Soccer Wars

Yeah, yeah, I know. You come to “06880” looking for Westport stories — something off-beat or little-known. A profile of someone famous, semi-famous or obscure. A dig at dingbat drivers.

Well, today is all about me.

This post is a pure plug.

I’ve just published a book — my 17th, but who’s counting? — and it may be my favorite.

We Kick Balls: True Stories From the Youth Soccer Wars is a romp through my over 30 years of coaching. From U-12 through high school, I’ve seen just about everything. Every type of player and parent imaginable. Funny, weird, fantastic, awful situations. And that’s just one day.

Soccer has been very, very good to me. I’ve taken teams around the world. I’ve been to Pele’s house, coached in front of 77,000 people, helped raise $25,000 at a carwash, and acted in a soccer movie.

I’ve made incredible friendships, forged lifelong bonds, and had them tested by too many deaths.

I’ve learned what makes teenagers tick. I’ve learned a lot about life — and myself — along the way.

Now you can read all this stuff too.

We Kick Balls has been called “funny, warm, courageous and edifying.” It ricochets from the World Cup to Dachau, from race and religion to 9/11. Somehow, soccer connects them all.

I always say, “There’s more to life than soccer. And there’s more to soccer than soccer.” We Kick Balls is a book about kids, life, and everything that happens to all of us, on and off the field.

It’s available in a variety of formats. Hard copy: Click here to order direct from the publisher. Click here to order from Amazon.

E-book: Click here to order Amazon Kindle. Click here to order downloadable e-book files for Nook, Apple iBooks, Sony Reader, Kobo, Stanza, Aldiko and Adobe Editions.

Here’s an excerpt:

———————————————

Planning a youth soccer trip takes time. There are forms to fill out, housing to book, transportation to arrange, information to relay to players and parents. D-Day took more organization, but not much.

Which is why a spur-of-the-moment, completely unorganized 2-day summer jaunt to Long Island several years ago was perhaps the greatest tournament of my youth soccer life.

This is not the team I took to Long Island. But that group was as tight as these former Staples players, whose bonds remain strong long after graduation.

Like spontaneous combustion, this trip blossomed out of nowhere. One afternoon I was at the beach, talking with 2 former players who just graduated from high school. The next morning I, several of their buddies and a few more they had never played with but knew by reputation were packed into 3 cars headed through rush-hour traffic to an event we knew little about. Just that somebody had a college buddy who had a friend of a friend who said one of the registered teams had backed out, and could we come down to salvage the bracket?

Our ragtag bunch spanned high school through college. The players did all the organizing, which meant agreeing what color T-shirts to wear, tossing food and water into coolers, wrangling cars from their parents, and somehow finding a map of Long Island. I was invited along as the “coach,” though the guys promised they’d handle everything themselves. Substitutions were irrelevant; they mustered only 11 players.

“Expect the unexpected” was a great mantra for this trip. (Photo/Carl McNair)

For a control freak like me, this was a welcome change. Here was a chance to see whether all my theories about soccer being a Petri dish for maturity and responsibility were true, or crap. It was also an opportunity to enjoy a couple of days out of town, in the relaxed company of a group of players I truly liked, who themselves loved soccer yet had never been together as a team. I felt like an anthropologist about to study a newly discovered tribe.

The tournament organizers seemed as loosey-goosey as us. We breezed in, said, “Yo, we’re here – Westport,” and received a hand-written schedule. Directions to the field were drawn in pencil.

We played 3 games that day, and won them all. It hardly mattered that our guys had never played together. With absolutely no pressure, they relaxed and enjoyed themselves. It was soccer the way it ought to be. Damn good soccer, too.

There were a couple of hitches, of course. One boy had to go back to Connecticut; he was due in court in the morning, on an underage-possession-of-alcohol charge.

A second one suffered a huge gash above his eye. We had no medical kit, and this was not the type of tournament where doctors and nurses prowled the sidelines. So I sent him to the hospital, and prayed he’d find their way back. In those pre-cellphone days, that was no sure bet.

Unfortunately, our lodgings were not as luxurious as this.

We felt pretty good that evening, having launched ourselves, somehow, into the semifinals. That’s when we realized it had gotten late. No one had thought ahead to the possibility we would play the next day, so we improvised. We looked for a motel.

That was the hardest part of the trip. Every place was filled. Just as we were ready to give up and sleep in our cars – talk about your bonding experience! – we spotted a place that looked like it had been scouted as the Bates Motel in “Psycho,” but rejected as too scary-looking.

Excitedly, we checked in. The guys spread out their T-shirts and shorts to dry (which, happily, made the rooms smell better). A few remembered to call their parents to say they would not be home.

After a celebratory (and very cheap) dinner, we returned to the only motel in America without televisions. That fazed our boys not at all; they were having too much fun wrestling and airing out their rooms.

The next morning, heading into the semifinals, our low numbers caught up with us. With our underage drinker gone (he eventually beat the rap; obviously, he argued, the beer in the trunk of his car belonged to his father) we were down to 10 players.

The kid with stitches gave it his best shot, despite being unable to head. We wrapped his skull in a turban, moved him up front, told him to run around as a decoy and hoped he would not injure himself further. Five minutes in he got knocked to the ground, and bled like a stuck pig the rest of the match.

There’s nothing like a goal to make things right with the world. (Photo/Carl McNair)

The boys, meanwhile, had whipped themselves into a frenzy. They had created instant traditions – chants, celebrations, even a ritualistic group urination (don’t ask) – and rode the power of those emotions as far as they could. But our foes – an Austrian team, hosted by the Long Island club sponsoring the tournament – were excellent. The match remained deadlocked.

Suddenly, with seconds remaining, the referee called a penalty kick against us. I learned long ago that complaining about officials’ calls is useless. They all even out over time, and a team that doesn’t score has more things to worry about than one call against them.

However, I can say with complete honesty that this penalty kick was bullshit. The referee, who no doubt was a host father for the Austrian kid who took a dive in the box, had it in for the happy-go-lucky boys from just across Long Island Sound. Obviously he hated Westport’s chants, celebrations and ritualistic group urination.

The game ended with a heartbreaking one-goal loss. Suddenly the emotion of the previous 48 hours washed over our players – the same ones who, 2 days earlier, were lounging in Connecticut without a clue they’d soon play 4 intense matches with players they’d never taken the field with before. A few cried, something they had not done even after losing high school championships.

The field, the refereeing, even the ball, wasn’t the best in Long Island. But the tournament was.

The depth of their feelings stunned me. Clearly the two days had reached deep into their soccer-playing souls, and for that I was grateful. But when the boys started yapping about the injustice of it all, how’d they’d come “all that way” only to be robbed by a stupid friggin’ ref who favored Austrians over Americans, the reaction seemed to spiral out of hand.

Just as suddenly, reality intruded. A spectator – a girl who had cheered for the Austrian boys her family hosted – walked up to the most agitated of our many overwrought players. In a hideous Long Island accent coming straight out of a “Saturday Night Live” parody of “Saturday Night Fever,” she said, “Yaw just mad dat yoo lawst.”

The very upset boy stared at her. His eyes brimmed with tears but he said, calmly, clearly, and in tones usually reserved for particularly dim children: “No. I’m sorry. We didn’t ‘lawst.’ We ‘lost.’”

At which his 9 teammates guffawed, punched and high-fived him for his witty comeback.

In an instant, all was right with the world. We got in our cars, headed for home, passed by Shea Stadium, said what the hell and stopped off to watch the Mets.

They lawst too.

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We Kick Balls is available in a variety of formats. Hard copy: Click here to order direct from the publisher. Click here to order from Amazon.

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My 15 Minutes

I often give shout-outs to Westporters who land in the New York Times. It’s nice to celebrate those random, local-national connections.

But that’s it: A link on “06880,” a brief description of the story, then it’s on to the next post.

Last Sunday, I was the Westporter in the Times.  And despite all the hand-wringing about the current state of journalism — print and online — one thing is certain: the New York Times still has juice.

Staples' Dylan Evans (right), in one of the many exciting moments from Staples' 2011 season. (Photo/Carl McNair)

A few days earlier, I’d been interviewed by a sports reporter. The subject seemed arcane: Several years ago the governing body of American soccer organized a new, highest-tier form of youth teams (the “Development Academy”). Recently they lengthened those teams’ seasons to 10 months, and decreed that Academy players can no longer play for their high school teams.

The Times turned to me — the Staples High School boys soccer coach, with a few Academy players on our roster — for insights.

We talked for 45 minutes. I knew that much of what I said would land on the editing floor; I hoped what survived would be pithy, helpful — or at least not inane.

I had no idea when the piece would run.

On Saturday afternoon, I started getting emails. “Saw your quote in the Times!” they said. “Nice job!”

The story had been posted online — 15 minutes earlier. I have no idea how so many people found it so quickly, but I was not complaining.

I was mentioned briefly — only 4 paragraphs’ worth.

Dan Woog, the boys soccer coach at Staples High School in Westport, Conn., recalled the night his team won a league championship several years ago and a group of players showed up at a diner afterward with their championship medals around their necks.

Suddenly, the other customers in the diner — a majority of them Westport residents — stood up and spontaneously gave the players a standing ovation. The players beamed.

The 2009 FCIAC champs -- before the medals were awarded.

“They’re going to remember that the rest of their lives,” Woog said. “They felt like kings. That’s not going to happen in the academy.”

Woog added: “We should be in the business of letting kids be kids. Not forcing them into thinking they’re going to be playing for Arsenal or Manchester United two years from now.”

Fortunately, that was the money quote.

Dozens of people emailed me. Many appreciated what I said; a few took issue. The debate — mirroring one that’s gone on all over the country — was taking shape.

Then came Sunday morning.

The story ran on the front page of the sports section — above the fold. The headline — “High School Players Forced to Choose in Soccer’s New Way” — attracted attention from millions of readers. Soccer fans, anyone with a connection to high school, even people with no skin in the game — all seemed intrigued by the story. After all, it has ramifications for athletes in many other sports, and discussed side issues like competition, education, and adolescent development.

Then the blitz really began.

By late morning, over 150 comments had been posted on the Times website.

The 2011 team, in a typical high school pose. (Photo/Carl McNair)

I’d received at least as many emails and phone calls. They came from former athletes, dimly remembered ex-Stapleites who recognized my name, current players, parents of current and ex-players, and Westporters who were simply excited to read my name in the paper.

Most of those who contacted me directly agreed with what I said. That’s natural.

The Times page was filled with diverse opinions. Early comments favored the Academy approach; later, they became 50-50. A few people wrote so obtusely, I wondered if they read any part of the story at all.

Then the media descended. I gave a number of interviews to other papers, blogs and outlets. All of a sudden, the Times story became national news.

Just as quickly, of course, it subsided. By yesterday, the American soccer world (and the media that covers it) had moved on to other topics. I was old news.

Someone else was enjoying his or her 15 minutes of fame.

And I’m left to wonder, still, about Academy teams, high school soccer, and kids walking into the Sherwood Diner with championship medals around their necks.

(Click here to read the entire Times story.)

A small portion of a large crowd at a Staples soccer championship match.

Happy Anniversary To Me!

Three years ago today — March 6, 2009 — “06880″ was born.

The first post described what this blog would be:  open-ended conversations with a Westport angle, no matter how tenuous.  I invited comments, feedback, tips — anything.

No one responded.

Things picked up soon — my 2nd post, on a Staples PTA “Risky Behaviors” panel, drew 5 comments.  “06880″ was off to the races.

Time flies when you’re having fun.  Exactly 3 years later, my blog and I celebrate our 3rd anniversary.

Thinking of a gift?  That’s sweet.  The traditional 3rd-year gift is leather. (Ahem.)

I’d prefer money.

Donate as much as you'd like to "06880"

For the past 3 years, “06880″ has published over 1,900 posts — nearly 2 a day.  Some have been international in scope — the ones on porn star Marilyn Chambers, “Paranormal Activity” star Micah Sloat and supermodel twins and “Amazing Race” stars Derek and Drew Riker still draw viewers, years later.

Others are intensely local:  the departure and return of Mike Aitkenhead to Wakeman Town Farm. Drivers who leave the Robeks parking lot by going directly over the curb onto the Post Road.  Tributes to remarkable people like Esta BurroughsRich Rollins and Manny Margolis.

When snow -- and trees -- fell in October, "06880" was there.

I cover all our crazy weather: windstorms, hurricanes, a freak October snowstorm. When the power goes out — yeah, it happens — “06880” keeps publishing. With photos, updates on what’s open (the library and Y, usually), and we’ll-all-get-through-this-together tales.

I’ve given shout-outs to Westport kids — international science fair winners, an 8-year-old future hotel owner, even a beloved kids’ librarian.

I’ve looked back at the history of the Mill Pond, chronicled the changes on Church Street, and peered into the Twilight Zone of Westport’s own Rod Serling.

"06880" has gone Down Under for stories -- well, to the Down Under kayak shop in Saugatuck, anyway.

I’ve covered the ABC House, the Tea Party, the environment, education, restaurants,  artists, oystermen, fires, the movement for a new movie theater, the movement of the Y, the demise of downtown and the rise of Saugatuck.

I’ve provided a forum for wide-open discussions of anything and everything — on-topic, a bit tangential, and way, waaaaay off.

And it’s all been free.  A public service, if you will.

Of course, even servants like to eat.  So in honor of my anniversary, I’m making an NPR-style plea.  If you like what you read, please consider supporting “06880.”

Am I worth $1 a month?  $1 a week?  Perhaps (my choice!) $1 a day.

You can turn the page -- or you can help this man eat for a day.

If you think “06880″ deserves 10 cents a day, that’s only $36.60 (2012 is a leap year 🙂 ).  If you think it’s worth more — and you can afford more — well, who am I to argue?

Unlike Channel 13, you won’t get a Peter, Paul and Mary DVD.  Or a tote bag.  Donations are not even tax-deductible.

What you will get is the chance to help me recover a bit of the cost of registering domains, keeping “06880″ ad-free, and spending 2 hours every day interviewing, researching, writing, responding to comments (public and private), taking and sizing and framing photos, and scouring the web for appropriate (and occasionally inappropriate)  graphics.

Thanks for 3 great years.  I’ll keep doing what I’m doing, whether anyone sends an anniversary gift or not.

But it would be nice.

You can donate by PayPal: click here, then go to “Send Money” and enter this email address:  dwoog@optonline.net.  You don’t even need a PayPal account!

Or checks may be mailed to:  Dan Woog, 301 Post Road East, Westport, CT 06880.  Put “06880″ on the memo line.  It won’t do anything for the IRS, but it may help you remember at tax time why you sent me something.