Dan Lasley is an avid reader of — and commenter on — “06880.”
He’s also a longtime Westport fan. And an ex-pat.
A few years ago, he moved away. But the lure of “home” is strong. Yesterday he sent along this story:
Every year we return to Westport in the spring for some business.
Last weekend I got up early to go ref at the Westport Soccer Association‘s WIN tournament. I used to manage the referees for this event. It was good to see all the usual (ref) suspects, including Stuart McCarthy and Robby Casey.
Afterward we headed over to Art’s, and grabbed an Italian combo – the first in how long? I can’t believe I used to eat the whole thing myself in one sitting!
We then headed down to Saugatuck Shores (checking out the rebuilt Riverside area), where we found our old house half demolished (or half restored, depending on your perspective).
Chatted with a few neighbors (apparently Hurricane Irene damaged many houses), and ate our sammiches on the beach. Cockenoe Island and Peck’s Ledge light are right where we left them — it’s all good.
After a brief nap, we headed over to Dunville’s for a burger. The waitress remembered us after 3 years! OK, so we’re kind of easy to remember, but still it was flattering.
Monday morning we took care of our business, then went back to Art’s for roast beef with sharp provelone. Laura popped into to Achorn’s because they have the best selection of hair clips — who knew?
As we drove back toward Philly, we passed 2 tractor-trailers that had hit bridges on the Merritt/Hutch. Where else does that happen?
Westport is a great place to visit. We miss our many friends — even though we didn’t tell anyone we were coming to town this year.
Peer pressure is a dangerous thing. And it’s everywhere a kid turns — including, these days, the internet.
Andy Moss thinks that’s a good thing.
At least, it can be.
He envisions an online social networking site where student-athletes can help each other. Positive peer pressure, he says, can provide both mentors and mentees with role models, solutions to problems on and off the field — and prizes.
Now he’s put his pixels where his mouth is.
ESMZone.com went live last week. Although he spent 17 years with Microsoft — launching new businesses, tracking digital media and working with social media — the Westport resident was as excited as a kid on baseball’s Opening Day.
The ESMZone concept is this: Young athletes sign up, then fill out a profile indicating their athletic and academic interests. They can ask or answer questions — about sports, school or anything else. There is a “like” button for questions and answers. (No “dislike” — that’s too negative.)
Points are awarded for “likes.” At the end of each sports “season” (fall, winter, spring), the winners in 3 age groups (7th-8th grades, 9-10, 11-12) earn rewards. They could include a VIP pass to a pro football training camp, gift certificates to a sports store, even textbooks for college.
There are 2 ways to ask questions: public and private. Topics range from finding the best cleats and the difference between NCAA Divisions I, II and III, to help with algebra homework.
Of course, Moss admits, “You never know what will happen. We don’t encourage or discourage anything. We just create an environment where people feel comfortable — and have fun.”
Fun is nice. But how will someone show Moss the money?
The site will including advertising and sponsorships. Eventually, Moss says, there will be an annual user subscription fee. He’s talking with Westport groups like the WSA, PAL and Gridiron Club — offering a 10% donation for every registered athlete.
But for now, ESMZone.com is free. And “06880” readers are invited to click here, then register using a special code: woog2010-1.
Westporters live in a bubble. Whether by choice or circumstance, our lives are disconnected from the overwhelming majority of people on the planet.
We don’t know how they live, or what they think. Their concerns have nothing to do with ours.
Starting tomorrow — and continuing for the next 30 days — Westport has a golden opportunity to join the world.
The World Cup kicks off this morning in South Africa — the 1st time the global event has ever been held on that continent. Whether you love soccer, hate it, or never think about it, you should join the magic.
For a month, the eyes of the world will focus on a country that less than 2 decades ago was banned from international sports competition. Uruguyans, Koreans, Serbians, Cameroonians — fans of the 32 nations lucky enough to be competing for the trophy — will watch game after game, cheering and agonizing and laughing and crying as the long tournament (think March Madness on steroids) unfolds.
Fans of the nearly 200 nations that did not qualify (fun fact: more countries try to win the World Cup than are members of the U.N.) will be equally transfixed.
Tomorrow afternoon in Westport, hundreds of soccer fans will jam the Staples auditorium to watch the US take on England — something that has not happened in 60 years. (Fun fact: In 1950 we pulled off one of the biggest upsets in World Cup history, beating the Brits 1-0.)
Win or lose — and a win, though unlikely, is possible — the excitement will build. Our next opponents are Slovenia and Algeria. Though minnows in global politics, they have the potential to derail our soccer team. In Brazilian favelas, Dutch head shops and Ivory Coast villages, people will talk about our games.
And in Westport, we’ll talk about theirs.
In 2002, people I barely knew stopped me on the street to ask how I thought our team would do. (Poorly, I said. Unfortunately, I was right.)
In 2006, hundreds of Staples students — athletes in all sports, musicians, debaters — gathered around TVs in the cafeteria and hallways to watch. They knew the US players — and those on Argentina, France and Italy. Some even followed countries like Angola and Japan.
Westport's Kyle Martino will announce World Cup games on ESPN radio, with occasional forays into the television booth.
Interest in the World Cup is at an all-time American high — and for once, Westport is not bucking a national trend. (An added bonus: ESPN radio and occasional TV analyst Kyle Martino is a Staples graduate, a former professional and national team player — and a good friend of David Beckham.)
I said it before: Whether you love soccer, hate it or never think about it, give this World Cup a chance.
Watch this morning’s opening match (10 a.m., ESPN, South Africa vs. Mexico). Thrill to see 91-year-old Nelson Mandela in the stands, fulfilling a lifelong dream.
Listen to the joyful vuvuzelas — South Africa’s horn that will blare joyfully at every match.
And — if you’re still on the fence —click here to watch the most spine-tingling video you’ll ever see. If K’naan’s “Waving Flag” doesn’t make you want to leave your Westport bubble and join the world in watching The Beautiful Game, you may not be human after all.
(Click on the Westport Soccer Association website for registration information on tomorrow’s USA-England telecast at Staples. Click here for an amazing interactive calendar that tells you all you need to know about the entire World Cup tournament.)
Kelvin Mutambo is well known to the Westport soccer community. The former Zambia national team player spent years as a beloved Westport Soccer Association youth coach. He’s faced medical problems recently, and now the town is giving something back to him.
This Friday, the WSA is sponsoring a Walk-a-Thon at Wakeman Field (7 to 8:30 p.m.). Interested players and their families are collecting donations before the event — either a flat amount, or an amount per lap expected to walk. Funds should be collected beforehand, and handed in at the event.
It’s a hectic time of year. Let’s hope on Friday, Westport is not too busy to help a man who has spent years helping our kids.
(Tax-deductible checks should be made out to “WSA,” with “Walk for Kelvin” in the subject line. Click here and scroll down under “Headlines” to print out the pledge sheet.)
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