Mark Bialczak asked me write about the best sports game I ever played, no matter age, place, or team. Give it a read and let me know how I did in the comments.
Can I get a definition of “best” please? Best in terms of my performance, or enjoyment or the team’s result, or…? And then can we talk about “game?” Is that a physical game or a video game or…?
I once took control of Manchester United in the FIFA ’99 game on my original PlayStation and scored 45 goals against Arsenal in 15 minutes of play. I have to say, that sure felt great. I don’t remember how many hat tricks Solksjaer, Yorke and Beckham had, but I never grew tired of hearing “Solksjaer scores!” I do suspect, however, that isn’t really what you wanted to hear about.
Just last week, in a pick-up game of volleyball, four a side on beach sand, I had the most fun playing that I’ve had in a long time. I had one massive jump serve ace on game point. I had a couple kills. Maybe one block? Maybe none. It wasn’t my best offensive or defensive game ever, but there were a ton of long rallies and the games were all really close. Even though I’ve played better on other nights, it felt great to have that much fun. Again, however, perhaps that isn’t what you want to hear about…
When I was very young, in my first or second season of recreational soccer, hosted by my city’s parks and recs department, I scored a hat trick. I was never a striker in the true sense. I had lungs and endurance and could run the length of the field and find open teammates to pass to and never get tired, but I lacked that instinct to just shoot the ball. I don’t have an exact number of how many times I’ve scored in all the years I played soccer, but I know it is a relatively small number. That game, however, something clicked and I took the opportunities when they came and scored one goal after another. I remember how amazing it felt, I remember how great it was to see the pride and joy in my dad as he congratulated me afterwards. But, the memory is hazy at best and I’m not sure I can actually remember the game at all. Perhaps what I think I know of that game is merely just from the many retellings over the years that followed.
My senior year of high school I finally made it onto the varsity soccer team. I had told myself during the condition and tryouts before the season that if I didn’t make varsity I was going to quit rather than play JV again, but I’m not sure if I’d have kept that promise to myself. I loved game then, and still do now, even if I was never very good at it. I’d lost my endurance by the time I played in high school, but had enough knowledge and experience that the couches kept seeing some value in putting me on the field as a striker. Which, I never understood because I didn’t score goals. In four years, I scored one. It came on a corner kick and after bouncing around in the box the ball landed at my feet and I poked it in. it was a poacher’s goal, but I was no poacher. It felt great to final score, though. That elation didn’t last long because we ended up losing the game anyway. And, I’d always felt at odds with my team, I had no friends there, and with my performances so the whole of my high school soccer career is tainted with disappointment and clouded by angst. So, again, perhaps not what you are looking for.
Last week I played “soccer” with the Little Prince. It started as passing the ball back and forth, something he is still trying to figure out and do with accuracy and consistency. Then, after more successful passes than we’ve ever had before, a whole four, his attention was pulled away and our game evolved into something like Calvinball. Other balls were introduced, and random things in the garage were turned into hoops, and other things were turned into safe zones. There was laughing and giggling, running and throwing, points were scored in random increments and for various reasons… This is, I suspect, exactly what you wanted to hear about. It was fun. It was great. It was wonderful. It was the best sports game I’ve ever played, so far.