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Beyond the Game

Beyond the Game

Family Formed from Sports

 

Written by: Adam Geigerman

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With the social mediums and all-access 24-hour sports megastations, top-tier athletes don’t have many secrets. It doesn’t matter how big they are — physically or figuratively — or how rich; their sanctuaries of privacy almost always evaporate quicker than rain under a Laredo sun.

 The stories seem mostly bad — like those of Tiger Woods, Ben Roethlisberger and Kobe Byrant (of the Denver rape-allegation variety, not his other splashes). But there are also

the good ones — which seem scarcer, but aren’t. There’s Tim Tebow circumcising babies in a faraway land or the every-charity-receiving-money-for-anathletic- achievement story. Those aren’t bad things; they’re the opposite. Polar opposite.

 But some stories get lost in the infinite sea of information. Everyone knows the big names and the celebrity they have riding along with the shoe deals and All-Star ballots.

But it’s the uncountable hours of preparation that interest me, especially recently.

 Exactly aweek ago,I was invited to ride the Laredo Heat’s team bus and hang out with the team before it played in its most historic match ever. Laredo left the GatewayCity for the Alamo City to kick off what I can’t help but call the South Texas Derby— also know as the second round of the Lamar Hunt U.S.Open Cup.

 Few know the type of family formed from sports. It’s not the same as one rinsed in blood, but it’s sometimes stronger. The Heat, despite only playing and being together for about six weeks, are the image of galvanization in progress.

 The team members, although amateur, regard themselves as professionals. Soccer is their craft, creativity is their key to success, and only pure and faithful reliance on each other can achieve that success. From the movie playing on the initial ride up, to the first meal, even to getting taped, it’s rare to find Heat players alone. They’re a package deal, like a collector set of action figures.

 It translates to the pitch, too, and it has been translating — Rosetta Stonequality translating — since day one for the organization. Everyone knows the Heat’s resume and how the organization is brimming with big-match experience. Tuesday was another example of that. The Heat faced the San Antonio Scorpions of the North American Soccer League, a fully professional team residing in a more advanced league, and the Heat dominated the match — except for on the scoreboard.

 Laredo held possession like a puppy to its bone. The crispness of its passes crunched San Antonio’s defense and the movement of its most veteran players —Greg Mulamba, Juan de Dios Ibarra and Carlos Ordaz — moved and cycled the pitch like ballet dancers on a stage.

 The Heat lost the game after a pair of damning red cards, but they gained respect.

Laredo showed its spirit through its soccer team with a showcase of inner fire, talent and intelligence against an opponent much stronger, bigger and, supposedly, bolder. San Antonio’s front office and coach commended the Heat on their play,while FIFA agents wanted words with Laredo’s players.

 For the players, Laredo is more than a stepping stone to the professional ranks. Just ask former Heat stars Leone Cruz (of Major League Soccer’s Real Salt Lake) or Esteban Bayona (of the Scorpions).

  They remember the family that showed them more than a game.