Keeping Score: Hooked on soccer

Published: 8/4/2023 6:01:29 PM

Good morning!
The month of July was a blur, but that’s what happens when you’re having fun. I rented a new Nissan Frontier down at Bradley Airport’s new rental palace and drove to the White Mountains and Saratoga Race Course, watched a Swamp Bats game in Keene with my family, and followed my hiking buddy Jeff LaFreniere up the White Arrow Trail to the top of Mt. Monadnock.

The day after former Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Lujack died, I was en route to the Spa and got a text from Robby Cohn. Lujack and his wife Mary were first cousins. “He was one of her funniest relatives. At his home in Bettendorf, Iowa, he used his Heisman trophy as a doorstop. He was a terrific guy.”

When he learned I was meeting Bob Weiss and Carol Bresciano at the track he texted, “I had a crush on Carol in kindergarten.”

Later when I teased her about it, Carol said she remembered Robbie and his crush: “Robbie Cohn ran over my fingers on his tricycle,” she fumed.

Back in Northfield meanwhile, I’ve never watched so much soccer in my life. The Women’s World Cup games from Down Under have coincided perfectly with my morning wake up routine, and darned if I haven’t gotten hooked on the sport. The pace of play is relentless, there’ s no letup or timeouts, and best of all there’s no ads.

Broadcasters JP Dellacamera and analyst Aly Wagner have been terrific. “Denied by the woodwork!” Wagner screamed after Portugal’s Ana Capeta put a point-blank shot off the goalpost against the U.S.

Team USA’s first game was against Vietnam where 58,220 Americans were killed in a misguided eight-year war against communism. Now barely 60 years later they were on a soccer field together, and it evoked thoughts of Carl Sandburg’s poem “Grass.” 

Pile the bodies high at Austerlitz and Waterloo.

Shovel them under and let me work—

I am the grass. I cover all.

Heavily favored to win their third straight world championship, the Americans have come off as spoiled and petulant by refusing to sing our national anthem before any of the three games.

They have scored four goals in three games against less than stellar competition, including a scoreless tie against Portugal on Tuesday.  A win would’ve matched them against South Africa tonight.  Now they play Sweden tomorrow which is undefeated and has outscored its opponents, 9-1. At the Tokyo Olympics two years ago, the Swedes beat the U.S., 3-0.

The Colombian players— Las Chicas Superpoderosas— passionately sang their national anthem. They stunned two-time champion Germany on Sunday but lost to South Korea on Thursday, creating what Fox analyst Bob Stone called a “perfect storm of results.” Morocco’s win coupled with South Korea’s tie eliminated Germany and put the “debutant” Moroccans into the knockout round and the Atlas Lionesses celebrated like they’d found Aladdin’s Lamp.

Moments after its listless draw against Portugal, Fox analyst Carli Lloyd ripped the Americans as only a Jersey girl knows how: “Today was just simply uninspiring [and] disappointing. They don’t look fit, they’re playing as individuals, and the tactics are just too predictable.”

She said it, not Phil Mushnick or me, but a two-time U.S. World Cup champion.

WWC Notes: Jamaica forward Khadija Shaw insists on “Bunny” to be on the back of her jersey. “When she was a little girl she used to love carrot juice and her brother used to call her bunny,” said Fox analyst Aly Wagner. … Move over Jamaican bobsledders the Reggae Girlz got their first-ever point in a WWC. … Medal of Freedom winner Meghan Rapinoe whiffed on a kick against Portugal and looked like Charlie Brown when Lucy’s holding the football. … Forty-two of the 192 scores were goose eggs.

Friends, family and colleagues all gathered at the Country Club of Greenfield on July 11 to honor Donna Woodcock who died in May after a car accident on the Mohawk Trail.

Woodcock rose through the ranks from phys-ed teacher to coach to athletic director to being the GHS principal, but her passion was mentoring young athletes and her success was reflected by two state field hockey titles and five WMass softball titles

“At any time during the three hours there were probably around 300-400 people,” wrote Sue Oxley, whose husband Dana delivered a stirring testimonial to his sister. 

Saratoga’s leading jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. will serve a three-day suspension next week for careless riding. His brother Jose was also tagged with a three-day suspension, but Irad’s the guy everyone’s mad at.

Ortiz changes lanes like a guy who’s late for work during rush hour, a dangerous tactic aboard a thousand-pound horse with no seat belt. “They’ll start policing themselves out there,” said Fox analyst Laffit Pincay III.

“And it’s gonna happen in the jock’s room and it’ll look like a miniature hockey match,” said Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens. “He’s putting [other jockeys] in danger and I’ve got a problem with that. I don’t like it, it’s not good.”  

Fox analyst Maggie Wolfendale defended Irad. “Don’t we want our athletes to win? That’s all he’s doing. It’s a fact he’s not policed, and that’s what allows him to do what we’re complaining about.”

Last Wednesday was the 100th anniversary of Calvin Coolidge’s ascension to the presidency. “Silent Cal” lived in Northampton from 1906-1930 but he was at his family homestead in central Vermont when Warren Harding died. His father (a notary public) administered the oath of office, and the scene was re-enacted at 2:47 a.m.

Coolidge’s wife Grace loved baseball and according to she listened to the games on the radio and kept score. Her husband threw out the first pitch of the ’24 World Series at Griffith Stadium, and stood to leave with the score tied 2-2 in the ninth inning. “Where do you think you’re going?” said Grace. “You sit down.”

Coolidge sat down and they stayed until the Senators won in the 12th inning. The Sporting News Reported “the First Lady left as rumpled, as tired and as happy as thousands of other fans.”

SQUIBBERS: Mookie Betts, Kyle Schwarber and JD Martinez have combined for 81 home runs this season, 40 fewer than the entire Red Sox roster. … The Padres are 0-10 in extra innings. … Yankees fans aren’t doing handstands that Josh Donaldson (.142) might be off the IL sooner than expected. … Holy Cross product Declan Cronin made his big league debut for the White Sox on Sunday against Cleveland and tossed a home run pitch to Jose Ramirez. … DraftKings reported a bettor wagered $70,000 on Team USA and collected $350 after they won 3-0, which says as much about DK’s odds structure as Team USA’s chances. … Mike Yastrzemski was 1-for-4 with a double, two walks and two K’s against his grandfather’s team two weeks ago. … During Saturday’s Detroit-Marlins game, Fox had the who-cares stat of the week: “Johnny Cueto has the fifth most starts of any righthander 5-feet-11 or shorter since 1947.” …  Ice the Kicker owned by Bill Parcells finished last at 7/1 in an $88K maiden race at Saratoga on July 16. … The Powertown’s George F. Bush says he was at the 1946 All Star game when Ted Williams hit Rip Sewell’s eephus pitch into the right field bleachers. … Mop-up jobs out of the bullpen are now called “low leverage situations.” … Ralph from Manhattan with WFAN’s Richard Neer: “Ghost runners on second base remind me of Sunday softball games when everybody’s drunk so they just put a guy out there. If we had any patience in this country we’d be dangerous.” … Harvard baseball coach Bill Decker had a lengthy interview on the MLB Channel last month. A Greenfield native, Decker said he’s celebrating his 700th collegiate win by taking the family to Ireland…. Wise words by the WWC analyst who said: “You’re always vulnerable after you score a goal, because your mind’s still celebrating.” … George Springer snapped out of an 0-for-35 slump on Thursday, just in time for the Red Sox series. … Recorder sports editor Jeff Lajoie survived his first week of marital bliss during his honeymoon in the Virgin Islands. If there’s a prop bet for lasting marriages, we’ll take the over on Mr. and Mrs. Lajoie. … Farewell Phil D, you put the bop-she-bop-bop into Happy Valley’s ram-a-lam-a-ding-dong.

Chip Ainsworth is an award-winning columnist who has penned his observations about sports for decades in the Pioneer Valley. He can be reached at


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