It all started because I needed an essay.
The year was 2012. At that point in my life, I was pretty much in between jobs. I had returned to the first school district I have worked for at the start of my career because they had asked me to return and quite soon, I immediately wished I hadn’t accepted. With my wife’s consent, I decided to move on.
At this point in my life, I was considering a few options for what was next. My home was in Muscatine, Iowa, where I had graduated from high school, and I was keen on trying to teach there. I thought it was a good district and my kids were attending school there at the time, so I thought that might be a fun experience.
I also had a high in the sky dream that I might become a full-time professor at another place – Muscatine Community College (MCC). That went to some old fantasies I had of being a professor/writer, like I had first seen on the University of Iowa campus. I could picture myself teaching three or four classes a semester, hanging out on some spacious campus lounge during my off times, and putting together a novel every two years or something like that. I could picture myself teaching kids eager to be the next Hemingway or James Patterson to spread their literary (or genre) wings. Older people still need their fantasies, kids.
To accomplish these goals, I decided to start substitute teaching at the school district and started working as an adjunct instructor at MCC. In the district, I taught everything from pre-school to high school; at MCC, I taught composition and writing. While I was substituting for other teachers in the district and teaching their lessons, the MCC class was totally my own. I designed it with input from mentors who were full-time instructors there, and I did all the evaluating and grading. Both positions, coincidentally, were part-time. That obviously meant no benefits and varying hours, depending on the situation on any given week. I wanted to show that I was interested in working for both organizations and contributing to them.
Due to a multitude of factors, I never did work for either the district or MCC full-time. The exact reasons aren’t important anymore and I’ve long moved on since that time. In fact, about a year later I’d chuck all of that to briefly come out of retirement from journalism and work for my hometown newspaper for about 18 months. However, something happened as part of that teaching that was something of a thought experiment to me.
As part of my work with MCC, I was designing my own course to teach online – a virtual composition course. This was during the early years when online teaching was beginning to unfold – no Zoom, no live chat. However, it was writing, and I’d like to think that I was putting together some good online instruction.
When I was starting to design that course, I had a chance to examine some existing composition courses from some of the other instructors. One of the things that I noticed that at least a couple of those instructors were using sample essays that were written by other students. As I was just starting out as a composition instructor, I didn’t have ready access to some good example essays from students. Because of that, I decided to put together one of my own essays to fill in the gap.
As one of the strategies I was teaching was descriptive writing, I figured I’d put together an essay that would include a strong description of something I had experienced. The idea behind such an essay is to give a dominant impression of whatever subject that you are describing. You want your audience to feel something about your subject, to have a deeper understanding of it. At this point in my life, there was one subject that I wanted to write about more than anything else. That subject was soccer.
For the past couple of years, I had been interested in the Chicago Fire Soccer Club (now the Chicago Fire Football Club). Soccer had been a longtime interest of mine (more on the origins of that subject later), but at that point in my life I had become obsessed with soccer in both domestic and foreign leagues, an obsession that has only grown in the years since. That summer, however, I had my first chance to watch a pro game live, in Chicago, with my son and one of my friends from Muscatine. It was an amazing experience… so I wanted to talk about it.
The result of all of this was “Joining the Men in Red,” a first-person account of that match. Is it a perfect example of a descriptive essay, like what I would find in some of the composition textbooks I used for my classes? Maybe not. Were there one of two things I could have made better? Maybe. But I think it had a lot of heart and passion, and I think it did reflect what I truly felt about the sport and its fandom.
And I was able to use that essay for those classes. I even found that it would up being useful for later classes (back at the high school level) where I used it as a descriptive writing example. Heck, even last year, I ended up using it in a composition class I was teaching at my new high school, and it wound up being a good resource.
However, this year, I had the opportunity to have another soccer experience that was brand-new for me but involved the oldest love of my soccer fandom. After that second experience, I started to wonder if it wasn’t time for a second essay about my soccer fandom, that used that second experience as an opportunity to express how I felt about the sport and one team in particular.
This is the result of that urge.
So, about 10 years after I tried this for the first time, I’m going to do something of a spiritual sequel to that article. Let’s hang out with the Yanks.Continue reading “Joining the Yanks”