2016 NYC 26.2 and Grassroot Soccer (and Shep)

So, here’s the thing…

For the past 7 years I have raced the NYC marathon with my good buddy Ethan Zohn in support of his charity Grassroot Soccer. A mutual friend introduced Ethan and I in 2009 knowing that we each shared a blood cancer diagnosis and we were both former soccer goalkeepers. What makes this story even better is the fact that this mutual friend was soccer analyst and former NY Cosmos and NY Arrows goalkeeper Shep Messing. When I was playing in high school and college, I idolized Shep. He was not only a brilliantly talented player but he also validated the notion that keepers can be a tad left of center and I think it was that persona that gave me a great sense of kinship with Shep and sense of belonging to the goalkeeping community. He was the face of the American goalkeeper.

As (my) luck would have it, I would connect with Shep later in life and we developed a bit of a friendship.  Shep would even contribute a few words as an intro to one of my books (In Search of Center). I included that message below. So when a guy like Shep Messing sends you an email that starts out with “Hey big man, I need you to do me a favor”… he really doesn’t even need to finish the thought. The favor was to connect with a guy named Ethan Zohn. While Ethan was known to many as the winner of the reality TV show SURVIVOR (Africa, season 3), I didn’t know who he was. In Shep’s words, Ethan and I were two former goalies and like-minded individuals who were both diagnosed with a blood cancer and would benefit from leaning on one another through this journey. It took me 3 seconds to respond with a big YES.

Shep was right; an instant friendship with Ethan was born and we have leaned on each other on a personal level and in support of a number of charitable ventures that we have been involved with through the years. One of which is Ethan’s charity, Grassroot Soccer and our participation in the NYC marathon. Which was the whole point of this post – but I got a little derailed talking about Shep Messing. So now that you have that backstory…

Unfortunately, I will not be running in the NYC marathon this weekend. As many of you know, my leukemia attempted to make an appearance again which warranted a series of chemo treatments. While I was able to remain in decent shape as I went through four rounds of treatment, I wasn’t able to ramp up to marathon shape. The good news is that treatment was very successful. My leukemia was humiliated and crawled back into storage. I am in good enough shape to race a couple of half marathons this fall, but this weekend’s NYC full 26.2 just wasn’t in the cards this year. But that’s OK.

I will still head up to NYC on Saturday to enjoy our traditional prerace dinner with Ethan and The GRS marathon team and will be with them all in spirit as they make their way through the boroughs of NYC on Sunday.  And next year will bring some awesome partnerships and fun stuff with Ethan and GRS. I’ll be sure to post plenty of pics and stuff from dinner this Saturday. Until then…

Train safe, race smart, and THANK the volunteers.

Below is what Shep contributed to my book, In Search of Center. And I should add the Ethan wrote the foreword to this effort.

Messing’s Message

All goalkeepers belong to a fraternity of renegades. For ninety minutes you are on the precipice of anger and tranquility. You have to be coiled and ready to strike, with the serenity of a yogi. That juxtaposition is the greatest mental challenge of every game. You mark your territory and defend it, like a mother bear protecting her den. At the same time, it is an acutely cerebral undertaking.  It’s about analyzing, and quickly computing probabilities. You must assimilate everything going on in a game. If you can’t see how a game is evolving, you can’t make the save. Steve Brown’s fundamental approach towards life was born in this fraternity. Through the challenges he has faced and the obstacles he has overcome, he has taken it to a whole new level. We are all proud of him.

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