Respect: Of the many who demand it, few get it and even fewer deserve it.
I truly believe that respect is earned wordlessly, silently, almost imperceptibly through action.
I recall a certain event with my Dad that exemplifies this notion. It happened as I was entering my rebellious years. I was 14.
I held high respect for Dad from very early on. But once a boy becomes a teenager, he may show disrespect toward the very towering figures he put on a pedestal for so long.
Allow me to explain.
My love and devotion for the game of soccer is ingrained in me just from having been born in Argentine lands.
The very air in the country, heavily laden with the perspiration of countless players and games, practically infects all newborn boys with the fever of soccer.
How it grows and develops in an Argentine child comes from the father and then through endless street, sandlot and neighborhood games, moving toward more structured Futból leagues with his peers as he grows.
Having moved with my family to the Bronx as a toddler, an element of that soccer growth was interrupted. In the early ’60s, youth soccer was not as popular as it is now. My father, who in Argentina played at the professional level, continued in some adult leagues that played in Van Courtland and Flushing Meadow Parks.
But for me, chasing la redonda (the round one) in New York became strictly a father-son thing.
As I got older, Dad encouraged me to pick up the ball with my hands, and slowly but surely, a soccer goalkeeper was developing. He told me that since I did not grow up with the opportunity to play potrero (sandlot) soccer, that I should work to become a goalkeeper.
After-school trips to the park were a daily occurrence.
Since available soccer goalposts were a rarity, we would set up a couple of markers to serve as goalposts in front of a fence or wall with grass leading up to it and kick away — me crouching and diving, Dad stopping to give me pointers, explaining the art of the keeper and tirelessly kicking soccer balls.
It was heaven.
Summers, fall and spring, the training continued.
As I got a little older, the feeling of “I know more than you” started to also develop.
One day we went to Pelham Bay Park for our goalkeeper training.
At this session I made the mistake of thinking I could show my Dad up. I thought that not only was I the best, but that I was going to show him in a very flashy way.
How? In my case, by making stops while moving half-heartedly toward the ball, by chicken-winging my arm and knocking out the kicked ball with my elbow, by staying upright and turning my back to the ball and heel-kicking it back.
What I forgot was that the man in front of me was once a professional soccer player and I had never experienced a true soccer shot.
I quickly found out that he had always pulled his punches.
And I found out most loudly.
The next few shots came in a blur.
I remember getting a hand on a few, and how they hurt. The ones I could not stop, because they came at me as if fired from a howitzer, hit that wall behind me with a stupendous BANG!
They hit off that wall so hard that they went right back to Dad without my intervention and he readied himself for the next shot.
At one point the volley stopped and he walked to me. He calmly asked if we were done.
He seemed 10 feet tall again. He never directly addressed the barrage, never mentioned my display of disrespect.
We probably talked about soccer the way we always did on the way back home.
But in that one loud, wordless moment, he got back that respect that I vainly attempted to take away.