Monday, March 6, 2006
How to put your friends to work
All of the elements were in place: A great idea (mine, of course), willingness from my national team teammates to help and a lot of time on our hands. So I sent out a mass e-mail that enthusiastically described what I wanted:
"I need your help with my article for ESPN. Let me rephrase. I need YOU to make fun of ME for a couple of lines or, as nonathletes call it, a 'paragraph.' The only stipulations are that you keep it in the framework of "A Day in the Life of Jimmy Conrad" and that you need to speak as if you were me. I encourage you to be creative but be aware that what you write might be read by up to 50 people. OK, maybe 60 if my family, friends or the Cauldron stop by to have a glance.
"It shouldn't take you longer than 10 to 15 minutes and once double-days stop, I know all of you will have more than enough time to put something together for me. If you have any questions, come talk to me at any of the meals we share as a team or in room 549. If I'm not there, my roommate Brian Carroll won't have the answers -- he's too busy doing Sudoku -- so leave a message.
"Also, in case I've never expressed it, I love all of you."
A week passed, double-days came and went, and out of the 28 guys I e-mailed, only one responded. ONE. And you would probably guess that this person would be a teammate of mine from the Kansas City Wizards, since they have had the honor and privilege to be a part of my everyday life. These gentlemen have seen me after a win, after a loss, with my family, down at halftime, nude in the shower, making a mistake and scoring a goal, all of which essentially encompass the full range of my emotions. So the real question is, was it Josh Wolff, (a pre-traded) Chris Klein, or Kerry Zavagnin who stepped up and wrote me the Jimmy-centric paragraph I not-so-subtly demanded?
The answer: None of the above. It was, in fact, a player I had only known for about 10 days: D.C. United center back Bobby Boswell. And this is his entry:
"Hi, I am Jimmy Conrad ... I am a leader ... I am always the first one in line to do running drills ... I am in the first group for fitness ... I led UCLA to a national championship ... I led two different teams in the MLS to championships. I lead defensive drills in Kansas City, I lead warm ups in Kansas City and I drive a van to and from national team training and make guys listen to Interpol CDs. I even lead the guys to the horse track to waste their money gambling. The last time we went, I got pulled over on the way and dropped the national team and even Freddy Adu's name to the officer hoping to lead him away from a ticket ... this was one of the rare occasions that my leadership skills let me down. And hopefully I will be able to help lead the U.S. to a World Cup championship in 2006 in Germany."
Not bad for barely knowing me. But where were everybody else's responses? I got out the rooming list, scurried down the hall and finally understood what I was up against: Golf in the afternoons, golf on Playstation Portables, naps, card playing, treatment for injuries, movies, shopping and what appeared to be a genuine disdain for having to sit behind a desk -- hence their profession. I get it. But what if a teammate needs some help? Clearly, I had to write another e-mail to get my point across.
"I'm well aware of how much extra time you have in one day because I, too, enjoy the same amount of time off. But all I'm asking for is a few minutes of your life. Listen, I'm giving you the opportunity to be loved over the Internet, which I've heard from some inside sources is the new must-have, must-do thing (like MySpace.com) -- and all you have to do is have a go at me. Talk about whatever it is that makes me so great or, if you must, not so great.
"In theory, I should have less brain cells than all of you because I head the ball more, so put your extra ones to use and write me back.
A couple of days went by with my puppy dog eyes in full effect and a few more trickled in...
"For all of my readers who have been reading my informative articles for the past few years I, Jimmy Conrad, thought I would give you a little insight to who I am. I majored in math at UCLA, so from here on out, it will make a lot more sense that I am such a dork. I love super food! What is super food you ask? Well it is all the food that your mother wanted you to eat as a child like broccoli, soy milk, and protein powder. I think Matt Reis is the best-looking bald goalkeeper the USA has ever produced. I love bands that no one has heard of. I love to stretch a lot. I love to lose my money on the horse races. Most of all, I love math, and I think math can explain the world."
That's the spirit.
"If my life ended today, I'd go out on top because I know that I've accomplished something that few could even dream of. And if you think I'm speaking about my illustrious rise to prominence from UCLA walk-on to MLS Cup champion to national team regular to MLS Defender of the Year, well, then you don't truly know what makes me tick.
"When I step off the soccer field, my true calling emerges and I am no longer called Jimmy. My name (screen name, actually) is SuperSlimJim69 (clever, I know) and I am the No. 1 Settlers of Catan player in the world. That's right; the menacing board game that swept the nation and morphed into the online gaming sensation of this millennium is my true calling.
"For those of you who live in a cave or don't have broadband to handle the intricate graphics, I'll briefly explain the game that has almost ruined my marriage. In a nutshell, the idea is to be the best 'settler' you can be by building the longest roads, creating the biggest cities, and having the largest armies. And to do this, you must barter with other gamers in order to acquire the necessary supplies.
"I know what you are thinking, 'How does this guy have any energy left for soccer with such an intense gaming lifestyle?' But if I told you my secret, I'd have to kill you. Ha ha. Ha ha. Ha ha. But my rise to the No. 1 ranking in the world (no joke) didn't come easy. I had to outsmart the legend of all legends, the guy everyone fears, the original 'Settler.' His screen name is HammerUSSRforLife -- a Russian gamer who currently holds the No. 1 ranking in Doom, Ms. Pac Man, Minesweeper, AND he was the first person to beat the original Super Mario Brothers.
"I tricked him into trading three sheep for two bricks (which I didn't even need by the way!) and my perfect society was complete! He never knew what hit him, and I instantly ascended from a struggling gamer to the No. 1 spot in the world. Nothing I accomplish in soccer will ever compare -- and I don't want it to. I just wish people on MySpace would actually believe that I AM SUPERSLIMJIM69!"
I have no idea what he's talking about.
"Hey guys, its Jimmy C.! You wouldn't believe how hard it is to get these guys on the U.S. team to help me out with my ridiculous article. I volunteer my time, I mean, everybody else's time, and they act like they don't even know me. (It's really starting to cut into my food preparation time.)
"Camp has been great so far, but it's been really difficult to juggle time with all of my girlfriends. I usually have more time for each lady when I'm in Kansas City because the quality of women there really limits my dating pool; however, Los Angeles is a different story entirely. The ladies from Temple City treat a trip to the Home Depot Center almost like a pilgrimage to stand before their 'Super food' god. With my wife in KC, it's tough to keep the 'real Jimmy' bottled up.
"It's been pretty easy for me on the field though. Let's face it. With my name on my shoes, beautiful soccer is second nature. Sure I head the ball more than I use my feet, but I head it pretty accurately. I should talk to Ryan Suarez about getting my name on one of those padded headbands, and center backs throughout the world will be waiting in line to wear one.
"Well, I should get going. I've got to go and make calls to Ryan, my wife and, to quote the great Jose Canseco, some 'road beef.' Jimmy, out!
"PS. If you're from Kansas City, please bring a couple friends to the games this year. It always looks empty when I'm heading the ball out of the back during games. If you have hot friends, get me their number. J.C. "
Nice Kevin, real nice. My wife is scanning the Yellow Pages for marriage counselors as I type this.
Jimmy, out!Jimmy Conrad is a defender for the U.S. national team and Major League Soccer's Kansas City Wizards. He contributes regularly to ESPN.com.