I remember playing with my brother in the backyard of our old house in
My dad said something about taking a ball and kicking and dribbling it. This confused the hell out of me because that sounded a lot like basketball—you dribble a basketball, but you don’t kick it. My dad, assuming I knew what dribbling meant, handed me a ball and told me to dribble it. I picked it up with my hands and started bouncing that ball around because it was the only “dribbling” that I knew. I remember he and my mom just started laughing at my confusion (another traumatic moment caused by soccer—remember the story about how my dad told me I sucked after a game?). Eventually, he cleared it up for me, and I embarked on my journey with the beautiful game.
In addition to futbol, I played tennis in my youth. In fact, I would hit the ball with my friend (notice the singular) or my brother, and I’d pretend I was Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, or Michael Chang. I preferred watching Wimbledon and the French Open to the Feyenoord and Ajax games they’d show on ESPN on the weekends. I thought I’d eventually keep going with tennis and toss futbol aside.
One fateful day in 1993, that all changed. I was going to sign up to play American football for my elementary school in the fall. I was going to leave the AYSO rec leagues and go to the big time in another sport. I was a football superstar at recess, and my friends (notice the plural) recommended I play. The St. Anne Elementary varsity football squadron were the Atlanta Braves of Catholic Youth Organization football—division champions every year with a long-long time coach, but unable to fulfill their potential and win the big one—the CYO Championship.
In any case I thought I’d join the team because a few of my friends were on it, and they seemed to talk to the girls in our class. So my dad and I went to the Junior High building after church for Fall Sports sign-up. That is when you could sign up for football, soccer, and cheerleading. My dad got the sign up sheet and asked me if I’m sure that I wanted to play football. I’m not sure why he asked if I was sure. Maybe it was because I had played soccer for the last 4 years, and he wanted me to be absolutely sure. Whatever the case, I freaked out internally. When he asked me if I really wanted to play football, I finally realized that I wouldn’t be playing playground football that was two-hand touch. I’d be getting tackled by kids way bigger than me. I was just a chubby little Asian boy.
At that moment, I picked futbol over football because I was too big of a wuss to get tackled by big fat white kids.
In the end, it all worked out. I ended up playing for the Rochester Knights, a rowdy group of idiots who showed respect for my love of doughnuts by affectionately nicknaming me, Homer. I became friends with Northwestern’s Hottest Guy on Campus, with whom I hosted the greatest bashes ever—The 33rd Anniversary of Neil Armstrong Landing on the Moon Party and The Alaskan Pipeline Party—and who introduced me to many smoking hot females, but more importantly, provided me with my first taste of a Chipotle burrito.