the melonhead files

NB: This is mostly aimed at non-soccer buddies wondering why I’ve been so upset today, so a lot of it will be familiar to the regular soccer audience. It’s also both schmaltzy and boastful, for which I make no apologies. However, if you want some insight into why it is I do what I do, click on through.

lots more where this came from

It’s November 3, 2010, and Taylor Twellman, who’s the Revs’ all-time scorer, just announced he’s retiring. He’s retiring early (at 30) thanks to repeated concussion trauma; by soccer standards he should have another four or five years left in him, but his doctors have told him to retire if he wants to, uh, not die. It’s pretty depressing stuff, and, while I’ve known his retirement was coming for a while now, I’m still broken up about it.

Simply put: This site probably wouldn’t be here without him.

It’s not just because I started following soccer the year he joined the Revs, or because he’s been such an integral part of the team (and of American soccer in general) for the last eight years. No, it’s because he’s the guy who helped me find my voice.

When I started to paint banners in 2005, I did so because there was a specific need to be filled–the backstops around Gillette looked awfully naked. I wanted to get involved as a fan and be a part of the soccer fandom tradition of tifo and banners, and that was the way to do it. Worked great; the ones I did in 2005 were well received, and we’re still using at least three of ’em. I was thrilled that year when Michael Parkhurst told me the “Camel City Bomb Squad” one was his desktop image.

Then 2006 happened. The first week of May of that year, I got the World Cup tickets in the mail, lost a contract job, had a tow truck wreck my car instead of towing it, and was as aghast as the rest of the New England faithful when the World Cup roster came out with Clint Dempsey’s name, but not Taylor’s. Overall, it was a weird week. So Evan and I got some paper and paint and did one banner congratulating Dempsey on his callup, then another asking why then-US coach Bruce Arena hadn’t picked Taylor.

Hung the banner during warmups, Taylor looked at it and smiled, we figured great, that’s all we needed. Then he scored the first goal and ran clear across the field to stand in front of it to celebrate. Note this is a guy who doesn’t usually do stage dives or whatever; he doesn’t usually celebrate goals with the fans. I’m overjoyed, the game continues as a really great time (it’s the same game that got us the source image for the Shalrie “fierce” banner) and I head for home, satisfied that I’d gotten a point across.

Except then the next morning I get around to reading the paper. There’s a photo of Taylor in front of the banner, with the quote “every once in a while you need reassurance that people want you around” in the accompanying article. I was stunned.

Turns out that earlier that week, his grandfather had died, and he went into the game feeling pretty damn low. I’d had no idea about any of this, I just knew he wasn’t going to the World Cup. So seeing the banner was a sign to him that he really was appreciated, that we did want him around. Julie got me a copy of the photo (above) for my birthday that year; it’s framed, with his quote from the article under it, above my sewing cabinet.

Since then, I do the banners because I like doing them, of course, but also because I know they’re reaching the right people. If you’ve met me, you know I’m short (5’2″) and don’t really have a voice that carries in a crowd. By doing the banners, that’s my chance to be heard, and thanks to guys like Taylor, I know I’m getting through. If it weren’t for that day, I wouldn’t have had anything for Altidore to steal, or been the belle of the soccer ball on a trip to Seattle, or been there at the retirement press conference this afternoon where Taylor looked me right in the eye and called out the 100 Stars banner. I paint banners because they make me happy; they make me happy because they make other people really happy.

It’s not been a linear progression by any means, but I can still point to that goal celebration and say that’s where everything took off, that that’s when I knew people were listening. So thanks, melonhead, for being this site’s patron saint.

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