- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Rote is a very pleasant young man to be around, a first-year ministry student at SMU, son of a football hero from SMU and the New York Giants. Kyle Jr. works as public-relations man for the Tornado to add to the rather humble salaries paid to NASL players (averaging about $3,000 for the five-month season). John Best, the defensive leader of the Tornado, is a film and photo model. Goalkeeper Ken Cooper is an instructor at soccer summer camps. Forward Jim Benedek is a land appraiser. Middleman Bob Ridley is a tennis teacher. And so forth. They all have to do something besides play soccer.
Rote was a high school football star in Texas before he decided to become a soccer player at Sewanee, and by midweek before the championship game he was getting nervous in a way he had never experienced in football.
"Football is worse to worry about," Rote said. "In football you know you're gonna get hit on every play. In soccer you'll get hit, but what you've got to prepare for is the running and the skills.
"A soccer player is finicky, like a golfer. His diet has to be right. He's got to be full of energy. Early in the week before a game, I eat a lot of protein to build solid weight, not liquid weight. The night before a game I eat Italian food to get carbohydrates for quick energy. Just before a game I eat a banana to get potassium and phosphorus to combat heat exhaustion and cramps.
"I'll tell you," he said, "during a game at Texas Stadium I've run seven to nine miles and lost about 12 pounds. After the game I'll go into the tunnel so the fans can't see me, and then I'll have to sit down and try to breathe. It's like the marathon runners—after the 20th mile they say what the heck am I doing here?"
At 6 feet and 180 pounds Rote is large for a front-line soccer player. He is not yet as skilled as John Best, the Tornado defenseman and its certified All-Star, but he has been a dream for the franchise. "If a scenario writer had invented Kyle Rote Jr., you wouldn't have believed it," said Bill McNutt, the fruitcake king from Corsicana, Texas, while driving along an expressway one afternoon in his black Rolls-Royce. McNutt, Hunt's partner in ownership of the Tornado, sells more than 2,500,000 pounds of fruitcake a year by mail and got into soccer because Lamar asked him to.
"When we started all this in 1967, there were 11 amateur soccer clubs in Dallas," McNutt said. "Now our last count showed there are 1,170 teams. In other words, 25,000 to 30,000 people playing soccer here. It's becoming a monster sport in this country. Lamar's eight-year-old boy told him he wasn't going to play football because it might ruin him for soccer. Until a year or so ago, it was an everyday reality that our league might fold. Now there's no chance of that. We're going right through the top."
That Texas is a football state is a fact that Best has learned to deal with. "When I go to a school to teach soccer, I can tell who the football players are," Best said last week. "They're the guys lounging around looking uninterested. So I do this thing where I put a soccer ball on the floor and say, 'O.K., somebody take it away from me without using his hands.' A football player will get up. His mates yell, 'Kick him, bash him!' They can't do it, though, can they? They charge the ball like bulls, but they can't get it. The football players, the jocks I guess they call them, think soccer is a sissy sport. But soccer has a lot of contact, like basketball. It's just well-timed contact. You can give a jock the hip, catch him in his stride and knock him into the stands."
Preparing for the championship game, Newman warned his Dallas players that Philadelphia would be difficult. He warned them that anybody who was late to practice would be fined $20. A $20 fine would not mean a whole lot to, say, Roger Staubach, who also plays in Texas Stadium, but in a league where the top star makes about $5,000 for the season, the threat caused a few grimaces.
On Saturday night a crowd of 18,824 arrived at the stadium, good attendance for the growing soccer league. Commissioner Phil Woosnam was ecstatic over the turnout.