I am here to protect this tiny blessed sphere which men call Earth.
—THE SILVER SURFER, SENTINEL OF THE SPACEWAYS
Making it all the way through this story without a goof-up would be one of the great triumphs of modern printing. The subject of this piece is Julie Veee. That's Veee with three—count 'em, three—e's. You guys on the copy desk got that? Just follow along the way it's written here. Veee figures that only two e's in his last name would be ordinary and that three are extraordinary enough. This, as you may have gathered, is no ordinary man: If Veee has a whoopee season in outdoor soccer like the one he just had indoors, he may add yet a fourth and fifth e. As it is now, the throng of fans happily screaming his name sound as if those extra e's are already in place.
This is no slick, predictable-looking hero. Veee is 6'1", 175 pounds or so, and totally tousled from top to bottom. Looking at him one would think that his team, the San Diego Sockers, sent someone around every morning to rumple him. At 32, his face has settled into its maturity—solid cheekbones, generous mouth and a fine, sturdy nose, sort of beaked, yet broad and thick at the base. It's a typical Hungarian face, Veee insists, richly suited to evincing any number of moods.
They're mostly good at the moment. That figures, because Veee is fast becoming one of the country's best-known soccer players. For the most part he attained this status over the winter when he blew everybody away and fired the Sockers to a 16-8 record and the NASL indoor title. Assuredly no slouch outdoors, Veee turns into a demon when the game is played inside. With the smaller field and six men instead of 11 to a side, the action indoors is far faster, and Veee is expert at playing the ball off the walls, the stands, his elbows, his earlobes and, occasionally, a kidney or two. When the inside action concluded a few weeks ago, Veee was named MVP of both the regular season and the championship series, and he had broken all the NASL indoor scoring marks, with 51 goals and 38 assists for 140 points in 17 regular-season games. He had scored in 35 straight games over two years and averaged 2.6 goals and 7.1 points an outing during the streak. Indeed, he has never played an indoor game without getting at least one goal. It seems fairly safe to say that even the Silver Surfer couldn't have done it better.
Well, it takes a bit of explaining before one can fully comprehend this business about the Sentinel of the Spaceways, though anybody who was reading Marvel Comics back around 1968 will understand. Shooooom! The Surfer appears all shining, as if he has been chrome-plated and hand-buffed, and he utters truly wonderful stuff like, "Never am I alone—never unarmed—so long as I possess my board." (Those are the Surfer's italics, not ours.) Well, in the case of Veee, substitute "soccer ball" for "surfboard."
To go back to the beginning, Veee was born in Budapest in 1950, on the shantytown, or Pest, side of the city. In those days he was called Gyula Visnyei (pronounced JOO-la Vish-NEE-yai). Dad was a lathe operator and played a little soccer and drank a little beer on the side, like most dads in the neighborhood. The kids came by soccer naturally, playing the game in the street outside the tavern while waiting for their fathers to come out. "We were very, very poor," says Veee, "but then, so was everybody. After the Russians came in 1956, it got really bad. I didn't eat an orange until I was 17 and never a banana. But now, here in this country, you see them both in abandon...in"—he searches for the word—"in abandonment?"
Veee's wife, Yvette, corrects him without even glancing up from the newspaper she is reading. "Abundance," she says.
"Abundance!" he barks triumphantly. "Bananas in ABUNDANCE!"
Veee talks just like that, in the wonderfully explosive, staccato language of one who taught himself to read and speak English by studying comic books. Sometimes, when he's deep in puzzled thought, his expressive face all screwed up, one half expects to see words appear printed inside a balloon over his head. As it is, he speaks in a Hungarian-accented comic-bookese, saying many words in all caps. Not BLAM! or POW! necessarily, but "danger" always comes out DANGER! or he will say, telling of the old days, "Well, we were in SOME FIX!"