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Wednesday, May 15th, 2013 - 11:50 PM

"Invincible Soccer Ball?"

I'll be the judge of that!

I have gone through my fair share of soccer balls. I juggle them with my feet, kick them around on paved surfaces and against walls. I am not kind to them! This kind of rough friction is very hard on soccer balls. I usually have one brand new or nearly new ball in my possession and one or two oldies. I prefer to use the oldies because the brand new ones are very smooth and slippery. The older ones are usually a bit softer on the foot as well.

My good friend Dave is really into volleyball and is pretty picky about purchasing balls. I can attest that money is well spent on a good volleyball. In other words, you generally get what you pay for, and some cheap volleyballs are nearly unusable. Back when Dave and I peppered around and played a few informal games, I realized this sensitive threshold between a good volleyball and a bad one. There was pretty much one brand that was the best, and all the others were far inferior.

Fortunately with soccer balls, you don't necessarily get what you pay for, at least this is what I have found. My opinion doesn't count for much though because I never use them in gameplay. I only juggle. But I might argue that a good ball for juggling is also probably good for games. It might be my imagination, but I have found almost the opposite rule from the volleyball discussion. The cheaper the soccer ball, the more I seem to like it. Some of the cheapest balls are the most consistently made - very round and not too bulgy.

Since most standard soccer balls will not last forever when used on rough pavement, there is no particular reason to buy an expensive one. I am rough on them, so the cheaper the better. After all, I am not thrilled about an annual "soccer ball budget" that buying more expensive balls would require. I buy soccer balls at Target, Ross, Walmart, or occasionally Big 5. I rarely pay more than $10 or $12 for a ball. I am not very materialistic, so I don't care about looks, colors or brands. I can generally tell at a glance if a ball will work for me or not. I do tend to like Adidas soccer balls, as they are especially consistent and smooth in contour. That said, I have never bought a total dud, no matter the brand or price.

My last post about Richard Swanson inspired me to investigate his vision a bit. The primary organization he was raising money for is called The One World Futbol Project. I haven't read all the details, but the basic idea of their charity is to donate high quality soccer balls to people in areas of the world where affordable access is lacking. A soccer ball can literally be a person's dream come true in many countries. Trust me, I know! Have you ever seen those photos of kids with bundles of garbage packed together as a soccer ball? National Geographic even did a story on innovative children and their homemade soccer balls from all over the world. I have seen such balls first hand in poor communities in Brasil! Kids cannot afford a real ball, so they make one by packing and binding trash or other materials using twine or whatever they have handy. If they have access to a real ball, they will repair it many times before getting rid of it, long past what most westerners would consider acceptable for use. Soccer is the primary activity or sport for kids in many nations, and a good ball is hard to come by, especially if you are poor.

One World Futbol Project - Buy One, Give One

The balls that One World Futbol produces are supposedly "nearly indestructible." That is a claim I am WAY TOO CURIOUS to simply read about. It requires tactile feedback. Even though the One World balls are more expensive than what I normally buy, I cannot resist checking to see if their claims are true. They say that one of these balls can outlast thousands of regular balls! Whoa! That would mean I would never have to buy one again! We'll just have to see about that. Even if it lasts 3 or 4 times as long, it will pay for itself.

The cool thing about purchasing these particular balls is that "for every One World Futbol you buy, we give a second ball to a community in need through organizations working in disadvantaged communities such as refugee camps, war zones, disaster areas and inner cities." I like that idea. Totally going to buy one. I'll try to be gracious in my assessment of the ball when it arrives. I don't want to get my hopes up that it will be truly invincible. I have a hard time believing that. More importantly, I hope that whoever gets the other one (I buy one, someone else gets one free) will get some good use out of it. And you have to know that if one kid has a ball, it means a whole group of kids will benefit! Sweet!

P.S. Thanks again, Richard Swanson. You got me blogging again! I can't say that it is very rewarding as far as interaction. People don't read blogs much since the advent of Facebook and other social media. But it is rewarding for my own personal processing and growth... as long as I don't waste too much time on it.

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Wednesday, May 15th, 2013 - 2:14 PM

"Richard Swanson, Breakaway Brazil"

Richard Swanson
John Swanson, Breakaway Brazil

I don't feel like I can do much justice to this subject without spending a ton of time collecting my thoughts and editing the snot out of my writing. I don't presently have that kind of time on my hands, so I'll be relatively brief.

Today I was given a link to an epic story, that of Richard Swanson. His life was much more than the few breaths I will exhale to write this post. I learned of his existence, his passion, his soccer juggling journey, and his death all in about five minutes. If only I would have known of him before that.

Richard Swanson set out from Seattle, Washington with the plan to walk all the way to Rio de Janeiro, Brasil, for the World Cup. All the while he would juggle a soccer ball and raise money for charity. Talk about awesome! That's about three or four of my own passions and dreams combined. Had I heard about all this before today, I might have made an effort to at least meet Richard as he passed through Oregon. I know I would have experienced significant temptation to do even more... join him in his walk!

It is pretty rare to find a fellow juggler. Well, some of the news articles describe his trek as "dribbling," which is different from juggling. Juggling or dribbling, either method of reaching Brasil is impressive! Only a few times in my short life have I found people to juggle a soccer ball with. Most people want to play a game instead, but I only like to juggle. It would have been an honor to juggle or pass a ball back and forth with Richard as he was passing through Oregon - and to hear a bit of his story firsthand. Of course I also have great appreciation for Brasil, having been there four times. A significant part of my short life story was wrapped up in those trips and the time surrounding them. The idea of walking or driving from Portland to Brasil has also occurred to me. The P.C.T. has immense appeal to get to Mexico, and then on from there. But it was never more than a dream for me. Here was a man living the dream!

The journey was not meant to be, at least, it had a far more tragic end than anyone would have wished. Richard was hit by a truck while still in the Oregon part of his trip. I was very sad to hear the news, almost as if it was a dear friend who passed away. I have enough interests in common with this man to feel this loss more than an average tragic news story. Mom and I were even walking along highway 101 a couple weeks ago, probably where Richard passed by days later. I can definitely see the danger. I didn't feel super safe walking on the nearly nonexistent shoulder. I can't even imagine trying to juggle or dribble a soccer ball in those conditions!

I wish Richard's journey would have been completed. Many, after hearing the story, have casually or officially pledged to help complete parts of his journey. I might not be able to make a significant contribution, but if I can, I might: maybe juggle a couple miles in his honor. Good Lork. 777.

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