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If Families Were Sports Clubs

Tawni Martino ’14 ended her career tied for No. 3 in goals (19) and total points (45), and No. 1 in game-winning goals (9).

A few weeks ago, I spent an afternoon watching the season’s first home game of the LMU women’s soccer team. Sitting beside me in the Sullivan Field bleachers was the biggest fan of LMU soccer that I know: my 7-year-old friend, along with his mother and sister. He rarely misses a men’s home game and also shows up for a majority of the women’s games. Though he may be the most devoted fan — he knows the roster by first name, wears the gear and criticizes the refs — I’ve begun to see that he connects to his teams as much as an owner as a fan. He’s not thinking that the outcome of a game is a toss-up, in which case a win gives him the sweet taste of victory’s surprise. Instead, he’s thinking that his team has all the pieces it needs to win, plus some. When the Lions win, he enjoys the rich, peaceful satisfaction of his expectations being met.

Just how much of an owner’s mind-set the boy has became clear to me about six minutes into the women’s game against Long Island University. A few days before, I learned that two undergraduate players from last year’s squad had transferred. I asked my friend’s mother, “Did you know that two of our starters transferred?” Before she could answer, the kid turned to me and asked — with no regret, only looking forward — “Who did we get for them?”

That started a conversation about trading players — an endlessly fascinating conversation to a real fan — but with a twist: Which of our favorite players would we like to have in our families? Rafael Baca, LMU alumnus now playing with the MLS San Jose Earthquakes, and my friend’s favorite player? Tawni Martino, LMU forward and first team All-WCC last season in her freshman year? “Who would you trade to get Rafa?” “What about Tawni?” “How about Abby Wambach? If you had Rafa and Tawni, would you trade them for Abby?”

I could see his mind going through his personal scouting report, assessing each player’s skills. I asked him if he’d trade one of his other favorite players, Steve Nash of the NBA’s Phoenix Suns, to get one of his soccer heroes. Then I asked the question that proved that if he was thinking like an owner, I was thinking like a child: “What about your family? Would you trade your sister to get Rafa in your family?” Luckily, his mother laughed. Even more fortunate for me: his 11-year-old sister is my friend, too. “No!” she said. A moment later, “Yes, he would.”

Then the conversation took a new turn. I asked a boy’s toughest question: “Would you trade Mom for anyone?” He went silent.

I was told the next day that it took several hours for him to answer the question. That’s when I learned that not every family has a franchise player.

This coming Saturday, Sept. 17, at 1 p.m., the LMU women’s soccer team plays UCLA, ranked No. 2 in the nation, on LMU’s Sullivan Field. The team is off to a raging start, with a record of 6-1-1. It will be a game not to be missed. For more information about LMU athletics, go here.

(Photo of Tawni Martino by Scott Cunningham/Courtesy of LMU Athletics)