How Did You Do That?? I ASKED!
Seems simple enough right? Yet so often we forget how powerful we truly are.
I do my best to live in gratitude every day and, most days I think, I do a pretty good job. Most days I would tell you my life is wonderful, and I am incredibly blessed. But even in that, there are still some days that stand head and shoulders above the rest. This day, this day, is up there with the day my husband and I got married and when our kids were born because, this is the story of how my son met the great soccer goalkeeper, Kasey Keller. This was the day my son met his idol, and I was changed forever!
When we decided to move to Orlando, after more than a decade in LA, our six and three-year-old boys shared with us their “terms.” They had conditions for coming along with us! (Yes, I get it but, it was so cute how serious they were). They wanted a house with a pool (check), a dog (many checks), and to play soccer (also many checks). Clearly, they knew what they were talking about since they both went on to play ball in college. And like most sports fans, they both had their favorite players. Dylan adored many soccer stars, though Spain’s Carles Puyol was usually at the top of his list but for Eli, it was and always will be the great American goalkeeper, Kasey Keller.
Kasey was legend in the world of soccer and was the first American goalkeeper to genuinely succeed in Europe, paving the way for guys like Tim Howard and Brad Guzan. Yet when a successful international player, especially an American, announced he was “coming home” to play in the MLS, retirement usually wasn’t far behind. So, when Kasey announced, after a stellar career in England and Germany, that he was returning to his beloved Seattle Sounders, I knew I had to find a way for my son to meet him!
We’d seen the US Men’s National Team play numerous times and we’d seen Kasey, Tim and so many others play. Those events, though great fun, were always a zoo with no chance of player interaction. Some MLS teams though, did make their players available to meet with fans after the games, so I figured it might be possible. The real problem was, we lived in Florida, which at that time had exactly zero MLS teams, and Kasey was going to play in Seattle. How in the heck was I going to make this happen??
By this time in my life, I thankfully understood the power of gratitude and the way the Universe constantly worked to help us manifest and create the life we want. I just had never put the Universe to so specific a task. Eli and I didn’t always have the best relationship in those days and the idea of doing this for him filled my heart with joy. Not sure what to do first, I put the question out there during a morning meditation.
“Check the schedule.” I heard it loud and clear as I thought to myself, “Duh, that makes sense.” Still, in those days neither Florida nor Georgia had an MLS team, so anywhere we could go would likely mean plane tickets. I looked at the schedule, the Sounders were scheduled to play the Houston Dynamo IN Houston in July. I am almost always in Dallas in July for Seminar, Mary Kay’s annual convention, but really, what were the odds the dates would line up?
I checked my calendar and tears filled my eyes; the Sounders/Dynamo game was set for just two days after Seminar finished. Holy shit could this really work?!
In a complete leap of faith, we purchased four tickets to the game.
Since moving to Florida, we’d been driving to Dallas for Seminar. The drive was always enjoyable, my Pink Cadillac had plenty of room and we loved spending the night at a gorgeous B&B just north of New Orleans. We loved having a night just for us before entering the excitement and throng of the Mary Kay world and we’d been there so often; we became friends with the owners.
The plan was to fly the kids to Dallas on the last day of Seminar. I would finish my obligations while Rob picked them up at the airport. It was a unique opportunity to introduce them to some of my friends and mentors, plus there’s a Six Flags Park in Dallas and we love roller coasters so filling the day between my conference and the Houston game would be easy. I just needed to get my parents on board since they stayed at the house when we were away.
Thankfully they thought this was all terrific and handed over the information we needed to get them gate passes to take the boys through security and onto the plane, since I knew there was no way she’d let them go by themselves.
I could hardly believe how everything was falling into place!
Of course, I could… I just couldn’t stop grinning. Knowing the last part was the biggest leap of faith of all, I sent a letter to Kasey Keller at the Sounders main office. I explained all about my son, the talented young goalkeeper who idolized him and how we’d already purchased tickets to see him play in Houston. If he would be willing to give just a few moments of time to a young player, we’d be incredibly grateful.
It was time to tell Eli what was going on. I showed him a copy of the letter and, watching his face as he began to understand what we were doing, was truly one of the happiest moments of my life! I told him I didn’t know what would happen but at the very least, we were going to ride some new rollercoasters and enjoy the game. The next week I got a call from a sweet young woman who worked for the Sounders. Since this wasn’t a home game there wasn’t much she could do but, she put me in touch with her counterpart at the Dynamo, AND she sent a box of Sounders swag for the boys as well, including blankets with sleeves and the loudest cowbells you’ve ever heard!
Not sure what to expect, I reached out to Patrick the following day. He was the supporter liaison for the Houston Dynamo, and his job was to keep their fans happy. However, we didn’t live in Houston and, we were coming there to root against them, so I wasn’t sure how much he’d be willing to help. I told him the whole story and asked if there was anything he could do since we were coming all this way in the hope our son would be able to meet Kasey. It all depended on him! He was very nice and said he would see what he could do. I thanked him and agreed to be in touch closer to the time of our trip.
Finally, it was July! Rob and I had a great time in Dallas for MK Seminar and on the last day my parents got the kids on the plane and on their way to us. We spent the next day at Six Flags, riding every coaster in the place and then it was on to Houston!
Patrick directed us to meet him well before the game and, as excited as we were, none of us were prepared for what was about to happen. After presenting us with VIP passes, he led us over to where a bus was just pulling in and we stood there, mouths open, and watched the entire Sounders team arrive and file past us! Patrick walked us down to the field to look around and we watched quietly, as Kasey came out and went through his warm-up, with us no more than 20 feet away!
It was time to find our seats. You know those advertising boards that go around soccer fields? We were sitting directly behind them! Positioned between the field and walkway, we were a tiny teal anomaly in an ocean of orange, and Every Sounders Player high fived my boys as they walked past us to their side of the field. Even the late, great Sigi Schmid, admiring our homemade “Let’s Go Sounders” posters said, “Nice signs” as he high fived his way past. The game hadn’t even started, and my kids were on Cloud Nine!
The Sounders lost the game, due to some defensive mistakes and I’m sure the boys learned some new curse words thanks to Kasey as well. Eli just smiled and smiled. Patrick, having left us at our seats before the start of the game, returned towards the end of the game, carrying two bright orange cinch-sacks stuffed full of Dynamo swag! There were bobble-heads, souvenir balls, t-shirts and more and he looked as delighted as the boys as he handed one to each kid. “I know you’re true Sounders fans” he said, “but maybe, if they’re not playing against us, this will help you become Dynamo fans as well.” It was such a classy thing to do, and I wanted to hug him right then and there for making this a day our kids would never forget. But he wasn’t done yet!
We watched the players make their way off the pitch and the fans file out of
the stadium. Kasey was one of the last and we stood, rooted to our spot, as he walked straight over to us and said, “Sup, you must be Eli.” and shook hands with all of us. I thought Eli was going to pass out! “I’ve got to go shower and do some stuff, so I’ll meet you up there in a few” he said and walked off towards the locker rooms.
Once Eli could feel his legs, we walked up to the locker rooms and waited. Through the open door, we could see players milling around and Kasey speaking to reporters. As each Sounder player came out, they acknowledged the boys, posed for pictures, and signed their posters, Every Single One! Most even took a minute to ask where they were from and what positions they played. Nate Jaqua, Fredy Montero, Steve Zakuani, Brad Evans, Levesque, Fucito, Ianni, ALL of them! It was incredible! And then, he came!
After apologizing for taking so long, the Kasey Keller stood and spoke with us for another twenty minutes (and even invited us back to the hotel for drinks!) He asked about our trip, clearly touched we had gone to so much effort to be there. He spoke with Eli for a long time, sharing great wisdom and advice until it was time for him to go. We took more pictures, shook hands, and went our separate ways, profusely thanking both Patrick and the Sounders liaison who’d both gone so far above what we ever could have hoped for!
To their credit the boys held it together until we got back to the hotel. The second that door clicked shut they literally lost their shit! They were jumping on the beds, screaming, yelling, and finally collapsing with sheer delight! We knew they’d never get to sleep so we took them upstairs to the rooftop pool where Rob and I each took a kid and let them gush into decompression.
A few of the other pool goers had also been at the game. “Hey, you were at the Dynamo game, we saw you! You had great seats; you were even talking to the players! Do you know them?”
“No” I replied.
“How did you do that? We would have loved to meet the players!”
I thought for a minute before answering and smiled as I gave the only response I could;
It’s a lesson that serves me well to this day, and has become something of a motto for our family as well: “You never know what might happen but, if you don’t ask the answer is no so you might as well ask!”