This is the second year we have had the boys in soccer. They enjoy it. We enjoy it. It's a good way to spend time together as a family.
The fly in the ointment for me, this year, has been The Rationalist's U-12 coach. I have cultivated a general eye-rolling feeling towards him for several reasons, the least of which is related to his actual coaching. When we met him, I thought that he seemed familiar to me, especially once he mentioned he was a youth minister. Though I couldn't specifically place him, I had the sense that we must have glancingly met him at some point in the 12 years that we have lived here.
Curious, I googled him when I got home and realized that we had visited a church he was starting many years ago. We had visited just one time, so I doubt that he would have any remembrance of us as a part of a large group of people, but I remembered him because we gave him our attention for one full Sunday morning, even if it had been 6 years ago.
Googling someone, in some cases, can provide a key to their personality. It's not an exact science, but for those who have a heavy web presence, it can pretty much lay out their lives--good, bad, and curious--in a few seconds.
What I found on the coach was evidence of many start-ups of various churches, stints as a youth minister at various churches, several career websites where he hyped his motivational speaking skills and mentions of playing for the NFL.
Mixed in with that were a couple of links with questions about whether this man had ever actually played with the Dallas Cowboys. Apparently, someone didn't believe his resume and wanted to know more about him from an expert on all things Cowboy-related.
What came out on the website is that there was no mention of his name on any NFL roster at any time, for any game with that team. As far as the Dallas Cowboys were concerned, this man didn't exist. Searching a little bit further, the expert on the website found only one reference to him. Apparently, he had tried out for the Cowboys, had initially been signed as a place kicker, but then was dropped/waived after a couple of months. However, he never played a single game and it is unclear how much of those 3 months were actually spent with the team because he was signed in April and waived in July, presumably before the pre-season and definitely before the actual season which started on 9/13/87.
I had stumbled across an unsettling fact. The coach was an exaggerator, possibly a liar, depending on how you looked at it.
I wasn't sure what to think about the whole thing. It seemed too incredible to me to think that this man would blatantly misrepresent himself, but that is exactly what he did.
The coach had advocated we follow him on facebook for soccer updates and there was no mention of the NFL on his info/work page. Several of the defunct churches' websites that mentioned him didn't mention it either. Maybe, I thought, this was a brief slip-up by him. Maybe it was a misunderstanding by someone in the past, thinking he was claiming to have played as opposed to briefly being signed to the Cowboys.
Further googling turned up a couple of mentions of the pastor/coach and the NFL in personal blogs of people who were working with him or introducing him as a guest speaker. The term "former NFL player" was used as a credential for appealing to youth. Still, these mentions were several years old and very brief, no more than a sentence or two, not detailed elaborations. But now, instead of just finding references to the Dallas Cowboys, I was finding references to the New York Jets also.
Disturbed, I decided to do my own fact-checking, going to official NFL sites and the official Dallas Cowboys site and New York Jets site, running various searches to try and turn up any overlooked information, searching by year, name, position, etc. I found no mention of him anywhere on any of the official team rosters maintained by any NFL organizations.
It bugged me, but wanting to be charitable and give the benefit of the doubt, I pushed it aside thinking it was probably in the past, a minor case of braggadocio that had flared up and burnt itself out rather quickly.....until it wasn't anymore.
Not long after the soccer season started, the coach decided to give a pep talk about getting enough sleep, eating the right things, and drinking enough fluids the day before the game. It was at this point that he mentioned this was the advice given to him when played in the NFL.
A couple of kids gasped and exclaimed excitedly, "You played in the NFL?"
"Yeah. I sure did," he said.
"What team?" they asked.
"I played for the Cowboys and the New York Jets," he said confidently.
"Wow!" they said.
I stood there, silently thinking despicable thoughts.
Exaggeration? Possibly able to be construed as such.
Outright Lie? In my book, yes.
Google had laid bare this man's lie before me. I knew something about him that no one else on that soccer field knew at that moment, that he was lying to our kids' faces and to ours.
Practice was over. We went home and I stewed, wondering how this man could so casually represent himself the way that he did...the same man who markets himself as a motivational speaker to teens in order to teach them not to smoke, drink or have sex before marriage...the same man whose facebook page was filled with mini-sermons about serving God.
The awkwardness of knowing more about a person than I normally would, without them even realizing it, is pervasive. There's no way to reveal what I know without seeming creepy and stalker-ish as if I spend all my time researching the personal lives of those around me. And, there's no real point in revealing what I know because while it reflects very poorly on this man's character and personality it has absolutely zero to do with his soccer coaching. It's something he says to boost his own self-image and give him more prestige in the eyes of others, but after that brief moment it recedes in relevance.
Still, it annoys me. It is hard to listen to him speak without second-guessing everything he says as exaggeration and self-promotion.