Right back into place

Note: I originally wrote this piece last May, but thought it’d be great to post a year later.

It was late May, and one of my best friends, who had just returned from studying abroad in Costa Rica, picked me up from outside my house in his white Ford Taurus.

Immediately upon entering his car, he said, “Yo.”

We fell right back into place.

Like many other times, with many other friends, time didn’t damage the friendship. It’s the same with another friend of mine from back home. We always separate for several periods of time, but come back together like no time has passed.

This school year will mark the return of a huge amount of my friends. We went a semester without each other – they were all at different place across the country, while I remained in Amherst.

Some of them were romanced in Spain, others were hypnotized by the white sands of the Caribbean. I became the Editor in Chief of the Massachusetts Daily Collegian.

We all met new people and had new experiences.

The aforementioned friend who went to Costa Rica said he had a teacher who wasn’t much older than him.

One friend, who went to Spain, said she was meeting and “getting to know” many Spanish men on her journey.

During her stay in the Caribbean, another made a friend lives full-time in California. He visited her in Massachusetts about two weeks ago.

I rode through the semester with my cousin and my best friend at my side during the weekends, and with the Collegian folks during the school year.

New friendships grew for us. We had, in a way, moved on from each other.

It was in July – while I was out in Erie, Pa, for a newspaper internship – that I started hearing from some of these friends.

The Spanish dame? She was visiting Amherst and wanted to see me.

Another said she had moved into her apartment, and wanted to catch up.

Constantly I heard back from my friends that had been gone for the semester.

As for the friends I had made in the spring? I heard little to nothing from them.

This shows us what true friendship is. It’s sometimes a great and eye-popping thing to take a step back and examine your friendships, your life and the direction you’re going.

When you see friends that you’ve been apart from for months pick up the phone and call you, you know they’re really interested in seeing you. They aren’t calling to suit their own interests. They’re generally concerned in seeing you, and picking up where you left off.

Sometimes we make promises we can’t keep with friends. Sometimes we tell someone we’re going to stay friends, or maybe take that next step forward, but we always fail to deliver and end up nothing. Before the summer started, I had someone say we were going to be “friends forever” and another say she’d be mine “as long as I wanted” her too.

Both failed. I did my part as best I could, I know that. I did my part and left the ball in their respective courts. Neither took the opportunity to play the game. Both left me severely disappointed in them.

Other times, we make due on those promises. We don’t forget about those who have moved on. Sometimes we get an apartment for the school year with someone who had just graduated, keeping the friendship alive. Sometimes a friend will contact you from the desk of their new job in the Berkshires and say how much their experience deals with Facebook. Sometimes our friends are thousands of miles away in the west, and yet they send you Christmas gifts.

These are the friendships to cherish.

If someone, who is claiming to be a friend, doesn’t do their part in the friendship, then they aren’t a true friend worth having. Forget all the “guys should text first” or similar rules of today. None of that should matter concerning friendships. We’re all responsible for building these relationships, and thus we should all put in the equal effort to do so.

I’ve had friends go across the state, across the country and across the world. And many times, they come back like nothing has changed. We fall right back into place and the dynamic continues. That’s the mark of a true friend.

I always like to think of a wedding when considering friendships. Who’s there? Which of my boys is standing beside me as my best men? Who is watching from the seat below?

This summer I learned there are many who I thought would be there and who won’t.

Those that will be there, mean all the more to me.

One more go

It’s here.

The final semester starts today. It’s the last first day for me, unless I eventually attend grad school to further my journalism knowledge beyond what actual experience can do. Today is the final time I will debate where to sit for the first class, or what students to befriend and which to avoid.

The sense of finality surrounds today.

I’ll always remember my first day as a UMass student.

I was wearing 2XL Nike shorts that went way past me knees, a 2XL undershirt and black t-shirt, and a pair of Jordan sneakers I bought for $120 about a year prior.

My head was shaved and nearly bald.

It was bright and sunny. The wind was furious. I remember it tightened my shirt and it didn’t do my any favors.

My family – mother, sister, grandmother, aunt – moved me in.

I met my roommate in person for the first time. We went to Berkshire Dining Hall, got all kinds of confused by the lines and swarm of students and parents, and settled on pizza. We stayed in and played Madden that night and suffered an insult from one of our floor’s party girls. It didn’t matter. I was easing into it.

I slept on my dorm bed like a baby. I spent hours watching crappy TLC shows and SVU marathons. I walked miles in the snow to see some friends. I went to class, sick as a dog, because I thought I’d fail if I missed a class. I never skipped anything.

Fruit punch and diet soda were my drinks of choice. Soccer was my addiction.

It’s been about three and a half year since that moment.

My clothes toe the line between Large and Medium. I only wear those Nike shorts for basketball or other exercise. I have a new pair of Under Armour shoes. The Jordans are stowed away.

My hair has much more length now.

My family – mother and sister – helped me move back to my off-campus apartment.

I have two roommates – a quirky, Ted Mosby and a tired, sometimes miserable Ron Weasley.

I buy most meals at the Blue Wall or cook on my own. I sleep on a broken futon. I’ll play FIFA and NBA 2K13 late at night to ease my stresses sometimes. I spend hours editing, writing and editing again.

Coffee, tea and water are my drinks of choice. Soccer is still my addiction.

I’m not really sure how others feel, but I believe I’ve changed a lot since that first day. Entering college, I wanted to be that hip, sunglass-wearing, basketball short stylin’ “baller” that everyone loved to be around.

But I grew up and realized there’s an importance to being mature and an adult. There’s ways to be young and innocent – living your prime and enjoying it – while also acting mature and knowing there are consequences to everything you do.

I know people who decided not to go to college, and they’re incredibly smart. Some of the smartest people I know didn’t graduate from a four-year university. As much as we try to mask it, college isn’t about the education. It’s about experience.

It’s about a lot of experiences really. It’s not just about living with 26,000-plus people of your age. It’s not just about learning from mistakes and bettering yourself. It’s about getting that experience in the real world and knowing you can make it as an adult – totally independent, totally on your own.

We also get career experience. College offers such a chance to work in a real office (or in my case, a newsroom) so we’re prepared for the rest of our lives. We’re constantly learning how to be, how to live and how to become someone. It’s not about the facts, the tests and the quizzes, but rather about how you manage your time, accept what’s given to you and complete tasks laid out before you.

But here I am the day before my final first day of school begins.

I’m about 100 pounds lighter and four years more mature.

I went through Hell, Heaven and the in-between.

I lost and gained friends.

I had BFFRs, open and closed dohs, nights celebrating and dissing the Miami Heat, a witness to prank wars.

I worked countless hours in a windowless and soulless newsroom office and a popular and bro-filled dining hall.

I ventured eight hours away for an internship in Pennsylvania.

I met a girl through Twitter and met up with her totally Catfish style – and it worked, kind of.

I ate pizza at late hours and ate dessert for breakfast.

I passed out at three, woke up at 10, went out to eat and did it again.

I’ve done countless things so far. I’ve had an experience.

But I have one more go at it. One last semester to take advantage of everything that is right before me. I have one more chance to right the wrongs, make myself a viable hiring option and show that I can survive in this world.

One more go to live.

13 Resolutions for 2013

I thought I’d update my blog with my 13 resolutions for the new year. Some of you probably saw these on Twitter. But for this blog post,  I decided to better explain my resolutions so that there’s a better understanding.

Resolution No. 1: Lose the final 18 lbs of my goal.

Those who’ve known me for the past seven years should be aware that I’ve dropped a decent amount of weight. I lost 40 lbs in summer 2010, which I still call my favorite summer of all time, right behind the epic summer of 2007. Anyway, this past summer while in Erie, Pa., I lost another 40 lbs. Part of it had to do with always being on the go with my internship at the Erie Times-News. But let me tell you, kids, spend one hour a day on the treadmill and eat a lot of fruit and fiber, and you’ll be fine.

Resolution No. 2: Trust people more.

The journalist in me doesn’t trust anyone. I’m always questioning, observing and trying to understanding. But the person in me, the social one in me, hasn’t been very trusting in the past. Not sure why. Maybe it is the journalist in me — keeping me straight so that I never trust a source, unless it’s a cold hard fact.

Resolution No. 3: Get my own apartment, move outside/near a MLS city and start the Journey of Life the right way. 

I’m OK with change, and I’m not dedicated to this one either. I’ll be graduating in May (with extra three credits than necessary, go me) so it’ll be time for the job search. I’m fully aware of the journalism job market, and I know I’m going to have to sacrifice something in order to get a job doing what I love. But, ideally, I’d be hired outside of a MLS city where I can buy season tickets and watch the team every weekend. That’d be great. I’d like to start the so-called “Journey of Life” with an open path ahead, full of new promises and hope.

Resolution No. 4: Make someone smile every day.

It’s great when someone smiles because of something you say or do, and I don’t think enough people take pleasure in that. Many of us don’t understand that a smile is a physical action taken to show pleasure and joy because of something else. You’re making someone react in a positive way. And based on the cruel and sometimes dark world we live in, I think making someone smile is a fantastic feat. I’d like to do that each day.

Resolution No. 5: Don’t look back at what I’ve left behind.

I have a great memory. I can recall the smallest and most boring days of high school on a whim. I can recall that time I slipped and fell into chocolate milk, or that time I watched “The Office” in class because my friend had it on his iPod Video. Blessing? Well, sometimes it’s a curse too. Too often I feel like the moments I’ve left behind several years ago were actually yesterday. I still think that I’m directly connected to people who are no longer in my life, and our friendships become more one-sided than anything. I’d like to take a more realistic approach and consider things to be what they are at face value.

Resolution No. 6: Do something significant each day. Seriously. 365 significant things.

This one will be tough, since it’s hard to define something as significant. But I think as long as I can reflect on the day as a day well spent, I’ll be fine.

Resolution No. 7: Finish writing the novelization of Tempestfield.

Some of you may know my movie series, “Tempestfield.” It began as a film project for my high school senior English class. We had to make a movie based on a Shakespeare play, and my group got “The Tempest.” After the short seven-minute piece, my friends and I went back at it that summer and made a 15-minute sequel. The summer after, summer 2010, we made a two hour, 45-minute film. Yeah, that’s right. Anyway, I always thought it’d make a great novel. So, when/if time permits, I’d like to write that out.

Resolution No. 8: Pop some tags when I only have $20 in my pocket.

Enough said.

Resolution No. 9: Come up with a new catchphrase. CYA needs a brother.

This has kind of already been done. CYA (LAYDUH).

Resolution No. 10: Find someone. 

I’d like to find someone. I don’t mean in the traditional sense of finding a woman and getting caught up in romance. Don’t get me wrong, that’d be great. What I mean, though, is that I want to find someone new for my world. You know how in TV shows there are those new characters brought in each season to freshen up the story? I’d like that.

Resolution No. 11: Embrace what I love and learn from what I don’t.

Pretty straight forward. I want to embrace my writing, friends and family for all that they are. I want them all to know how much I care for them and how much I consider them in my daily life. And from those things I don’t love or like (love is a strong word, isn’t it?), I’d like to learn from. That means taking chances and risks and learning from it. It’s all about what we learn.

Resolution No. 12: Don’t let 2013 be like 2012 in several aspects.

Don’t get me wrong, 2012 was a fantastic year. It was absolutely great. From that winter with The Triple Threat, a spring that gave me an amazing amount of self-confidence, a summer of hard work and determination and a fall/winter that was brutal yet meaningful, I had a great year. But I want 2013 to be different. I want it to be a new year with new experiences.

Resolution No. 13: Be the best I can be.

Isn’t that always the goal? You’ve got to be the best you can be each day out. I will never cease to do what I do best.

Fiction Corner: Preface to ‘Battle Born’

Jake Manwaring knew monsters were creeping around him, but he stood his ground.

It had been dead silent, an oddity for these woods that were flooded with everything evil. From werewolves to vampires, the forests were a walking death trap. Trees were stained with blood, markers of past lives long lost. Jake rarely experienced complete silence when he was on the watch. Sometimes packs of wild beasts – like Ravagers and Bullbreakers – would scurry through without making a sound.

Jake thought it would be one of those nights where the monsters move silently around him and he wouldn’t have to defend his life. That was, until, the twig broke off in the distance. Jake sharpened when it did. He immediately shut off the light connected to his spear, and then gripped the staff’s center before staring deeply into the deathly woods.

It could be anything. Ravagers were most likely, since they roamed this part of the forest. It could easily be a vampire, maybe the werewolves. Maybe it was a lost warlock trying to find his way home. Jack prepared for the worst. He always did. Nothing in these woods was safe. He had suffered enough loss and hurt to know that when you hear a twig break, you better be ready to fight for your life.

The forest began to stir.

Jake noticed a Black Fear Spider, nearly six feet in height with piercing red eyes, begin to tick and tack near the moon’s light. The spider’s venomous saliva dripped from its lips and splashed on the ground. Jake scanned around to count how many spiders there were. Typically, Black Fears traveled in groups and attacked their prey together, so Jake had to make sure he was alone for this.

Then, Jake heard the high-pitch call of a Ravager.

He had to act quick. If he didn’t, this could turn into a messy brawl between two monsters and one man. Even worse, Ravagers and Black Fears weren’t combating species, so they would likely gang up on Jake, slice him and dice him, and then split the remains.

Literally.

Jake sprung to action like his training had told him to. He gripped that spear even tighter and then scanned the woods one more time. He didn’t see anything else except for the Black Fear’s eyes and the shadow of the Ravager. He squatted low to the ground and backed up against a tree.

His breaths were slow, and there was no panic. In and out his chest went, waiting, anticipating, preparing, readying.

In one moment, the tick-tacking of the spider sped up as the spider shot towards Jake. At the same time, the high-pitch call of the Ravager drew closer as the beast — built like a human, only with red eyes and ghost-pale skin — tore through bushes and charged at Jake. The spider made it to the human first, lunging toward him, preparing to spray out that venomous liquid and poison the boy.

Jake ducked under the spider and came face-to-face with the Ravager, who barked and slashed at Jake. Jake took the blow to the shoulder before rolling over to his right and knocking the Ravager quickly with the butt-end of his spear. He knew that spider was crawling towards him, so he couldn’t hit the knockout blow yet.

One of the spider’s legs swung at Jake and locked around his neck. The spider tried to drag Jake back, but the 21-year-old poked the spider with the stick. As that was released, Jake kicked the approaching Ravager right in the chin before rising to his feet.

It was time for the knockout blow. Jake sailed high in the air and stabbed his spear straight through the heart of the Ravager, putting him down easily. Then, Jake ripped the spear right back and heaved it back right at the spider, stuffing it right between the lips and shutting it closed.

The spider flopped around, caught up by the spear being planted right where its venom releases from. Jake, breathing even easier now despite his physical exhaustion, grabbed a rock and pounded the spear deeper and deeper into the spider’s thick body.

Within seconds, Jake was alone again in the forest.

It was completely silent.

10 weeks older

I walked out of the Erie Times-News office today around 5:35 p.m. The first thing I noticed was the sun. It had been raining throughout the entire day and the forecasts called for more. It wasn’t supposed to be so sunny and beautiful out.

And as I walked to the bus stop, at the corner of West 12th and State Streets, I reflected on the past 10 weeks I have spent at the Erie Times-News. The 10 weeks I spent there went by in a flash, a flash that I could barely make note of on my walk to the bus stop.

I remember when my editor first called me about the position. I was at the Mohegan Sun casino in Montville, Conn., playing the Monopoly slot machines when I received the phone call. He left a message, saying he wanted to talk a little more about the internship. We played phone tag until he called me on my ride back home from the casino. We spent more than hour discussing the internship, journalism itself and the great literary journalism work, In Cold Blood.

He said he was interested in hiring me, and he’d let me think it over. Not long after, I called him back and accepted the offer.

Lots of people thought I was crazy for heading more than 460 miles to the west for an unpaid internship without a car. Some told me I should just expect to make coffee runs, get a few stories here and there, and not really learn anything valuable.

But I made my way to Erie, keeping to the promise I made my editor that I would be there. I arrived on May 31 after a terrible night of travel with Greyhound. I got situated and began work the following Monday.

Here I am 10 weeks later – 10 weeks older.

I learned a lot about journalism and writing during my internship, which is a no-brainer. Working for a 50,000-circulation daily city newspaper will surely help you sharpen the skills.

Above all else, though, I learned how to be on my own. I lived in apartment with three other guys, but I had to support myself, cook my own meals, do my own shopping, get from Point A to Point B all on my own.  When I worked, my editor would give me a story, and it’d be up to me to go out, get what I needed, and come back with all the details to write it up.

I remember my good friend from home, before I left for Erie, said to me: “Look man, when you go to Erie, leave everything here, here.”

And that’s what I wanted to do. I came to Erie with my head in all sorts of places. I was fresh off becoming the new editor-in-chief of my college newspaper, losing out on living with some of my greatest friends, and failing to make right by a certain female. Some of my best friends were still abroad and wouldn’t be home for the entire summer.

There was just a lot of craziness going on in the early months of summer. Even though I might not show it a lot, I care a lot about people and the relationships I build. And in those early summer months, thoughts of those relationships kept me up at night.

And now, 10 weeks older, my mind is cleared of a lot of those problems. Now, to quote Walter White of Breaking Bad, “I sleep just fine.”

I don’t fret about how I can make everything right anymore. I know I’ve got to just do the best I can, with a vision in mind, and hope everyone is the better for it.

I’ve learned that with your family and friends at your side, you can accomplish anything you want to.

I understand now that you have to be direct and take the initiative. Don’t be The Intern or The Friend, but drive to become The Unpaid Reporter or The More Than Friend.

Don’t wait for others to contact you about a night out or for a quote, be the leader and get the group going yourself, or go down to that office to get that quote.

Don’t waste time.

Like I said, I’ve been in Erie for 10 weeks. I spent 10 weeks learning and growing. It was more than just a simple internship. It helped me clear my head.

I’m ready, once again, for whatever comes next.

Agudelo to Chivas offers both something new

Photozou.jp

Photozou.jp

Phew, what a day.

I’m sure I wasn’t alone yesterday afternoon when I was surprised to see all the Juan Agudelo to Chivas USA Tweets pop-up. And even as rumors swirled for a few hours before the Red Bulls made it official, I still felt the shock that we all feel when two MLS clubs trade two of the league’s bigger stars.

And throughout the day, I noticed Twitter blow up with questions and concerns over the trade. Some said that Pearce would benefit most as he’d be moving to a side that has a chance of moving forward into the postseason. Others questioned the legitimacy of Agudelo, and whether or not everyone is giving him too much credit for the little work he has done in New York.

But for me, Agudelo moving to Chivas offers something entirely different than an ordinary trade. Both these guys are special in a larger sense for American soccer, being as both have competed for the national team – Agudelo having more importance in recent years. And the move offers both Agudelo and Chivas something new.

This trade will offer Agudelo his opportunity to show the world what he’s really got. Lots of questions have been raised around Agudelo because he’s been known to start for the United States Men’s National Team, but then sit on the bench of the Red Bulls. And while this might be concerning to USMNT fans, it also offers Agudelo little opportunity to test the waters and develop his skill.

Now, he’ll have that opportunity as he dons the other red and white jersey. There’s a good shot he’ll get the chance to start right out of the gate. It gives him more time on the pitch and a better chance to score goals – something the USMNT desperately needs as the World Cup Qualifiers need. This trade gives Agudelo a chance to develop into a real, goal-scoring striker. Whether he does remains to be seen, but at least now he has the opportunity.

And Agudelo knows that. He said he wanted to try something new and now he really has the chance to do so. Sometimes the best person to listen to is the player, because they know what they want and how they’re going to develop.

That’s the abstract, bigger-picture look at this trade. There’s also a more specific effect for the MLS trade, related solely to Chivas. The franchise has been in a downward spiral since its postseason run years ago, and has since fumbled between what it wants in its roster. One day they want Los Angeles-based players, local-grown talent, Hispanic players or they want to be like every other team in the league.

And now they have Agudelo, who was born in California and lived in Colombia with his family years back. He’s kind of the sum-up of many things Chivas has been looking for. He’s got the Hispanic-heritage, he’s from the California area, and he’s got a lot of it. Maybe it’s not the traditional sense, and he’s definitely not the first person you’d think Chivas would want, but it works.

But Chivas has taken a step in the right direction. Agudelo is 19, opposed to Pearce’s 27. The latter’s age isn’t overwhelmingly old, but it does come with an expiration date. Agudelo has the world ahead of him and thus can become a sure franchise star. He’s popular in American soccer culture as a national team star. They can market their games with him involved, claiming they have an internationally-successful scorer on their side. He boosts a lot for Chivas. He gives them that USMNT player that has consistently been involved over recent years, something Pearce did not do.

Chivas has also had some issue struggling to gain an identity. Is it a sister-club to Chivas Guadalajara? Is it a rival LA franchise? Or is it it’s own monster? Questions galore. Well having Agudelo could help them move into a new direction and establish them as their own. I’ve heard some calls for Chivas to redo its entire franchise and become its own MLS club, like the LA Aztecs or something similar. That option could be fun. And maybe having Agudelo will give them the right spark and push to switch things up and bring a breath of fresh air back to the club.

No matter which way you cut it, Agudelo is on Chivas, and now the pressure’s on him to take the next step forward. It’s not about whether or not he does the job for Chivas, but rather if Chivas, as a franchise, does the job for him. Agudelo has the opportunity now to really spread his wings and become his own player. Only time will tell.

But it isn’t the hype that matters for Agudelo. What really matters is that the move happened at all, and that it sends both Agudelo and Chivas in the right direction.

Herb Scribner can be reached at hscribner@gmail.com and followed on Twitter @hscribner.

Let the summer of soccer begin

[ cas ]/Flickr

[ cas ]/Flickr

Here we are again. It’s the middle of May, spring is just beginning to settle into summer and there’s tons of footy being played globally. Teams are being relegated, others promoted, transfer rumors are starting, goals and highlights are being remembered, the Cristiano Ronaldo vs. Lionel Messi debate wages on, and tournaments and qualifiers are on the horizon.

It must be summertime.

Many might not see the beauty of soccer in the summer and everything it brings. After all, by the time the longest day of the year arrives, most domestic leagues have finished up and many players are beginning their short rests before the active seasons begin again. The Champions League is over and done with by summer’s beginning, with the next year’s matches and drawings at the next road stop. Many could (and have) seen the summer has a lull period in soccer and as a time to reflect on the past year’s action and prepare for the next.

I say nay, my dear readers. It isn’t time to stop, take a step back and smell the roses. Rather, let’s go on a walk and embrace all the roses around us.

Let’s start with the obvious (I’m calling this idea the obvious one because most of my readers are America). The United States’ Major League Soccer is in full swing during the summer months, with the central section of matches underway through June, July and August. August is especially important for the MLS, as teams begin their final run (or final losing streak) before the playoffs sneak up. It’s during this time analysts, journalists, and fans alike can comment and see which teams do deserve the shield and the MLS crown. MLS might not be on the level of the English Premier League, La Liga, etc., but that’s the beauty of it when it comes to the summer – it’s a budding soccer league that we can all step back and watch as the sun sets later than usual.

Moving on, but still in the U.S., we’ve got something even more important coming up than the MLS. When you’re not feeding yourself on the appetizer that is the budding MLS league, feast your eyes on one of central courses – the World Cup Qualifiers.

OK, yes, sure, the qualifiers for the U.S. only take up June before a return in September, but isn’t this a solid kick into gear for the soccer fan? The U.S. Men’s National Team, which just announced its initial 16-man training camp roster, begins its 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign against Antigua and Barbuda on June 8 from Tampa, Fla. Catch the game on ESPN.

Oh, and before the team even gets underway with qualifying, the USMNT is taking the pitch several times to prepare for WCQ when it faces Scotland (May 26, Jacksonville, Fla., NBC Sports Network, Galavision), the mighty Brazil (May 30, FedEx Field, Landover, Md., ESPN2/ESPN3, TeleFutura) and the neighbors to the north Canada (June 3, BMO Field, Toronto, Canada, NBC Sports Network, Univision).

So U.S. taking on Scotland, Brazil and Canada in less than two weeks? Call me a mark if you must, but that’s a great lineup of early summer soccer.

And now for the moment all of your European soccer nuts have been waiting for. This summer gives us another solid soccer tournament in Euro 2012. An event that pits the greatest teams of Europe against each other in a World Cup-esque format, Euro 2012 is one of the highlights of this upcoming summer soccer season.

Although it’s not as strong of a tournament as the World Cup, being that viewers are limited to watching European-based players and not the flashy Latin American-, South American-based players, it’s still an epic tournament to watch this summer. Can Spain continue its run of dominance with another Euro win? Or will CR7/CR9/CR234 (that’s Cristiano Ronaldo if you didn’t catch that) bring Portugal up a notch and capture them the prize? What about England? Germany? Greece?

We’re surely going to see some excellent footie in the Euros, which begins on June 8 with a clash between co-host Poland and former Euro winners Greece. For a full look at the schedule, check out this nifty little calendar on UEFA’s website.

So we’ve got the MLS, the WCQs, the Euros, what else could there be? Oh, how about a range of friendlies pitting international clubs against each other or against MLS teams? Real Madrid, Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester United, AC Milan – an array of prolific clubs will be gracing with the U.S. this summer. One look at the schedule of friendlies, and you’ll feel like I do – like Christmas is in sight.

If there’s ever a time to introduce yourself to soccer, now’s that time. You’ve got a bunch of friendlies between excellent sides, the beginning the WCQs which is a perfect starting point for the forthcoming World Cup, the Euro 2012 tournament to get invested in and the light MLS season, which is a perfect way to introduce the rules to a new fan.

Summer is often seen as a time to relax, reflect and reestablish things. We break away, we go on vacation, we grill while sipping a beer and listening to classic rock, we go on late night drives, we have budding romances, we have a new-found attitude with the excellent weather.

And with this new-found attitude, when you have an opportunity to kick back, find yourself some soccer. After all, it’s going to be a summer of soccer not soon forgotten.

Herb Scribner can be reached at hscribner@gmail.com and followed on Twitter @hscribner.