There are a whole bunch of things I have wanted to write about over the last month and still might eventually get to them, but after taking my daughter to see Real Maryland play Harrisburg tonight, one thing jumps to the top of the queue.
I am a big fan of Josh Wicks. I do not know the man personally and had no idea of the personal struggles he has grappled with over the last year, as documented in a great story by Craig Stouffer, but my soon to be two-year old daughter recognized Wicks in the stands before I did... likely a response to his infectious smile. This is either the third or fourth time she has seen him. Twice she was forced to ask for and receive his autograph (once by my wife at a DC United "Meet the Team" event and once at Ludwig, when he accompanied Marc Burch and Rodney Wallace to a game and stood outside the sidelines greeting kids and signing autographs). Tonight, we left him alone, largely out of an overwhelming sense of embarrassment of how hard done Josh has been by United supporters. The hue & cry over Wicks' actions in last year's Open Cup Finals has always struck me as a product of frustration at a poorly coached team misdirected at a guy who played his heart out for the shirt. It seems ridiculous that anyone can be faulted for wanting to do harm to Fredy Montero, who is now surpassed in the MLS in terms of irritating caterwaul by Kansas City's Ryan Smith. But the tut-tutting from United's esteemed and deeply thoughtful fanbase emanates from a far more sophisticated understanding of how one ought to put one's team first and foremost.
But just as I have no problem with Jozy Altidore head-butting another player in a vital game for Hull City, I have no qualms with someone who acts rashly out of a burning passion for their team. This year's version of United is no better coached than Soehn's squad, but what makes them more irritating is the lack of pride many seem to take in being professional footballers. Setting to one side what Cristian Castillo brings to the franchise in terms of ticket sales, I do not think he is terribly bothered when United is, once more, on the losing side of a match against a mediocre team lined up against them.
Wicks always seemed to care. And when he is off the pitch -- perhaps excluding those portions of the time when he is "partying" -- he is an excellent ambassador of the game to kids with time and patience and enthusiasm in abundance. Whatever the future has in store for him, we're rooting for him.