Is soccer evil? | Quest for playing space threatens bucolic haven

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Peace and quiet in Kevin Moran Park. Link to post.Saratoga, California | In a drama played out daily at planning and zoning hearings throughout the United States, parents’ desires for soccer space in this bedroom community of redwood trees and sycamores have created tension with other residents’ wishes for peace and quiet. The San Jose Mercury News reports on the dispute over the future of Kevin Moran Park, an excruciating public squabble between emotionally invested combatants in a Silicon Valley town short of playing fields and quiet areas.

The triangular park itself is named for a native killed in 1970 while trying to quell a disturbance at a bank. In 1971, the year the park was dedicated, “no one could have predicted the booms in youth soccer, jogging, softball, skateboarding, bicycling and, now, lacrosse,” writes Joe Rodriguez of the Mercury News. Further complicating matters are the personal histories of prominent spokespersons on either side of the debate. Elaine Clabeaux says she found strength in the park to recuperate from breast cancer. “You can’t put a soccer field here without destroying this park,” she says. “Why can’t they just leave it alone?”

Karlina Ott, who backs placement of a “removable” soccer field, draws motivation from the death at 9 years old of her son Andrew Bedard. “He has motivated me to help kids in Saratoga, and one way I can do that now is through his favorite sport, soccer.” Ott was booed for her stance at a recent public hearing. Her message to the detractors: “Exclusivity, hellooo.”

About the Author

John Turnbull founded The Global Game in 2003. He was lead editor for The Global Game: Writers on Soccer (University of Nebraska Press, 2008) and has also written on soccer for Afriche e Orienti (Bologna, Italy), the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the New York Times Goal blog, Soccer and Society, So Foot (Paris) and When Saturday Comes. His essay "Alone in the Woods: The Literary Landscape of Soccer's 'Last Defender' " in World Literature Today was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Also for World Literature Today he edited a special section on women's soccer, "World Cup/World Lit 2011," before the Women's World Cup in Germany. The section appeared in the May-June issue. His next project is a book on soccer and faith.

Comments (1)

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  1. Karlina Ott says:

    Thanks for passing along the story about our struggle for playing
    space. The issue, of course, is far more complex than shown in
    the article in the Mercury-News.

    Kevin Moran Park is the largest park in Saratoga that is not
    dedicated to a single purpose. It covers slightly more than 10 acres.
    We have two parks that are larger but one is a Japanese garden and
    the other is an orchard, a last remnant of the orchards that
    dominated the Santa Clara Valley before electronics gained supremacy.

    The land for the park was purchased 35 years ago. Since then, the
    neighbors have fought almost any effort to develop the park for
    general use. That has meant that in 10 acres there are a two picnic
    tables, a walking path and a climbing structure for young children.
    There is little parking and no bathrooms. Neighbors’ arguments against
    bathrooms have warned that, if bathrooms are installed, perverts would
    attack children in the park and drug users would use drugs and turn
    the park into a drug zone.

    I took my son, Andrew, to the park while his brother was at piano. He
    did not like having to go behind a tree in the park because there
    were no bathrooms, and we were too far from the piano teacher’s house.

    When I related this to one of the neighbors at a meeting, he told me
    that if I wanted my son to play at a park with bathrooms, I should
    take him somewhere else.

    Andrew was a boy who loved soccer and was happiest playing in the
    goal. His team in his last fall season never won a game. They were
    the youngest team in their division and did not even score a goal
    until about halfway through the season. Yet, he could come off of the
    field and say, “It doesn’t matter what the score is. If you have a
    good attitude, you are a winner.”

    The following summer, he died because of an aneurysm in his brain.
    That was 27 days before his ninth birthday. We never saw a symptom
    that something would go so horribly wrong.

    For me the real issue here is whether the largest park in Saratoga
    will be developed for the use of all citizens or be restricted to the
    use of the close neighbors because there are no facilities for basic
    human needs. I will work to make it a park where children do not have
    to squat behind a tree.

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