Love of the Game - Rob Stone

I was introduced to the game by my Dad who had heard about this new, up and coming sport called soccer. In the mid 70's, things took a little longer to make their way down to Chapel Hill, NC. He coached me, yet knew very little besides what the books in the local library told him. I enjoyed the game early on, but the passion didn't kick in, until my dad informed me that there was a pro team from the town I was born in, Tampa, FL. From that moment on, I was a diehard Tampa Bay Rowdies fan, and probably the sole 'Fannie" in the entire state of North Carolina.  And I didn't mess around with my passion either.  My folks were called into my 3rd grade classroom, and asked why Robbie Stone kept signing his papers "Rodney Stone".  Uh, because Rodney Marsh was my idol, and well, that's what you do. Damn I loved the Clown Prince of soccer. I wore out my all nylon, slick yellow shorts with green trim, and the Rowdies logo on them. We planned family trips to Tampa, solely around Rowdies games, and the ability to load up on gear. I even met Joey Fink and Wes McLeod. Big deal stuff. Also, pretty sure Rodney hit on my mom when she asked him for an autograph for me.  But the real test was when we moved to Connecticut...right into hated Cosmos Country.  I went to the Giorgio Chinaglia Soccer Academy, won MVP, while wearing my Rowdies gear everyday. In '78 as a surprise, my parents took me to the Rowdies/Cosmos Soccer Bowl-right in the lions lair of Giants Stadium. We stayed at a low end hotel, and I was up first thing putting on my Rowdies gear, topped off with my classic green/yellow hoop socks. Moments later, I was brought to tears after being heckled by Comos fans. Did I change? Hell no. Went to Giants Stadium, with 74K others, and saw a Rodney Marsh-less Rowdies side fall 3-1. Inconsolable. Long drive back home to CT, but sooo worth it.

Image via Fernando Fiore Twitter