Don’t Mess with the Chief
Saint Louis FC
Warning: This piece contains strong language.
My mom is a bad***. She doesn’t take anyone’s s*** – including mine. Those are the facts.
I remember when I was nine years old and I started noticing I looked different from everyone because I'm mixed. My mom’s white, my dad’s black – although I don’t talk to him much. Most of the kids around me were white. Hell, even my stepdad and stepbrother were white.
Because I was a mixed kid in a white family, sometimes people would ask me if I was adopted.
What do you say to that when you’re nine?
That’s hard for kid, man. It hurt.
But you should have seen my mom. She was so protective. People would say that stuff to me and it would literally piss her off to the point where she wanted to fight people. Like actually fight people.
Over time they started saying it less… mostly for their own safety, I think.
20 years later though she’s still doing it. She’s still just as protective. Here’s an example: Recently I got my car stolen and it ended up totaled. It was a mess. And then when I copped the new one – a 2019 Mazda CX5 – it only took two days before it wouldn’t start. I’m like, “Yo! This thing is brand new.” Anyways, I called the dealership and they were giving me the runaround.
I told my mom about it while we were on the phone and I guess she called the dealership because the next day the very same dude who was saying he couldn’t help me was now telling me how sorry he was and how they were going to take care of everything.
He also told me he has never been berated like that in his life.
You know what she told him? Get this. She said to the guy, “I’m the chief, and you don’t f*** with the chief.”
Can you believe that?
I'm going to be honest, I’m terrified of my mom. But in a good way. I love her. She’s a bad*** – but she’s cool.
Now that I’m older, I understand how hard it must have been for her. She had to play the role of two parents, you know? I think back now and realize how difficult that must have been. I wish I had understood that better at the time. I wish I would have cut her some slack. But it’s hard to have that perspective when your young and in the middle of it all.
When I started playing traveling soccer, I used to worry that all the travel and everything was a burden on the family. I mentioned it a few times, but my mom wasn’t having it.
Every time we would load up the car to head off to a training, a game, or some tournament, I was always her navigator. I would sit in the back with my little brother who was in his car seat and my mom would drive. There was always music coming out of the speakers. She liked all types of music, but I remember listening to Nelly a lot. The first verse of “Luven Me” still reminds me of how it was with us in those days – the ups and downs.
The three of us in that car.
We drove EVERYWHERE.
You have to remember that soccer isn’t cheap, and it wasn’t like we had a lot of money.
I remember all the other kids showing up in Nike, Girbaud jeans, Polo – like all these cool brand labels that everyone was wearing. I would ask for that stuff too but knew we couldn’t really afford it. So I was always showing up in the off-brand gear.
People would see what I was wearing and yell out “what’s that?!”
I was like “Yo. I have no idea.”
But there was one area where she always made sure I was looking good. My cleats.
What’s crazy is that she was taking care of my brother and me off one paycheck, but she ALWAYS made sure I had nice cleats.
She knew how happy they made me. Even when I got older and cleats became really expensive – she always made sure that I had two nice pairs.
I remember we would order them together and when they arrived I would be so excited that I would put them on immediately. For real, we would be heading out to the car to drive to a tournament that was like hours away and I was already wearing my new cleats. I was so proud of them. And I think she knew that.
She was just happy that I was happy.
I told you she was cool.
One thing about my mom is that she stuck up for me a lot – even when I was wrong. And I stuck up for her too.
I remember this one time I beat up the neighborhood kid because he said something mean about my mom. Or the time where a guy yelled at my mom during a game to be quiet because he thought she was cheering for me too loud. I heard it and walked right off the field, in the middle of the game, to confront him.
I probably shouldn’t have done those things, but it was just how we were living at the time. It was just us. We had to fight for each other.
Did you ever watch The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air? The episode where Will Smith breaks down in front of Uncle Phil and is like “why doesn't my father want me, man?” That hit so hard for me because it was exactly how I felt for the longest time.
I still tear up about it now. But as hard as it was for me growing up wondering why my father didn’t want to be part of my life, it was just as hard for her. She knew how I felt, and how I wanted him to be there and to be proud of me. But he didn’t; he wasn’t.
He broke our hearts.
I’m not telling you this because it’s a sad story. I’m telling you this because it’s a big part of our story.
It’s because of all that that I know I can be kind of cold, or maybe don't trust people a lot. If you make a promise to me and break it, the chances of me trusting you again are very slim. Even some coaches – almost all of them growing up – I would look at them and it was like I was looking for acceptance, you know? Like a father figure type. And every now and then I would come across a coach who I would get that from, and then something would happen, and I would be like “you're just like him, like f*** you.”
That was something that my mom struggled with – all my emotions. There was no channeling it, there was no way to bring me back down from where I was, and I think she really struggled with that. There's also the protective side. On more than one occasion she’d have to step in when my stepdad would cross the line. I remember him telling me “you better get used to saying you want fries with that, because you're not going to do anything with your life.” She wasn’t having that.
He wrote me a letter when I graduated college saying that he was wrong for the stuff he said to me and how he treated me so differently than he did my brother.
I kind of understood, but in a way, having him say those things motivated me because I’m the type of person where I'm like nah f*** you, like I'm going to do this.
You can’t tell me I’m not going to make it.
You should see my mom go grocery shopping. One of the ways she shows love is through acts of service, and so she’ll be like “I’m going grocery shopping, you need anything?” … and I'll be like "no I'm good." Next thing you know I come home and there's groceries EVERYWHERE. All this stuff I don't need.
She’ll be like “oh hey I saw this, it was on sale” and hand me this weird trinket type thing that has literally no purpose and have this look of like “do you like it!?”
I'm like “no I don't like it – but thank you.”
She’s funny that way.
My mom’s 59 and still plays softball.
She’ll call me up and be like “Hey, I'm going to California, Colorado and Ohio for softball.”
I’m like “Ok, but be safe. You’re 59 years old.”
But that’s her. You can’t tell her nothing. If she wants to go play softball in California at 59, she’s going to play softball in California at 59. It’s not hard to see where I get it from.
It’s kind of like when I was 16, telling her I wanted to play professionally. She was like okay, well if you want to be pro then you got to work and practice like a pro.
So, she would drive me out to the fields just her and I, and I’d be out there practicing shooting and dribbling. And then when I wanted to work on my first touch, mom would step in and help. Keep in mind she can’t kick a ball to save her life. Like AT ALL. But she can throw. So, she'd go out there and pick up the soccer ball and throw it at me like a softball, and I would try and work on my first touch. I’d be yelling “throw it here, throw it there.”
Sometimes I go and watch her softball games. I love it. She's the ultimate competitor, man.
Imagine these 50-plus year-old women, running down the first base line after they get a hit. My mom’s in good shape too – better than most – so when she plays softball she'll swing, crush it, and go flying down the base path. Or she’ll miss and then yell at herself “what the f*** are you doin!?”
I just watch and laugh because that’s me too.
Alright, this is my last story about her.
My mom loves soccer and is always trying to learn more about the game. Even today she’ll watch games and try to give me her analysis of things and I’m always like “no mom that's not how it is.” She doesn’t understand the tactics or anything, you know what I mean?
She’ll be like “what was so-and-so doing on that play, why didn't he run out there, why didn't so-and-so do this or that” and I'm like “because that wasn't the game plan, mom!”
“Well it should've been the game plan.”
Mom, if you’re reading this today, I want to tell you something.
I’m not perfect, you’re not perfect, but I love you, and you love me. Through thick and thin you’ve been there. When I was working at UPS, or Home Depot, trying to make my way as a professional you were there. You helped with my car payment, gave me a hug, and told me not to give up. You helped me figure out who I am.
Even when I messed up, you were right there. You’ve always shown me love. I didn’t have to worry about where my next meal was coming from and you made me feel comfortable with the fact that I don't know my father or felt different. I used to get so upset with the fact that I only had one parent and felt like my teammates took it for granted that they had both. But now, at 29, I think about how cool what you did is. Not a lot of people can say that they have a single mom who raised two great, successful kids.
Don’t get me wrong, I still feel like too many people out there today have this sense of entitlement because they come from a background of two parents. Or because they’re upper-middle class and didn’t have to worry about working a job, or paying for college, or really grinding. But I know now that my childhood and teenage years taught me to be hardworking, to get what you want, and to be grateful for what you have.
You taught me all that, mom. You’re a good person, a good parent. You’re cool. You’re kind of embarrassing. You’re a machine. You’re a hell of a softball player. You’re a terrible grocery shopper.
I want to be just like you.
And I hope one day I love my children as much as I know you love me. But don’t get all excited, because that ain’t happening for a while.
Happy Mother’s Day, mom.
I love you.