I made a beautiful game ugly. And it led me to victory.
There is a theory, popular among certain vaguely annoying academics, that the purest art is created by those who don’t know what they’re doing. If that’s true, then my third-grade soccer team could qualify as art. It never would have been what it was if any of us had known anything about soccer — or if I had been the least bit sane.
In the late 1980s, Park Slope, Brooklyn, was split between middle class families priced out of Manhattan and the Irish Catholics and Latin Americans who had been living there for decades. Between them was a gap that could be bridged only one way: intramural soccer. I joined up, despite knowing nothing about the sport but what I’d gleaned from the movies, primarily “Victory,” John Huston's 1981 drama about a team of POWs who play their way to freedom. It featured an array of real-life stars, foremost among them the legendary Brazilian number 10, Pelé. As impressive as Pelé was, it was his goalkeeper, played by Sylvester Stallone, who inspired my game. He was…