453 Minutes

Posted on August 6, 2012 2:05 pm

There was supposed to be so much more.

For what at the time probably seemed like a hundred years, Mike and Sandy Urso of Downers Grove IL ferried their son Kirk to an uncountable number of Socker FC games, ODP practices and indoor matches, packed him off to Bradenton for a spell, watched with the pride only a parent can know as their son made and starred for the US U-17 World Cup team and accepted an offer to play at an elite Division I school where he captained the National Championship winners.

In January their Kirk was invited to the MLS combine, was drafted in (what amounts to) the third round of the MLS draft and started five games for his new team. It was the payoff, the dream, the bright future everyone promised.

And then Mike and Sandy got a phone call.

We still don’t know what happened in the very early hours of Sunday morning. Maybe we’ll hear that it was one of those unspeakably cruel tricks that human physiology sometimes chooses to play, some deeply hidden and undetectable time bomb quietly ticking away, biding it’s time until the inevitable happens.

And maybe – please, please let it not be so – we’ll hear that the cause was something more easily preventable.

But in truth, I’m not sure it really matters. Whatever explanation the Franklin County Coroner eventually gives us won’t change the basic, unalterable, tragic fact: Kirk Urso is gone long before he should have been.

On Friday, Urso – like a lot of us – watched the Olympics on TV, and took a moment to snap what is almost surely the last photo of his life:

He said it was “Willow and I watching some Olympics”, just a kid, chilling with the tube and a kitten.

36 hours later, he was gone.

His MLS career amounted to 453 minutes, one assist and a yellow card. A lot less than some, a hell of a lot more than most of us.

But the more interesting thing is this: despite not ever being the biggest, fastest or strongest kid on whatever team, he was almost invariably chosen as the captain.

As Crew GM told Adam Jardy yesterday:

“He was the kind of person and the kind of leader that we want in the locker room”

“That was something that was a really big factor in drafting him. I’m not sure I can stress that enough. He was a good soccer player, but really those characteristics were something that drove the conversation to draft him.”

With the Crew, his string of starts was eventually curtailed by both returning veterans and a nagging injury that eventually needed surgery, but he still showed up at practice – even though, as is true with most teams, rehabbing players aren’t required to – and still knocked everybody over with his quick wit, quiet confidence and, most of all, his love of life.

And now he’s gone.

Yesterday in Seattle, 60,000 fans observed a moment of silence for Kirk Urso. In Portland, Jack Jewsbury wore a headband that read “RIP Kirk”. Other teams and players are likely to follow suit and the Crew, about whom it must be said no classier outfit graces the league, will be considering various options in the coming days and weeks but, for the moment, they’re focusing on doing whatever they can for a family who just lost a son.

For the rest of us, we’re left to ponder questions which are unanswerable.

In his famous poem To an Athlete Dying Young, Victorian writer A.E. Houseman tells us that there’s a silver lining in a tragedy like this in that the young athlete will never have to suffer the sad but inevitable dying of the cheers as time inevitably erodes the talents he once displayed and others take his place in the hearts of the fans.

Now you will not swell the rout
Of lads that wore their honours out,

Maybe that’s true in some cases. I really don’t know.

But with the passing of Kirk Urso, we lost something more than just another guy running around kicking a ball. The world has plenty of those.

What we lost was a leader and a man of endless potential for whom the soccer field was not the end, but rather the beginning.

And it’s hard to escape the feeling we’ve lost something that we very much can’t afford right now.

All of that can wait for another day. For now, our thoughts and our prayers are with Mike and Sandy Urso as they attend to the saddest duty a parent can ever face: saying farewell to their hearts.

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