What does it really mean to nutmeg someone in soccer? After doing extensive (typing the word “nutmeg” into Google) research, I found this on Wikipedia:
“The most likely source, however, was postulated by Peter Seddon in his book "Football Talk - The Language And Folklore Of The World's Greatest Game". The word arose because of a sharp practice used in nutmeg exports between America and England. "Nutmegs were such a valuable commodity that unscrupulous exporters were to pull a fast one by mixing a helping of wooden replicas into the sacks being shipped to England," writes Seddon. "Being nutmegged soon came to imply stupidity on the part of the duped victim and cleverness on the part of the trickster." It soon caught on in football, implying that the player whose legs the ball had been played through had been tricked, or, nutmegged.”
In addition to the obvious trickery of the act, the nutmeg has had quite a profound impact on my life.
It kind of goes like this:
I was 10 years old. That was the first time I got megged by someone (on purpose). I remember it better than getting my first period. But both have changed me for the better (though I liked being able to eat whatever I wanted and not gain weight…) But never mind that. The nutmeg changed my life.
Between the ages of 10 and 15, I had the absolute privilege of being coached by some of the best players ever to step foot on Jess Dow Field at Southern Connecticut State University. For those of you who don't know the history of the Southern men's soccer program, here's their media guide and list of players that have gone pro. (you might recognize the current head coach of the NY Red Bulls).
I recall with a beaming smile on my face coaches like Everald Benjamin, Gary Collins, Roland Joseph, Chris Payne, Nick Booth and one of my all-time favorites, Itai Mor.
These guys were incredible players and role models. But more importantly, they instilled a passion in the players they coached that couldn’t be replaced with any coaching licenses or big-time salaries.
I specifically remember Everald being one of the biggest influences on my soccer career. Plus, he was the first coach to nutmeg me. He came to every training session psyched as all hell to be there. He would dribble around all of us (girls) with a kind of swag and joy that was contagious.
I remember the feeling of getting megged and how embarrassing it was. He and the assistant would laugh about it as if their heads would roll right off their necks. I wasn’t even mad at the fact that I couldn’t figure out how to stop it then. All I remember thinking was "wow, I really want to do that."
He never taught me how to do it. No one can really teach someone how to meg per se. It's one of those things you have to learn by first watching, then by experimenting yourself. I saw with my own two eyes the joy it brought to our coach in a training session with 10-year-old girls... I could only imagine what it would be like in a game for him… and of course, for me.
Once I got the courage to nutmeg someone, I wanted it all the time. Like a drug. Like a healthy drug that brings you crazy joy, but doesn’t leave you unable to function in life. It was (and still is sometimes) better than scoring a goal or winning a game. And for the longest time I couldn't explain why. But yesterday I watched this amazing video of Messi dribbling for 20 minutes. He has a ton of nutmegs in the video and each time he does it, it's shown in slow motion (with cool music in the background too).
What the heck is so special about this move?
Yes, it’s beautiful to watch. Yes, it’s very difficult to master. Yes, it’s embarrassing for the defender. But what else? There are other moves in soccer. What makes this one different?
From my own experiences, this is what makes it different.
It's like life. Sometimes you only get one chance. Sometimes the window is only open for a second. Sometimes, you have to force it open with a side-to-side movement or some other fake. Sometimes it seems near impossible. But as players, we still go for it. We go for it because it's the best feeling if it's executed. The reward is worth the risk.
Every time I go for a nutmeg, time stops and I don't breathe. That's what it feels like anyway. Time at least slows down. Like in the Messi video. That's my minds way of enjoying it more. Physically, it happens fast, but mentally, I'm enjoying every millisecond.
As soon as that window opens, I'm going for it. Failure doesn't play a part in my decision. The only thing that plays a part is the possibility of succeeding. That's all I need to try.
When it happens - and trust me, it will happen - you'll almost feel like you should stop for a second to acknowledge the greatness. Or other people should stop to acknowledge it. But you don't get to.
That's the other thing. It's not like a goal or winning a game. Because you get to celebrate those. This little morsel of beauty,(like the guitar solo in November Rain) doesn't get a specific time-out applause, take your shirt off, pop champagne moment. It's yours to celebrate.
But in the grand scheme of things, it passes in an instant. Until the next window opens. And bravery is called upon once again to take that split-second opportunity with the possibility to move forward in the game (and in life). The end.
More on nutmeg the food
I read this article by Ronnie Brown on the link between seratonin and self-confidence. It talks about different foods that help increase your seratonin level and in turn, your confidence level.
One of the foods mentioned on the list... surprise, surprise: nutmeg.
Ironic? I think not!