Wednesday night I had the pleasure of being invited to the virtual book launch for Michael Lewis’ new book, “Still Alive and Kicking”. If you don’t recognize the name Michael Lewis, being familiar with Rochester soccer you certainly know him. A frequent guest on “Soccer Is a Kick In the Grass” and contributor to multiple websites including FrontRowSoccer, he has been covering soccer in Rochester since before I was born and wrote the definitive book on the Rochester Lancers.
Moderated by Andrew Battisi, the host of “Soccer Is a Kick In the Grass”, the video call was part storytelling, part Q&A, and part discussion. Michael talked about his earliest days working as a journalist at the D&C and being told he was going to cover the Lancers, even though that wasn’t a job he wanted. He spoke of the times that he had grown to love the job which was forced upon him, and being a starstruck reporter asking Pele questions at multiple press conferences and post-game interviews. He gave some background on his original Lancers book, about the old NASL team, and why he came to write this book on the new incarnation.
“Soccer Sam” Fantauzzo, the owner of the Lancers, was noticeably emotional as he talked about the health issues he suffered almost 15 years ago. A stroke led to his having to re-learn about his love of the original Lancers, which led to his launching of the new team. He thanked Michael for his coverage of the team and said they wouldn’t be around without him. Sam was just one of the people on the chat, as there were other people who cover the sport and commentated on Lancers’ games in other cities. One of the highlights for me was hearing Joe Machnik (Fox Sports commentator, Director of Refereeing, Assistant USMNT coach at the 1990 World Cup, Hall of Famer, etc, etc) tell his story about refereeing a famous Lancers match.
There were also discussions about topics that would interest the newer Rochester soccer fan, from the current state of soccer in the city, to the lack of NASL representation in the Hall of Fame. Needless to say, the people in this chat were quite upset that the NASL is barely represented. If I wasn’t familiar with Rey Martinez, Michael reading from his chapter about him would have convinced me he deserved to be there. Rey Martinez was a Cuban soccer player who came to the US for a match, and defected to spend his life here. Michael read part of this story, and I can’t wait to get the book to read the full thing.
Michael Lewis is not done with writing about soccer after “Alive and Kicking,” his book about the original Rochester Lancers, and “Still Alive and Kicking,” this book about the current incarnation of the Lancers. He talked briefly about the upcoming book he’s writing as well. He likens his next book to the “Friday Night Lights of soccer”, and hopes to have it out within the next year, for the tenth anniversary of the team’s championship season. You can find his Lancers books available now at www.rochesterlancersbook.com for $25.99, or you can purchase both signed for $50 by contacting him at firstname.lastname@example.org. I thank him for keeping the history of this club alive, as the history of too many clubs will never be told.