There are times when the changing culture around me strikes me in the face with the swiftness of a John Anthony Brooks header.
It has nothing to do with divisive politics, senseless school shootings or pandemic terrorism. Those cruel realities fill up newspaper space and television air time on a daily basis.
These are more subtle changes that deal with the sports that young men and women play and most of us follow. In my youth the choices were easy. You either liked baseball, football or basketball, with the rest not being worthy of mention.
Now, some 50 years later, I wonder if baseball will even exist in this country on a variety of levels in another 50 years. Concerns about concussions and the other physical aspects of football aren't going away, which could ultimately lead to a tidal wave of lawsuits and the undermining of the sport.
Change, we know, is inevitable, but it seemed so much clearer the day after Brooks' header off a Graham Zusi corner kick gave the United States men's national soccer team a 2-1 win over Ghana in a Group G match at the World Cup in Brazil. The rush to overload Twitter and Facebook accounts with comments of the exciting finish, coupled with impressive viewer ratings, leads me to believe that the soccer invasion is making strides.
We were told that soccer was about to begin expanding from its weak root system in this country several decades ago, but for years it seemed more like a failed insurgency. It feels different this time. Not that the MLS is about to become as popular here as the Premier League is in England, but soccer can't be looked at by its detractors as some sissy sport that will go away quicker than an NBC sitcom.
There has to be something at work when you can drive by a community park on a Saturday morning and see multiple fields filled with kids kicking around a soccer ball. Most will never play beyond high school, but enough will develop an appreciation to at least put soccer on their list of sports to follow as a fan.
By contrast, I'm not sure as many fields are being occupied by young boys playing baseball. The decline in baseball interest, especially in inner cities, has to alarm those who love the sport and want to see it flourish in the distant future.
Personally, I've tried to be more Renaissance man than provincial American when refining my sporting likes and dislikes. There was a time when I wasn't that way. Any sport other than football, basketball or baseball was downright un-American and worthy of ridicule and disrespect.
I now consider hockey a close second to football for capturing my interest. To me, there's more magic in a hockey goalie stopping 30 shots on goal than a baseball pitcher crafting a shutout. I can reel off a few names of the top players available in the upcoming NHL draft, but I have no idea who was selected first overall in the recent Major League Baseball draft.
Soccer reached my inner sports self in smaller doses. I see its charm and understand why millions of fans worldwide follow it with unbridled passion. With a better appreciation of soccer's finer points and a legitimate rooting interest, I can see myself developing into a real fan.
Sometimes it's difficult to admit these changes. I was a child of the 1950s and '60s. I grew up with a baseball glove hanging from the steering bar of my bike. I wore an oversized football helmet my parents gave me for Christmas with pride, as silly as I must have looked, and I probably wore out a spot in our driveway shooting hoops by myself until darkness prevailed.
There's still much to enjoy about each of those sports, but thankfully I've found that the other games people play can be equally as satisfying to watch.
That made Brooks' brilliant header easier to savor.