Madison “The Cleaner” Higa

Madison has a new favorite wrestler. His name is Kenny Omega. His nickname is “The Cleaner”. Obviously, “Cleaner” has a couple of connotations, the coolest of which the guy  – a problem solver – Harvey Keitel plays in Pulp Fiction. Then there is the literal definition of cleaning. I would dare say Kenny Omega hits both:

I was trying to explain Bullet Club to Lynnette one day and Madison overheard my description of Kenny. “I wanna watch that,” she said. She sat silently through the long intro, but lost it once he started sweeping. “Why is he doing that?” she asked. “Because he’s the Cleaner,” I said. Then when Kenny started to sing into the broomstick Madison laughed again. “He’s crazy, dad,” she said. It’s easy to like Kenny Omega; he’s a hybridization of an ’80s movie villain, an anime character, Brian Pillman and also apex George Michael.

3I bring Kenny into this discussion because I called Madison the Cleaner during her game yesterday.

One of the things I’ve tried – mostly unsuccessfully – to explain to her is the concept of spacing. I have repeatedly told her that if one of her teammates has the ball, she doesn’t need to run right up beside them. I’ve been telling her to stick it out nearby and wait for the pass. But I can see how this directive would appear (to a 7-year old) to contradict my personal mantra of BE AGGRESSIVE. 

Two things have happened, I think. First, prior to last week, she’d gotten her butt kicked for three straight games. Each of those three teams featured at least one player who had “nose for the goal”as they say (Editor’s Note: when pressed for answers regarding who “they” are, Phil could not answer specifically and said only “a bunch of people who watch soccer and probably hockey”.)  and they ran up hat tricks. Second, and consequently, I think those three players gave Madison a visual of what I had been talking about for over a season and a half. She actually watched these kids knife their way through her defense and score. She’s been trying it herself with pretty decent success. Yesterday she dribbled the ball all the way down to the baseline, then cut it back toward the goal. She got out in front and took a shot, but missed wide. This is hard for me to figure out. I can’t tell if she’s developing skills and instinct or if everything is pure luck.

But oh, yeah, the Cleaner. Early in the game Madison’s teammate drilled the ball toward goal from about 15 feet away. He hit the left upright post square and the ball caromed straight back toward the center of the field. Madison was right there to kick it into the goal.

Now, I don’t have pictures or video of this because:

  1. I had the long lens on and I was too close to the goal. Huge oversight.
  2. Every time Madison comes close to scoring a goal, I lower the camera to see it with my own eyes. The results in either blurry pictures (last week) or no pictures (this week). I need to work on this.

As soon as Mad put the ball back in, I shouted “Madison the Cleaner!” She looked at me with a puzzled face. After the game I asked if she heard me. “Yeah, but I don’t know why you called me that,” she said. So I explained to her the figurative language of sports and how cleaning up can mean anything and everything from emptying the bases with a hit to Hulk Hogan clearing out the ring after a 5-on-1. “When someone scores on a rebound like that, they say that person cleaned it up,” I said. (Editor’s Note: Phil is not sure if this “they” is the same group of people as the “they” mentioned earlier, but assumes “there is probably some overlap”.) “Oh,” Mad said. She didn’t seem too impressed. “But now you’re a Cleaner like Kenny Omega,” I said. She smiled wide. “That guy is hilarious,” she said, beads of sweat dripping off her red face.



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