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Bye to Bobby Boswell


Even though I decided I resent Bobby Boswell for starting a blog that unveiled the hilarious off-the-field exploits of D.C. United, thereby completing undercutting my soccer coverage, I'm still sorry to see him go. He had what was easily the second-best athlete blog in D.C. and possibly the country, and his youthful adventures with Robin Rexroat and the Aggro-Crag will go down as the second-most important soccer story I've ever covered, after Nick Rimando's squirt gun adventures. Man I have a weird career.

Anyhow, here's a quick list I made of the five most bloggable D.C. United players when this blog began in Sept., 2006:

1. Alecko Eskandarian, 2. Bobby Boswell, 3. Nick Rimando, 4. Troy Perkins, 5. Ben Olsen

Eighty percent of them gone, vanished into the ether, or to Norway and Utah or whatever. If my name's Devon McTavish, I'm looking into good deals on moving vans.

Over the summer, I was supposed to write a profile of Bobby for a magazine that folded before anything got published. Here's how it was supposed to begin.


Photo by Kyle Gustafson.

"I want to write a book," Bobby Boswell announces.

The rest of the story after the jump. Warning: it's long, and written in magazine-ese for a non-MLS audience. And this better get some comments from all you DCU old-timers who now spend all your time lapping up Goff's every word. A comment from Bobby's mom would just be an extra bonus.

The 2006 Major League Soccer defender of the year is sitting anonymously in Kenny's Smokehouse, a Capitol Hill hole-in-the-wall that specializes in barbequed meats and side dishes of butter accompanied by traces of vegetables. Boswell calls it "my joint." Lunch for two: $19.39.

"I want to write a best-selling book," he continues. "I haven't figured out how I'm going to do that yet, but if I get my book published I have, what is it, a one in 220 chance of it being a best seller? The hard part's getting it published, but for every 220 books published, one of 'em's a best seller. It's in a book I read: "Life: The odds and how to improve them."

The third-year pro is a few blocks away from the rowhouse he shares with a 37-year-old roommate. His favorite barbeque joint is about a mile and a half from RFK Stadium, where four-time MLS champion D.C. United plays its home games before an average of more than 18,000 fans.

The following day, Boswell--who entered MLS as an undrafted, unknown rookie on a paltry "developmental" salary--will be named to the U.S. Men's National Team roster for the Copa America tournament. In a few hours, he'll leave Washington for a road game in Salt Lake City, then on to national training camp in California, and then to Venezuela for a tournament featuring some of the Western Hemisphere's best-known athletes. In the meantime, he is asked why he wants to write a best-selling book, and he pauses to think.

"Because it's hard to do," he answers. "It's really like a self challenge, you know? Have you ever heard of self-actualization? Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs? It's a psychology thing. The top [level] is self-actualization; five percent reach that. Some say that doesn't actually exist, that you can never actually reach self-actualization, but that's like your ultimate goal. For me, self-actualization is doing all these crazy, great things."

Which explains much about the strange arc of Bobby Boswell's professional soccer career. For example, the personal Web site on which he blogs about his life, shares candid videos, gives away front-row tickets to deserving children and occasionally posts photographs of his teammates' calves. The charity party at which was painted like a tiger, earning a photograph in The Washington Post's gossip column. The column he authored for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, in which he provided the "Top five reasons I tell girls they should date me." The t-shirts he wears to D.C. bars, which instead of soccer logos feature the slogan "Glorious Kazakhstan," in honor of Borat. The trips to rock shows and outdoor festivals with prominent local radio DJ's. The way he introduces himself to strangers: telling them that he's a psychic, or a helicopter pilot, or a male stripper, or someone who "works at RFK Stadium." Why not just tell the truth?

"Then the rest of the conversation is just about soccer, which I don't like to talk about when I'm out," he says. "I want to get away from it, you know? I don't really care to hear some guy's opinion on what he thinks of Lionel Messi and his recent performance, you know what I mean? I don't. Sorry, I don't."

"I'm not some hotshot, I'm not some superstar," he says later. I'm just a regular guy that you can come up to and have a conversation with about anything. I can relate to pretty much the average Joe on every level, and I still get to do some cool things in that process. I don't know, I feel like I do things that are not Clinton Portis cool, not Gilbert Arenas throwing a party where he hands out American Express cards as invitations, but I still get to do some really cool stuff. And I feel like I'm just a regular guy."

Of course, he nearly was "just a regular guy," working "just a regular job." Boswell was a triple major at Florida International: Business management, international business and psychology, the latter because "there were more girls in that that any other field." He thought he'd move to New York and get a job on Wall Street, "a big-shot job." He wasn't even invited to MLS's draft combine, which he blames on "the system," a selection process that often favors players from high-profile colleges.

But D.C. United gave him a workout, and then offered him a developmental contract in the spring of 2005, and by opening day he was the starting central back for the defending league champions. He was virtually a complete unknown in Washington, and he quickly established an unusual path. While many D.C. United players live in the suburbs, Boswell moved into the house of Dan Bernoske, a technology executive. And while many players spend their free time on video games and soccer clinics, those things seemed boring to Boswell. Plus, his Florida parking tags meant he couldn't park legally in his Capitol Hill neighborhood during daytime hours, so he had to find other ways to keep busy after practice.

So, for example, he became a regular on D.C. United's hospitals-and-schools charity circuit, showing up unannounced at other players' appearances and winning the club's Humanitarian of the Year award as a rookie. He also started 26 games, and began collecting a sizable following among fans, who appreciated his accomplishments on the field, his willingness to have a good time off of it, and his humble beginnings.

"I think that captured a lot of people's hearts, because he seemed like kind of a regular guy," says Rob Gillespie, one of the leaders of a D.C. United supporters group. "Just pull up a barstool, that kind of thing."

And gradually, some D.C. United fans began flocking to Boswell for another reason.

"He's hot," explains Adrienne Gregory, another long-time fan. "The chicks dig him."

All of which led to a 2006 campaign in which Boswell broke out, in a variety of ways. He started 30 games, made his first All-Star Game and was named the league's defender of the year. He made his first appearance with the U.S. National Team. And he began to build a unique brand in MLS: as a player willing to poke fun at himself and his teammates in a very public way.

That all started when his application to be one of Cosmopolitan's Most Eligible Bachelors was accepted. A hilarious online campaign ensued, complete with a video plea for votes, YouTube clips of video bloopers featuring whoopee cushion stunts, and so on. The team's public relations staff helped organize a voting campaign, and while league obligations kept Boswell from participating in the contest's finale, he was one of the leading vote-getters. The stunt helped launch him into a select group of players MLS officials turn to for their choicest marketing opportunities, and so he wound up in features like Sports Illustrated's Culture Grid and Men's Journal's summer sports issue. All the while, he became acquainted with D.C.'s nightlife--" social venues, let's call them," says teammate Ben Olsen--and he became friendly with players from the Washington Capitals and Washington Nationals. An undrafted unknown from Florida International was becoming something of an MLS star.

"I don't look at it in terms of 'Hmmm, let's market myself, what can I do?'" Boswell says. "All that stuff is fun and games, I get a big kick out of it, but it doesn't define me. Like when I talk to my agent he's like, 'Do you want to do some modeling?' I'm like, 'Dude, I'm a soccer player, not a model.'"

But Boswell clearly enjoys expressing himself, and so in the past offseason, he also decided to launch his own Web site, designed with the help of a local blogger and a D.C. United public relations staffer. A close friend organized a Web site launch party at a downtown club that drew 900 RSVP's and 350 guests. Another Web site party was scheduled for this summer, timed to overlap with English star David Beckham's visit to D.C.

And the Web site--which features a massive image of Boswell's head--has developed a small but loyal following, fans who enter his contests and e-mail him with questions. In the first three months, he averaged 65,000 page views. Boswell pays for the Web hosting and the t-shirt giveaways himself; he decides what to write and when. He's thought about soliciting sponsorship, but hasn't yet taken that step.

"It's about me writing what I want to write about, doing what I want to do, not having to answer to anybody. I didn't start it to make money; I started it to have fun," he says. "The reason I think people are making an issue of it is, the league is very professional. The guys in it, the older guys, they have this idea of professionalism. A lot of them coming from over in Europe, they're very serious, [they think] you're supposed to be that way. I'm more of a believer that the younger generation is more risky, more out there, not afraid to express themselves. I'm going to be myself. Like it or hate it, I don't care."

While some in the organization have wondered whether Boswell is spreading himself too thin, United investor Will Chang describes the site as a major step towards interactivity and Web branding, both for Boswell and the club.

"It's funny, it creates a personality, it personalizes our players," says Chang, who also has an ownership interest in the San Francisco Giants and helped grow BarryBonds.com. "That creates a more loyal fan base, a bigger fan base, and everybody's happy."

Boswell is happy, anyhow. He's a fan favorite in D.C., in part because of his willingness to cross the line that separates players from fans, for example, joining the supporters in the stands during a game he sat out.

"It took me at least 10 minutes to realize he was there; he's there in jeans and a t-shirt, right up there in the section, waving the flag," Gregory says. "They scored a goal, we threw beer, and he joked that he was going to go back and smell like beer. People standing around him didn't even know it was him. He just walked down, stood with us, had a good time and then he took off. He doesn't have any airs about him. It's not like he makes a jillion dollars, but he's among people that really admire him. We're big fans, he could act holier than thou and we wouldn't be shocked, but he doesn't. He hangs out, he talks."

Boswell recently turned down a potential three-hundred percent raise--"it's outrageous," he admits--"choosing instead to make about $30,000 in 2007 but leaving open the option of playing professionally in Europe. He did this because his vision is to play in a World Cup; "I have this vision of how things are supposed to be and they're going to be, and I'm trying to make that happen," he says.

But he also has other, non-soccer goals. He wants to visit all seven continents; he plans on a trip to Australia this year, which would be his sixth continent. He still dreams of becoming a Navy SEAL, although he acknowledges that window might be closing. There's that book thing; he already has the name picked out, and the best-seller hopes.

And while he insists that he is just doing things he likes to do and making sure he won't have any regrets, his friends don't have any doubt about where this story will end.

"If you look at Bobby's life as building brand awareness, BobbyBoswell.com is one of the smartest things he's ever done," says Bernoske, the older roommate, who has worked with Nextel on NASCAR marketing projects. "You can't plan it, but he will be with the right connector, he'll get photographed with the right person, he'll be at the right party, he'll do the right thing on the field. And someone's gonna grab that and it's going to be picked up by the mainstream media, and that's the tipping point he needs. He hasn't gotten there yet. He doesn't plan to be famous. He just sort of realizes it's going to happen on its own."

By Dan Steinberg  |  December 13, 2007; 11:11 AM ET
Categories:  D.C. United  
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Comments

Thanks for posting this Steinz. Good luck to Bobby in Houston, hopefully he has a better year next year and can get some European offers in one year from now. Or write his book - either way, I think he'll be ok.

Posted by: tmc | December 13, 2007 11:22 AM | Report abuse

Great piece, Steinberg. Thanks for posting it. Hopefully, DCU will find some more bloggable players for next year!

Posted by: 6-1, 180 | December 13, 2007 11:41 AM | Report abuse

This goes up there as one of your best blog posts ever. Here's hoping that this is what goes in the dead-tree edition.

Just for the record though, I resent that Nick Rimando's squirt gun story is the number two soccer story you've ever written (though I concur that Robin Rexroat and GUTS is a Secretariat-esque runaway Number 1). I think stuffing the ballot box for Devon McTavish as favorite celebrity at the biggest annual event in Winchester has to be number 2. Just ask Devon's Dad.

Posted by: Apple Blossom Festival | December 13, 2007 11:46 AM | Report abuse

Good stuff, Dan.

Posted by: Ron | December 13, 2007 11:54 AM | Report abuse

Good luck to him in Houston. I hope they know what they're getting as a person and a player.

Posted by: TG | December 13, 2007 11:54 AM | Report abuse

good stuff, bog. With all the great postings from you, Goff, and the basketball crew, I'm having a hard time meeting my work deadlines!

Posted by: jj | December 13, 2007 11:55 AM | Report abuse

Good piece Steinberg. By now its a proven fact the DC United players have limited time remaining with DC once you blog about them. Why don't you restrict your bloging to members of DCU's youth teams?

Posted by: song219 | December 13, 2007 11:56 AM | Report abuse

Thanks Dan, good stuff

Posted by: ahelms | December 13, 2007 11:57 AM | Report abuse

Great piece Dan. Keep up the DC United postings and we will be lapping up your posts as well as Goff's.

Posted by: Kinney | December 13, 2007 11:59 AM | Report abuse

Fabulous!

Good luck Boz!

Posted by: JkR | December 13, 2007 12:05 PM | Report abuse

Great piece, Steinberg!

Posted by: U Street | December 13, 2007 12:06 PM | Report abuse

I'd say I want you to post more stuff like this, but every time you cover a great DC United story, they trade the player. Hey, could you write a Vanney story?

And remember when Bobby Boswell's mom started that glorious trend of DC United parent postings?

Posted by: MM | December 13, 2007 12:10 PM | Report abuse

Well written. We'll miss you, Boz. :(

Posted by: KC | December 13, 2007 12:16 PM | Report abuse

Good stuff... sorry to see him go.

Posted by: Adrienne | December 13, 2007 12:36 PM | Report abuse

Great post. How many players in any sport can describe Maslow's hierarchy--we'll miss you Bobby.

Posted by: Bobby plays for the orange football team | December 13, 2007 12:36 PM | Report abuse

That's a good bit of work Dan.

Check out www.screaming-eagles.com for another take on your history with the team. ;)

Posted by: Kim | December 13, 2007 12:46 PM | Report abuse

Great piece.

Posted by: MtP | December 13, 2007 12:49 PM | Report abuse

Excellent piece, Dan. Thanks for posting it...

Posted by: Robert | December 13, 2007 12:55 PM | Report abuse

Gracias, Dan. Nice work.

Posted by: EdTheRed | December 13, 2007 1:05 PM | Report abuse

Wow, Bobby was a neighbor, I had no idea. I live about 3 1/2 blocks from Kenny's myself. And for anyone who cares, their collard greens are worth travelling across town for.

Good luck, Bobby, except when playing us.

Posted by: Bootsy | December 13, 2007 1:08 PM | Report abuse

Boswell is dead to me.

Posted by: Rocko | December 13, 2007 1:51 PM | Report abuse

Would you mind bogging on a few players on Houston, Chivas, New England and Chicago next season?

Posted by: sitruc | December 13, 2007 2:12 PM | Report abuse

This sucks. My background, for like a year and a half, has been a picture of Fedex Field's scoreboard moments after Boswell scored against Chelsea, reading "United 1 Chelsea 0".

I can understand the move in my head, but my heart wants it not to be. The only saving grace is that we still do have a group of guys worth discussing beyond their play on the field.

Posted by: Chest Rockwell | December 13, 2007 2:38 PM | Report abuse

Nice work, Bog-man.

I think the Bog goes a long way toward humanizing our local sports players. Bobby did this on his own, with your help, but the Bog gives us all a little peak into the everyday lives of these guys/girls. While I have a hard time "liking" any player who makes millions of dollars a year to play a sport, the Bog makes everyone seem a little more likable.

Thanks for that, Mr. Bog-dude.

Oh, and for this little testimonial, which you are free to use as self-promotion, I only request a few samples of your finest cheesy comestibles at the next Screaming Eagles tailgate you visit. :-)

Posted by: Beaker | December 13, 2007 3:09 PM | Report abuse

Stoopid magazine. Going under before you could win your Pulitzer. They'll get theirs...

Posted by: skippy | December 13, 2007 3:22 PM | Report abuse

Hello, Dan. I guess this may well be my last post on your wonderful bog. Thank you for this article about Bobby. I plan to put a copy of it in his baby book.

I want to publicly thank Bobby's roommate, Dan, for all he did for Bobby during his three-year stay in DC. No way could Bobby have afforded to live the life he did there without Dan's generosity. Too bad Dan isn't moving to Houston, too.

We know Bobby will miss the fans in DC and his teammates. This decision was difficult for him, because he was really happy with most of the aspects of his life in DC. But, as you so eloquently pointed out in your article, he does what he feels is best for the long term, and we hope this move will be just that for him.

I appreciated your interest in Bobby's antics, and especially your actions that resulted in finding Robin Rexroat. Keep up your great work; I will still be watching the weekly Bog Show on Washington Post Live every Tuesday.

Posted by: Mother Boswelll | December 13, 2007 6:01 PM | Report abuse

Mother Boswell, there's no need to abandon the Bog or other aspects of DC sports just because Bobby's moved on. We'll miss him and he'll be welcomed back warmly with Houston (unless he does something heinous, in which case, all bets are off).

Thanks for being the first celebrity parent to post here.

Posted by: Kim | December 13, 2007 8:02 PM | Report abuse

you have got to be kidding me Boswell plays the aw shucks role meanwhile he is all about - boswell - he is a joke and a phony.

his 'roommate' spilled the beans by accident - photos with the right people, tipping point - sounds like a coffee klatch of promotion 101 going on in their capitol hill apt

his stupid blog, cosmo, 'dude im a soccer player' - hes playing everybody esp. you dan - sorry bro u got played.

his being in the stands regular guy stunt is totally unoriginal and phony - christian gomez genuinely jumped into the stands in ny before bobby showed up and was shown banging the barra drum on epsn - still you gotta respect bobby's ability to co-opt someone elses authenticity and claim it as your own.

the thing he forgot and lionel messi will never forget is that its about performance and on the field and boswell, never talented, only got worse.

in any big game that mattered he was getting beat more often than a rented mule.

he can't pass, dribble or shoot - unless its on his own net - talk about the jeff agoos school of own goals he gets the camp mvp of that 'skill' -

ole bobby has more holes in his game than st andrews and apparently instead of working on his very limited game he was throwing parties with a bunch of clowns...900 rsvps - 'impressive ohhhh..' -come on gimme a break

last thing is there anything worse than a college kid with intro to psych class under his belt -easy with the 'maslow' mr fiu better yet read the peter priniciple and ull see you were promoted to your level of incompetence.

ull last about 3 weeks with dom kinnear then maybe a bigshot job on wall street, navy seal etc - wow you sure like to talk a big game - i have friends doing both and they can't wait for you to show up they love a good laugh.

Posted by: Michael | December 13, 2007 9:51 PM | Report abuse

Klassy, Michael. Anyone who has "friends" that do things means they simply sit on the curb and watch the parade go by. That's you, kid.

Posted by: Nigel | December 13, 2007 10:56 PM | Report abuse

Actually, Michael, Boz visited the stands before Christian did it. He sat in with us in DC, while Christian did it on the road, in a smaller crowd. So, if you're going to go on a senseless, jealous rant, at least get your facts straight. Oh, and this "joke" and "phony" was DCU's Humanitarian of the Year for each of the three years he was here. Man, all of that self promotion he was doing with sick kids in hospitals, or reading to elementary school kids, or running clinics in the inter-city, with no cameras or media around. How did we stand for this shameless behavior for three years?

Posted by: Anonymous | December 14, 2007 12:47 AM | Report abuse

Thanks, Dan, great article. Was really hoping Boz would get back to his 06 form with us next year. Ah well, all the best Bobby!

Posted by: dcu4ever | December 14, 2007 7:27 AM | Report abuse

didn't say he didn't do good things or not a good guy just artificial in alot of what he does and says - he wants to self actualize by writing a best seller - ur kidding me right ?

u hear a guy saying this crap and you can't wait to get him on the field

how about a basically average defender with no passing or skills w the ball wanting to parade all over town and use internet as a self promotional vehicle - if thats what you want in a player then pick him for your team in 2nd life internet world as far as being a real deal player no thanks and when ur so called soccer ability collapses so does ur clownish search for fame disguised as mr good guy

he should have put down the video camera and worked on hitting a pass over 15 yards then maybe his off field life development exercise would have been less noticeable

Posted by: michael | December 14, 2007 1:43 PM | Report abuse

You're totally right, Michael. What was Kinnear and the Houston braintrust thinking??!!! They actually offered quality in exchange for this piece of trash. I guess they just don't know as much about skill levels and players as you do. Keep blogging. Your intelligence is more obvious with each post.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 14, 2007 2:16 PM | Report abuse

Michael- as parents of one of those sick kids in the hospital, we can attest to the authenticity of his actions- no cameras no glory. He has always reached out to our family throughout our son's illness and it is an insult to him and to all the kids he helped by just showing up and letting them know he cared. He committed his time and energy to the community on his own many times. The kids of DC will miss him caring about who they are. If half the players spent half the time he did- DC United would be even more respected in the community.

Posted by: kdmmll | December 15, 2007 8:21 AM | Report abuse

Thank you, Mr. Steinberg, for all you do out here in the ethertubenets.

And thank you, Mr. Boswell, for your service to DC--the city and the team. Best of luck in Houston.

Posted by: Stevan in Gaithersburg | December 17, 2007 7:18 AM | Report abuse

Oy, even here we get the trolls. Go back under your bridge, loser. I hope Bobby's mom didn't have to see that.

Thanks for the article Dan. I hope the move works out well for Bobby. He was always 100% real for us.

Posted by: EricS | December 17, 2007 11:05 AM | Report abuse

I'll miss you Cereal Whisperer.

Posted by: Chris in SS | December 17, 2007 3:46 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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