A little French in Philly

Michael Dwyer
Favorite Spot: Chamounix Fields in Fairmount Park
Neighborhood: West Philly
Address: Chamounix Dr & Ford Road

I Am: A professor of Media and Communication at Arcadia University and defensive center mid for FC Chamounix
Years in Philly: 4
Current Home: Mt Airy/Chestnut Hill

My Love Note

Dear Chamounix,

Every Sunday, rain or shine.

I wake up early, make the coffee, and bring the paper in. Then it’s time to go. I make my way down Lincoln Drive, over the Schuylkill, across City Ave, and into a quiet corner of Fairmount Park, just around the corner from the Belmont Plateau. I say hello to everyone–some are stretching, others loosening up their leg muscles or recounting their weekends. It’s Sunday Soccer, and we have the fields at Chamounix (and the Fairmount Park Commission!) to thank for it.

I moved to Philadelphia in 2010, to teach in a very small academic department at a small university after spending years in a tight-knit graduate program at a much larger school. Being new in town and new on the job, as well as being a generally shy person, made adjusting to life in Philly difficult. Chamounix changed that. I started with a rec league team, which led to another rec league team, then an injury, then yet another rec team, then an invitation to Sunday pickup. I’ve been going for two years now. Different people come and go, but it’s always. Sometimes it’s a full-field, 11 v 11 throwdown. Other times it’s just 3 on 3 on small goals.Some people (like me) have played their whole lives. Some people are just learning to play. But we all are there to have fun, and we’ve made a lot of friendships in the process.

I’ve played ball at sprawling soccer complexes in Northeast, on the beautiful turf at Penn Park, at rec centers in Brewerytown and West Philly, at wonderful Starfinder Foundation in Manayunk, on manicured college pitches in the suburbs, and even on a rooftop overlooking the Ben Franklin Parkway. The fields at Chamounix are not, I will admit, the most finely groomed in the city. Rocks and bottlecaps abound. The nets are torn and the goalposts a little wobbly. If it goes too long without raining in the summer the field resembles a dustbowl, and even when the grass is healthy the surface is so uneven that the ball regularly will take unexpected bounces right before you shoot it (we call that “getting Chamounix’ed”). But there’s something about it that reminds me of the best of Philly–it’s a little run down, a little rough around the edges, but it’s also a place where everyone is welcome, where making connections is more important than scoring goals, and where we all get better by playing together. That’s why you’re my favorite, Chamounix.

I’ll see you again next Sunday at 10:30.

Love,
Michael

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