February 2, 2012
Meola talks about being named on the Hall of Fame ballot
By Michael Lewis
|Tony Meola: "I was just blown away. "I can't believe the messages I got from people."
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
Tony Meola was attending a junior varsity basketball game of his son, Jonathan, at Toms River East High School on Tuesday when he received a text from his former teammate, Tab Ramos, congratulating him for being named to the ballot for election to the National Soccer Hall of Fame.
"I was numb for the rest of the game," he said. "It's definitely pretty humbling."
Suddenly, the goalkeeper was receiving emails from former teammates -- club and National Team.
"I was just blown away," he said. "I can't believe the messages I got from people.
"It's pretty awkward."
He later added: "It never mattered to me. All of sudden you're through. Holy crow. It's pretty cool.
"It's nice to be on the ballot with Claudio."
Meola was referring to former U.S. international captain and midfielder Claudio Reyna, who also was named on the ballot for the first time.
Part of the reason Meola might have been "blown away," was that he never formally announced his retirement from the game. He last played professionally with the New Jersey Ironmen during the 2007-08 season. After he left the Major Indoor Soccer League team, the Kearny, N.J. native said he wanted to continue playing. He never found a team.
But when Meola became eligible -- there's a three-year wait after a player's last game before he or she is eligible -- the Hall's nomination committee placed Meola on the ballot.
Meola said he felt there was no need to announce his retirement.
"I just go on every day doing my thing," he said. "I don't think there is a need to announce anything. I'm just like any other fan watching MLS."
Perhaps a discussion that Meola had with his nine-year-old son, Aidan, earlier this week, put things into perspective.
Aidan asked his father what if he wasn't voted in.
Meola, who turns 43 on Feb. 21, asked Jonathan why he participated in sports.
"Because it's fun and I like it," he replied.
To which Meola responded, "That's what I did, too. I love to play the game."
Of course, if Meola doesn't make it in on the first try, it would be a great surprise to many in the U.S. Soccer community.
His credentials are impeccable. He made 100 international appearances for the U.S. National Team at a position where only one person can play, whereas teams can use mutltiple players at various spots. Meola also played in two World Cups -- he was only 21 when he performed at Italia '90 -- for the MetroStars, Red Bulls and Kansas City Wizards, backstopping them to an MLS title with an outstanging performance en route to a victory over the Chicago Fire in MLS Cup 2000.
If Meola does get voted in -- this year, next or in the future -- he will complete a unique triumvirate in which the three former Kearny Scots players and boyhood friends -- John Harkes, Ramos and Meola -- would reach the Hall of Fame.
Asked what his reaction would be if and when he did get voted in, Meola replied, "I don't know. I'll be celebrating with my family. It's a culmination of a lot of hard work, I suppose."