Al Colone passed away in April. (Michael Lewis/FrontRowSoccer.com Photo)
By Michael Lewis
There are many ways to measure a man or a woman.
And not one size fits all.
Sometimes it is greatness as a leader. Other times it is the way they treat other people.
Albert Colone did both.
A few days ago, FrontRowSoccer.com posted an obituary for Colone, the former executive director of the National Soccer Hall of Fame who had passed away in April. Colone was 76. His death was reported in several Oneonta newspapers and websites, but unfortunately, for some reason, did not reach the majority of the U.S. soccer universe until this month.
As a reporter, I would like to think I got to know Al fairly well.
In October 1979, I was assigned to do a Sunday piece about Oneonta, N.Y. calling itself Soccertown, USA. The man who pointed me in the right direction to interview players, coaches and fans was Al. Of course, at the time Al was city recreational director and was lobbing for the U.S. Soccer Federation (it was years before it changed its name to U.S. Soccer) to become the National Soccer Hall of Fame. He was battling the state of New Jersey, which wanted to build a Hall and museum next to Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.
Some 20 miles away, the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. was thriving, especially as a summer time mecca for fans wanted to learn more about the history of the game and honor many of its greats.
Oneonta seemed natural for soccer. Hartwick College had won the 1977 NCAA Division I championship and Oneonta State had a very competitive soccer program. More than 7,000 fans watched two doubleheaders of the Mayor’s Cup that September, which was more than one-fourth of the city’s population (14,000) at each game.
“As a community, we view it as a major economic stimulus in the area,” Colone told me at the time. “Tourism is the No. 3 industry in Otsego County. Of course, No. 1, people love the sport of soccer here.”
I visited the Hall and Oneonta on several more occasions. In May 1982, I covered the Hall of Fame game when the Rochester Flash played. I went up to a special symposium in August 1987 and had the opportunity to meet several legends of the game and Hall Famers, including the great Jack Hynes from Staten Island, N.Y.
There were trips in the 1990s – I spoke at the 1992 symposium – and into the 21st century, which included several induction ceremonies at the Wright Soccer Campus (before the Oneonta site was closed down in 2010).
When I covered the New York State high school championships Oneonta in November 1992, there were no rooms at the inn, so to speak, as hotels for miles were gobbled up by competing schools, parents and fans.
So, where did I stay?
Al and his family put me up for the night.
He didn’t have to, but he did.
I remember “little” things like that, which certainly goes a long way in measuring a man.