Billy Gazonas, raised in Trenton, NJ, a son of Greek-Americans, with Greek traditions and strong Orthodox faith, ultimately achieved the highest pinnacles of success in the U.S. soccer world: a member of both a State High School Championship soccer team in 1973 and a NCAA Championship team at tiny Hartwick College in Oneonta, NY and a Hermann Trophy winner as the Nation’s Outstanding College Soccer Player in 1978, followed by a six-year professional soccer career in the North American Soccer League. However, That Little Son of a B**ch! A Soccer Journey from Tears and Humiliation to National Champions and Hermann Trophy Winner, penned by Gazonas, is much more than a cataloging of his stellar achievements in the soccer world. Rather, it is the compelling, riveting tale of an undersized and overlooked young athlete who was determined to play at the highest levels of soccer, and realized his dreams only by remarkable perseverance, hard work, and determination.
Gazonas, inducted into the Order of AHEPA’s Hellenic Athletic Hall of Fame in 2013 for his soccer accomplishments, spins a tale of a player electing to try-out at Hartwick College, the then-premier soccer college program in the 1970’s, spurring opportunities to play at less accomplished soccer programs, despite even Hartwick’s coach encouraging him to play at a lesser soccer school. It chronologically charts his trajectory, from barely making the team early in his freshman year but not playing at all, then taking advantage of playing opportunities due to others’ injuries and impressing his coach with his work ethic and indefatigable effort, to eventually becoming a valued team member and ultimately an indispensable leader of the Hartwick soccer team. The story ends in triumph, as Hartwick, in Billy’s last game as a college player, wins the NCAA National Championship and Billy is acclaimed as the nation’s best soccer player, a result that would have been unimaginable four short years earlier.
Left to right: Gregory J. Stamos, AHEPA Hellenic Athletic Hall of Fame 2013 inductees William Atessis, Charles Theokas, and Bill Gazonas, and AHEPA Past Supreme President Dr. John Grossomanides, Jr. (Photo: Courtesy of Gregory Stamos)
“That Little Son of a B**ch” lays out in detail his sole-minded determination to accomplish his goals, at the expense of the normal college student’s social life and even his studies. Billy’s dogged pursuit of those goals serves as an exemplar of one achieving success in any area or forum of life, being sports, business, or professional or family relationships, his sole focus being to prioritize goals and never admit defeat. Whether one is a soccer or a sports fan, or one simply seeking to be motivated by Billy Gazonas’ formula of hard work and determination, leading to the realization of one’s dreams, “That Little Son of a B**ch” is a marvelous read.
That Billy Gazonas was honored by AHEPA’s induction into its’ Athletic Hall of Fame, in which he gave a rousing acceptance speech thanking his beloved late parents, praising his Hellenic heritage and Orthodox faith, and sharing his life’s journey of one overcoming doubters and skeptics, certainly resonated with this reviewer and made this read more pertinent, his story is a timeless and universal one, that of achieving and realizing one’s goals and dreams not through any privilege or advantage, but through perseverance and single-minded determination. These lessons from Billy can be applied beyond the athletic fields to all endeavors of life.
“That Little Son of a B**ch!”: A Soccer Journey from Tears and Humiliation to National Champions and Hermann Trophy Winner by Billy Gazonas is available online.
Attorney Gregory J. Stamos is President of the Hellenic Bar Association of Connecticut and a Past Supreme Counselor of AHEPA.