How (and why) Portland Timbers goalkeeper Jeff Attinella became a children's book author

Sports have always meant the world to Portland Timbers goalkeeper Jeff Attinella. Not just because it's his profession and not simply on a surface level.

These silly games we care too much about bring families together. Some of his favorite memories are going to Tampa Bay Buccaneers games with his family or watching them on TV. It's how his family bonded. He'll always cherish Super Bowl XXXVII in 2003, even if the team's success was fleeting.

The proud Floridian was born in Clearwater and played four years of collegiate soccer at the University of South Florida before starting his professional career with the NASL's Tampa Bay Rowdies. He earned earned a shot in MLS after excelling on that stage, first with Real Salt Lake and then after a trade sent him to Portland. 

As Attinella started a family, the move sparked a thought that inspired his other career of writing children's books. 

“I was thinking, how am I going to get my daughter and my family to love the Tampa [Bay] sports teams the way that I do?” Attinella told MLSsoccer.com. 

Attinella has since published children's books, centered on iconic sports moments. One is about the Chicago Cubs ending their World Series curse; another is on LeBron James returning to Cleveland to win an NBA title; and a third is on the New England Patriots' incredible Super Bowl comeback after being down 28-3 to the Atlanta Falcons. 

With the sports world at a standstill and most of the country isolating at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Attinella has temporarily made the e-book versions free. 

"Now with everything we’re going through, without sports, schools or that outlet to bring people together, it’s just my way of trying to give that to people," Attinella said. "Trying to help people who are missing sports, those families that are missing school.”

Feedback has been quite positive. 

“I had someone reach out to me on Twitter that said one of our books helped his nephew start to learn how to read," Attinella said. "That’s cool feedback. Being able to help out in any way during this time is a great thing.”

Becoming an author was never the plan for Attinella. It came through passion and happenstance. 

Attinella was heading to a Bucs game one offseason and inspiration struck him. He took out his phone and jotted down a rhyme about a game he went to in college, re-living one of his favorite memories. He was intrigued by the thought and noticed his idea had some novelty. Sure, there were children's books about sports, but not re-telling some of the iconic, memorable stories. 

Attinella brought the idea to his father-in-law, who was an entrepreneur, and it was set in motion. From there, that silly little exercise turned into penning multiple children's books.

And he doesn't plan on stopping anytime soon, even if he's a bit busy with a growing young family.

“Ultimately my goal for the book is to try and have one for every fanbase, so everyone can share that moment and love for their team," Attinella said. "There’s no shortage of good sports stories. There’s a team that means something to everyone.”

Young families are why he keeps at it, hoping to share cherished memories like those from his childhood.

"Sports have always been a bond for my family," Attienlla said. "Some of the best moments I had growing up were going to games or watching them on TV. I wanted to create a way that parents or families like mine could share in these historical moments.”

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