Like many American men, I love football.
And in the fall, I try to watch as much football as I can, especially on Sundays and VERY especially when my Beloved Hometown Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks are on TV. I don’t live in Seattle, and every Seahawks game isn’t on TV here in the Bay Area. So, when the Hawks are on TV, I always make a Balfour Declaration-style announcement alerting one and all in my house that I will be appropriating the BIG TV for those approximately 3.5 hours that Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch and Richard Sherman will be on the field and we will not be changing the channel to watch “Dog With A Blog”, or anything else, on Disney Junior.
But, since I do have two small daughters, this plan usually goes all to hell before the Seahawks complete their first offensive drive.
If four-year-old Little Sis isn’t asking for more apple juice, then the five-year-old Maddo wants more Cheetos. And if by some Divine Miracle both of them are actually bring calm and are at peace, then my wife, the Thoroughly Awesome Ms. Crums, will show me a series of 73 cute kid outfits on sale that she just found on zulily.com. And this naturally ends with Marshawn Lynch scoring a touchdown, which I have just missed.
This year, however, my Sunday football viewing, and the attendant devouring of chicken wings during said games, has been reduced to mostly trying to catch up on highlights after the fact via the DVR. That’s because my Sundays this fall have mostly been taken up by a football of another kind, and not the Aussie Rules version, which would have been awesome because Aussie Rules is only the third-best football to the NFL.
No, I mean the “football” that majority of the rest of the non-United States world calls football: soccer. And specifically, the soccer involving Maddo’s team.
Since my wife and I have two young kids, we, like many parents, are always looking for some kind of activity to get them into, serve as an outlet for all of their insane energy, and, in the end, tire them out. A few months back, the local soccer club was gearing up for its fall season, and we figured we would ask Maddo if she wanted to give the “Beautiful Game” a try. I honestly don’t know if she really knew what soccer was, but she said she wanted to play, and we plunked down $225 to sign her up.
First off…TWO HUNDRED TWENTY FIVE BUCKS? This didn’t even include a ball, cleats, shin guards or her uniform. This was just to join the league and, I guess, help pay for the goals and field markers that I, as an assistant coach, had to help set up every Sunday.
Which brings me to…Second…I was an assistant coach on Maddo’s team.
During the sign up process, the club site made it sound like all parents were requested to “volunteer” in some fashion to help the team. Not just bring post-game snacks and drinks, but actually do SOMETHING like maintain the field, set up things, and…well, I’m not sure what else. That’s because I, as one of three assistant coaches along with our head coach, were the ones out there a half hour before game time setting up the never-the-same-size-two-weeks-in-a-row “fields”, nearly impaling ourselves with metal sticks while putting goals together, and generally acting like target-practice dummies for the kids when it came to their kicking drills.
That gets me to the actual game “session” itself. Every Sunday, for 10 Sundays in a row, we were in a 12:45 to 1:45 time slot. Theoretically, we were supposed to spend an half hour on footwork drills [While I have mastered toe taps, I still get exhausted after the, oh, fourth or fifth tap], and then use the remaining thirty minutes for an actual game. But since this was a “U6” team, meaning all the kids were either six or five years old, nothing ever went according to our schedule.
Sometimes, only three kids would be there when practice started. And we never had the same number of kids from one week to the next. One week, the full 11 would be there. The next week, maybe six would show up. Half the team was boys and half was girls. No problem there. But anyone who has ever dealt with a gang of kindergartners in any type of social gathering knows that “teamwork” really is impossible in such a situation.
Some of the kids didn’t want to get anywhere near the ball. Some acted like they had been cemented into one spot on the field. Few kids played defense and nobody passed. If one kid had the ball, his teammates were more likely to steal it from him that try to get open and receive a downfield kick. One kid was genuinely good [He wore a Lionel Messi Argentina team shirt when not in our team’s kit, so he was, therefore, awesome] and dribbled with the speed of the Tasmanian Devil. Another boy was genuinely insane, and couldn’t help
On our final Sunday, as our session started, there was just me, Maddo, and one other parent and his kid. I thought that the rain we had gotten three days earlier had possibly cancelled our game and I had missed the message. Eventually, six kids made it to the field and for our last game, we divided the three girls and three boys up and let them take on us coaches. I’m not sure what was greater, the number of goals scored or the number of water breaks the kids had to take because I lost track of both after four.
Eventually, the game ended. But there was one more soccer-related event to attend and that was the end-of-the-season party, which the parents of one of the girls graciously hosted for the rest of us and our maniacal kids. The guy even had Lagunitas IPAs [a very underrated IPA, if you ask me] and WILD BOAR sausage that he hunted himself. Believe me, if Wild Boar is on the menu, you eat as much of it that socially acceptable. And then you eat the rest, too.
The kids were good, for the most part. Everyone was actually well-behaved, except for the one kid that every soccer team has who is genuinely insane. You know the one. During practice, he talks all over the coach, runs after everyone else’s balls, and generally acts like he eats Ritalin for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Yeah, that kid. At the party, he dropped rocks into one girl’s juice, threw a big beachball at several kids’ faces and, when it was time for the trophies that every kid got, he knocked Maddo’s onto the ground where it broke in two as he made a frenetic dash to get to where the head coach was just six feet away.
There was a pregnant pause, and my wife and I looked at each other with daggers in our eyes. Not only did this kid’s mom just laugh it off, she didn’t even make him apologize for being such a rude little shitheel. Oh yeah, they are on my Enemies List, now.
Luckily for Maddo, the head coach had some extra trophies, probably just for this kind of emergency. The hosts then gave the head coach, and me, each a bottle of really good Cabernet Sauvignon wine. I was just happy with the wild boar sausage and a Lagunitas. We might actually have to socialize with the people for real.
The party began to break up, but not before our head coach reminded us that we would be getting emails in a few weeks about the spring season. Same league. Same team. Same crazy kid who broke Maddo’s trophy. Oh well. At least now I can spend the rest of my Sundays in the fall and winter watching real “football” on TV. Or, until Maddo decides she wants to practice some of her goal-scoring footwork, and it’s back to the DVR for me.