Sunday, March 21, 2010

Soccer Lessons

"I feel sorry for the soccer teams that have to face me," crowed our middle son from the back seat.

"No self-esteem problems in our family," muttered the Lovely Bride, who was sitting up front, next to me.

"Seriously," the boy continued. "They should give the other team a two goal handicap when I'm playing."

"Good lord, be quiet," I said.

"No, think about it," he said. "I'm dominant on offense and unbeatable as goalie."

The middle boy wasn't always a goalie. By temperament and training, he's a forward, or less frequently, a midfielder. On the few occasions when he plays defense, he inexorably drifts toward the opponent's goal, like a salmon heading upriver to spawn.

He still doesn't play much goalie. Our primary keeper's a little injury prone, however, and the kids who've been pressed into back up service don't much like it. So, imagine my delight when the boy's coach called and offered me an opportunity to spend more money on soccer.

"You're kidding, right?" I asked him. "He'll be the first goalie in history to be called offside."

"No, he'll do a good job. He's nice and aggressive."

"So was Napoleon and he ended up on Elba," I countered.

The coach didn't say anything, although I heard him sigh quietly. He's known me for a long time.

"I wish I lived on an island," I mused. "Far away. By myself."

He sighed again, a little more loudly this time.

"How much does it cost?" I asked.

He told me.

"I guess it's worth it to get him away from me for a couple extra hours a week," I said.

Which is how he came to play goalie the other night, finishing with a 5-0 shutout.

It didn't hurt that the other team was clearly outmatched by our guys. The first half was particularly painful, as the opposing goalie made save after save, only to find another barrage of shots coming his way. After allowing a second goal, he slammed the ball down, kicked it viciously, and slumped down on the field with his head in his hands. When a few of his teammates tried to console him, he waved them away, sitting on the field until the referee started to head in his direction.

"That was obnoxious," said one of our team's parents as play resumed.

"I don't know why his coach is letting him sulk," said another. "He should have pulled him as soon as he started acting that way."

"If my kid acted like that, I'd kill him," I added self-righteously.

On the way off the field, I found myself next to a woman I took to be the mother of the other team's goalie. Having suffered through any number of irritating parents this last basketball season, I've resolved to be a better person. It's fair to say that's a work in progress. Still, one way I'm trying to improve is by saying something nice about an opposing player after every game.

"Was that your son at goalie?" I asked her.

"Yes, why?"

"Tell him good job. That was a tough game and he made a lot of impressive stops."

She stopped and looked at me. "Thank you," she said.

"My pleasure," I said. "It was fun to watch him play."

"We weren't sure whether to bring him tonight," she said. "His grandmother died yesterday. My mother."

"I'm sorry," I said.

"He loved her so much," she continued. "He's very upset. He wanted to be with his friends. We thought it might help."

"I'm sorry," I said again.

"Thank you for your kind words," she said. "It's been a hard day."

"I'm sorry," I said, again.


Kathleen said...

it's nice to be reminded that there is always more going on than we know about.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Damn Snag, now we're all sorry.

Shannon Erin said...

What Kathleen said. Now, to go find a kleenex.