Soccer Saturdays are as concrete part of our family rhythm as laundry, homework, and school fund raisers. Our city’s soccer organization operates upon a caste system as distinct as Hinduism. There are not only levels of teams (Express, Metro, Lightning Storm Travel, Challenge, Rec, and Hotshots), but levels among those levels, (Dad/Parent-coached established, Dad/Parent coached new, Community Volunteer with soccer experience, College student that cares, College student who volunteered to fill out community service box on application.) There are good cleats and bad cleats, popular water jugs and pedestrian water bottles, good gadget ways to ratchet up your shirt sleeves, and ill-conceived methods to manage too big jerseys. There’s even a hierarchy among snacks and popular treats and groaner ones. For example, yesterday The Middle girl enjoyed oranges slices at half time (not top-shelf service, because they were sliced and served in a large bowl, and not individually portioned into baggies with baby wipes or moist towelettes for sticky hands), but, the after-game snack was premium: Cliff Protein bars, individual cups of red, seedless grapes complete with lid, and cranberry juice. One year one of my son’s coaches rented a Snow Cone truck and served four teams in the heat of a beautiful, May afternoon. Soccer teaches our children a little bit about winning and losing, celebrating the excellence of others, perseverance and diversity. The little city we live in takes soccer and our children pretty seriously.
As such, I imagined the satiric possibilities of how a little, old-fashioned parody could fuel a spoofed commentary about The Oldest Girl’s game Saturday…
‘Put me in, Coach!”
The game started normally enough. Parents held Starbucks Vinti cups of quad sugar-free lattes like security blankets as they positioned canopied stadium chairs on the side lines of the field. It promised to be a great game. Against the backdrop of the Shenandoah mountains, two rival teams warmed up for a friendly game.
The ominous nature of haze as the sun burned away the first hint of Fall fog was lost on the assembled families who chatted breezily and compared game calendars. Most parents assembled had at least one more game that day, and many would ferry assorted children to different fields for the next several hours. The creep of another soccer Saturday had begun, and with coolers packed, families and friends settled in to watch.
The first hint that something might be amiss was heard before it was seen, “Faster! You’ve got to run! What are you waiting for?” yelled a Nordic voice above the pre-game side line prattle, “I said MOVE!” ordered the towering giant as he shepherded his team to the goal to practice shots.
Heads jerked up to identify the source of the disruption. Some wives gripped their husbands’ wrists as others pointed excitedly toward the brute who continued at that very moment to scream at their daughters.
“No!” the coach bellowed at a cowering, 10 year-old striker whose shot had bounced off the post, “Do you need glasses? You’ve got to aim your kicks! We can’t score if you don’t keep your eyes on the target when you shoot!”
A minor scrimmage soon ensued on the side lines as a husband physically restrained his wife from charging the beast on the field. Mamma Bear heat blazed from her eyes. Many agree bloodshed was then and there spared only because her husband was able to pin her by the World Cup sweatshirt tied around her waist.
The ref whistled to clear the field and began his pre-game safety check for shin guards and jewelry. This gave the families of both teams time to study the coach who had ignited the ruckus. He was unusually big, not just tall, but massively built with muscles that clearly bulged under his grey Nike t-shirt. He wore camouflage pants and combat boots that flattened the dew-wet grass beneath his feet like tanks. He paced back and forth in front of his girls like a drill sergeant inspecting green recruits. His cropped military flat top was a shocking straw blonde, and spiked stiff to stand up on his head like a bed of nails. A silver skull and crossbones ring glinted from the middle finger of his right hand and struck the morning sun like lightning that caused several of the scrutinizing parents to squint.
His girls fielded their positions like soldiers on a suicide mission. They knew their orders, but everything about their slumped soldiers, heavy limbs and downcast eyes spelled defeat. There was none of the joy or the bounce typical of ten-year old girls before a game. They knew this was war and their very survival depended on whether or not they could crush the opposing team before their rabid coach swallowed their hope whole. The smell of fear mixed with the coffee already in the air into a dreadful blend of stimulants.
It began well for the giant’s team as Team Giant scored quickly in the first few moments of the game. The girls on his team visibly relaxed after their quick looks shot toward their bench confirmed that the giant was indeed smiling. His posture was open and relaxed, “Thank you, girls! Good!”
This momentary sense of normalcy calmed the parents on the sidelines also. Though they did not approve, of course, they discussed among themselves that the pre-game antics must have been some kind of motivational stunt to encourage the girls. Even the most irritated of the fathers doused their flames after they promised each other they would give the giant a good talking-to after the game if he ever talked to his girl like that again. They settled back into their canvas thrones as their girls played on, their comfortable sense of order restored.
Unfortunately for all assembled, the opposing team soon scored. The cheers of parents was interrupted by the giant’s scream, “You idiot!” He spat at the goalie, “Didn’t you see her coming? You’ve got to move toward the ball! You’ve got to move to block the ball!”
The ref looked like he was going to choke on his whistle. All of fourteen, ain’t nothing in his Soccer Manual prepared him for such an insulting diatribe from a coach toward his own player. All he had in his pouch was a yellow card, and a red card, a well chewed pencil stub and a notebook. His pimpled face blanched as indecision crawled across his cheeks to compete with the anxiety blush already there.
The young ref was in good company. No one seemed to know what to do in response to the giant’s invective. As no one interceded from the now still field, the ref timidly signaled the game to continue.
Team Giant never recovered. The girls shut down and literally flinched if the ball came in their general vicinity. This was a team of draftees. Not one player ever uttered, “Put me in, Coach!” to the giant No one wanted to touch the ball or inspire the giant’s wrath.
Their reserve was warranted. The giant soon began a constant rant when his team was down by two,
“No Bambie, you stupid klutz, you’ve got to kick it with the side of your foot!
Move up on the ball! Move up on the ball, Barbie! What are you waiting for? It won’t come to you; you’ve got to go get it!
Oh, my God, Lamb, cover her! Cover her, she’s wide open! Shoulder up; knock the stupid cow down if you have to!
Look at her! Look up, Dovey, look up! Get her! I want you to kill her!”
Spittle mustached the giant’s face in a soul patch of rage. He balled his fists tight against brass-knuckle fury. He clenched his teeth so tightly that between shouted expletives the parents on the side-lines, rising now from their chairs en masse, could hear his teeth grind.
‘You little pig! What kind of stupid whore raised you?” he challenged as one of his team members fumbled a corner kick?
Gasps cut the ref’s whistle short as a lone Mamma stormed the field wielding a Revlon nail file like a cleaver.
“I’ll kill you for that!” hissed the Capri-clad middle-aged lady with a Mommy hair cut. Her speed was shocking for a large woman in flip flops, and she beat all of the fathers who had joined her charge across the field.
“You’re a monster!” she roared as she arched back her arm and slammed the file into the yellow flecks of the giant’s bulging, blue, right eye.
The giant staggered on his feet as he groped his wounded eye. Blood and ooze painted his skull ring with gore.
The fathers were soon upon him like an angry mob. Suddenly the venue switched from a soccer match to Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery. There was no doubt as to who would be sacrificed.
The crowd stoned him with everything they could throw. The giant was pummeled under a hail of Intak water jugs, Puma cleats, Coleman coolers, Mac Sports folding canopy chairs, Gatorade bottles and Futsal soccer balls. Fathers lined up their girls to kick the slain beast in the head, ribs and balls.
As he lay there dying, the giant smiled up toward the sky. A clotted indictment bubbled from his torn, moist lips, “You want them to win easily, and never consider what it might cost, or that they might get their feelings hurt.”
Taking a u12 soocer game too seriously (when you have three other games to get to that same day) is an Hallelujah breaker!
(This was a spoof, I didn’t come to fool you…)
And even though it wall went wrong, I’ll stand before the Lord of Song, with nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah!