Things I Learned at a Suburban Kid’s Soccer Game

Fall in New England means a few things. Leaves changing color. Pumpkins. Football. The annual ritual of weekend soccer games consuming a significant portion of your day. The equally annual ritual of bitching about how many games you have to cart your ass around to to all the other parents. Bringing a flask to the field even if it’s a 10AM game. You know, for warmth. It’s October. Don’t judge.

Fortunately this morning’s game for my son was at 11AM, which means I could just bring a six pack. No need to hide it. I saw another parent with a joint. Whatever it takes to get through.

I learned and realized a few things during today’s game. In no particular order:

  1. I suck at basic tasks. This actually has nothing to do with soccer. It’s a core condition. For the second weekend in a row, my wife asked me to make sure my son took his allergy medicine before the game. Else he ends up sneezing all over the other kids. She went so far as to put the medicine in my hand. Physically in my palm. And for the second week in a row I didn’t do it. I left it on the counter. Either I am too busy to be saddled with the most simple child-care activities, or I’m just dumb.
  2. The whole kid’s soccer system is a lie. As parents, we claim to put our kids in sports so they can learn team work, get exercise, learn to follow rules and listen to a coach. That’s bullshit. We put our kids in sports for two reasons.  The first is we’re desperate, middle-aged suburban parents whose lives have not panned out like we dreamed. We crave the small bit of affiliation with success we get if our kids win. Maybe, just maybe, we’re not total failures if our seed produced someone who still has a chance of being a winner. The second is even more insidious. We compare our insides to everyone else’s outsides. We constantly compare our internal sense of fulfillment and satisfaction in life to the appearance of fulfillment and satisfaction we see in others, like their house, car, job and the vacations they take. And in reverse, we peacock our car, house, job and vacations to convey how amazing everything is. Kids are a big part of life though, and since they don’t publicly publish school report cards, sports are the only way we can put a shiny coat of wax on our kid and trot him around for everyone to see how exceptional he is. “Look at that goal he just scored. I must have no debt, rock-hard abs and great, movie-star sex.”
  3. I remember thinking I was a decent soccer player when I was a kid. I also remember my junior year in high school we went 1-15. The one team we beat had a girl on it because their school was too small to field girls and boys teams. We barely won that game. What’s great about this is that, no matter how bad things may seem in the present, you’ll eventually view your history through rose-colored glasses. You’ll be taller, sexier and more accomplished in your memory. That’s a relief.
  4. I hate your kids. Hate might be too aggressive, but I certainly dislike them. They are a threat to my son, and while I do have an instinctual need to protect him, I feel none of that desire for yours. Whether it’s for playing time at the game, future girlfriends and wives, getting into a specific college or getting a job or promotion, your kid is nothing but a threat to mine. Competition. Add in the high chance that your little hooligan is going to be the one dealing crack in high school and will be the first to get bitten and turn into a dirty little brain eater in the Zombie apocalypse, and there is really nothing redeeming about him. Plus he sucks at soccer, so I know you’re not getting laid. Loser.
  5. Fat kids play defense. Not much to take away from this. It’s just one of those universal laws. Like gravity.
  6. Hustle is pretty much the only strategy that works. Here is a Harvard Business School paper that lays this out in the business world. On the soccer field, it’s amazing how many more balls end up in front of and bounces go the way of the kid that’s hustling. I probably screamed hustle 50 times during today’s game. Mind you I was screaming from my lawn chair (hard to stand after 4-5 beers). If you hustle harder, you win. In sports. In business. In life. It’s exhausting, I know. If you don’t want to hustle, that’s okay. As Judge Smails said in Caddy Shack….”the world needs ditch diggers too.”
  7. If you are going to play, you might as well play to win. But if you don’t win, a bloody mary is often just as good.

We lost 3-1. I’ll see you at the bar.

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