Tuesday 27 August 2013

The Barber’s Conundrum by Other Stories by John Hartnett

Chapter 2: Quiet Please, Soccer Game in Progress

Icy temperatures far below normal.  Gale force winds.  Stinging sheets of horizontal rain.  Cascading rivers of mud.  This abnormal change in our spring weather patterns can only mean one thing. Somebody somewhere has scheduled a children’s soccer game.

My daughter had two games this weekend.  Like every game before them -- it rained.  Temperatures never got above 46 degrees unless you were lucky enough to spill coffee in your lap.  I saw two four-year old girls selling shots of Sambucca out of the back of their parent’s Suburban.

In spite of the inclement weather parents were there in force.  This was an end of the season tournament and there were eleven fields, all of them filled with hard charging boys and girls and all of them lined with parents, siblings, spectators, coaches, assistant coaches, and the occasional European trainer, whose ubiquitous cries of “Unlucky!” or “Well done!” in English and Irish accents provided a little extra ambience in a “Tom Brown’s School Days” sort of way.

While my daughter warmed up in preparation of warming up for her game, I took a walk along the line of soccer fields, stopping occasionally to watch the games for a moment or two.   The ages of the children varied, as did the gender and the level of skill but nonetheless a similar pattern emerged and along with it a revelation.  Some adults are just plain nuts.

The screaming, the endless screaming.  “Go!  To goal, to goal!”  “Watch number 3, watch number 3!  Nooooooo!!  I told you to watch number 3!”  “Shoot!  Shoot! Now shoot!  Now, now, now!”  “Take it up the side!  The side, keep going, keep going!” “Sarah’s in the middle, she’s in the middle!  The middle, the middle!  PASS!  PASS!”  “Ohhhhhhh!!!!”

I stood mesmerized by a coach who stalked along the sidelines shouting detailed instructions to his players as if he were a human joystick that could control their physical movements with just the sound of his voice.  “Danny, move left.”  “Dribble right and go, right and go!”  “Take it left and cross.  Cross!  Aahh, for God’s sake!  I said cross!”

Note to all parents and coaches who scream from the sidelines:  Your kids can’t hear a word you say. Want to control your players every move?  Get a foosball table.  As much as you want your kids to score, there are kids on the other team who don’t want them to score.  I’m surprised parents haven’t tried screaming at the kids on the opposing team.  “Hey number 11, stand still and do nothing!” 

I heard a mother offer the following words of encouragement to her daughter as she waited for the second half to begin, “Do it up right.  Make me proud.”  Do it up right?  I was tempted to alert the referee, “Mangled syntax on the field.  Everyone take a knee.”

Can you imagine how parents who shout at their kids at soccer games would fare if they were subjected to the same treatment at work?  Say they’re in the process of admitting an emergency room patient while the boss watches from across the room.  “Not the injury, the insurance card, check the insurance card first! We don’t take United Health anymore.  Oxford, yes! Oxford!  Quick, the copy machine’s free, the machine’s free.  Hurry!   Someone’s coming with a huge file, run!  Run! Keep going!  Oooooh!”

Years ago, I used to play little league baseball.  Most game days, I slid my glove on the handlebars of my bike and rode over to the field by myself.  My teammates did the same thing. Our parents came to watch if they had the time, if they were busy, they didn’t.  Sometimes we won, sometimes we lost.  Sometimes I got a couple of hits and caught a couple of balls and sometimes I didn’t.   Big deal.  It was summertime.

After the game, I’d ride back, put my bike in the garage and walk in the house.  My father would ask me how we did, I’d tell him a little bit about how the game went and that would be it.

Two minutes of conversation at best --and in my mind-- still the perfect length of time to spend discussing any game between a bunch of nine-year-old kids.


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Genre –  Humor

Rating – PG

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Website http://monkeybellhop.com/

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