Sunday, May 15, 2016

My Soccer Riot

I'm going to own something publicly of which I am not proud.

Yesterday, my oldest son's soccer team played for their end of the year championship, something the local league calls the "classic cup." I love my son. I love watching him play. I work hard to be positive, cheer for the team, encourage them, and leave my passion on display.

There are certain lines I will not cross--and yesterday was no different. I will not yell at or berate the children on the field. I will not shout profanities. But my passion is on display. It always has been, and yesterday was no different.

The local league reminds us each year of general rules for parents. I've supported this league with thousands of dollars over the years so my children can play and learn the value of teamwork, hard work, and losing. The value of winning comes easily; it's losing which requires character. I am proud of my son and the character he displays regardless of any game's outcome.

A friend once told me there are three teams on a field during any sporting event--and no one is rooting for the third. The officials have a hard job and often face abuse from angry fans. I am human and as such fundamentally flawed. I am not above my passion bubbling over when officiating begins to affect the outcome of a game even though I try, with all my being, to teach my son that officials, for better or worse, are part of playing.

Maybe it was the goal scored from an offside position when the linesman was out of position to call the play (I generally watch from our team's defensive sideline). Maybe it was the foul called against one my son's teammates as he was shoved to the ground (if you are confused, so was I). Maybe it was the fact the head referee taunted the aforementioned player with a red card after he questioned the call. Maybe it was the several shots taken at my son while he carried the ball or other continued violent play without recourse. Maybe it was a combination of these miscues which bubbled over as another one of our players was ejected with a red card and my passion spilled over.

Again, I did not swear or curse or target a kid from the other team. I simply said the officiating was "bush league" and "sorry boys, looks like you're playing against two teams today."

I'm not proud of these things. Maybe part of my brain knew I wouldn't be because I certainly did not shout them at the top of my lungs. Another parent fired a few remarks in my direction after my comments, the kindest of which was "calm down."

I've grown tired of the world in which I must counsel young people through the insults they heap upon each other from a position of anonymity. Social media and the privilege of distance has eroded human decency. Spend a New York minute reading comments on most popular YouTube videos and you have a quick and dirty lesson. And yes, I recognize I flung comments onto the field with relative anonymity, too. I am not proud or innocent.

I walked over to the man for a face to face and asked if he had anything he would like to say to me.  I was angry, seeing red, but by God, after forty-one years of life simply taking it, I was not going to take it any more. I am not proud--but a little conflicted because there reaches a point when we must own our actions.

I did not use profanity or insult any of the children. I simply wanted the opportunity to face someone who clearly had something he wanted to say about me if not to me. I am not proud it came to that opportunity. I am happy I walked away a moment later because anger rarely gives birth to anything positive.

My son's team lost the game 1-0. He is my role model for life, teaching me that winning and losing come in equal measure. I am proud of him and everything he has weathered in less than thirteen years on the planet. As I walked to the medal ceremony, a felt the sting of a few more comments aimed in my general direction. The moment of heat and passion gone, I continued walking. There will be more games and thankfully more opportunities for me to do it better.

We must do our best to recognize humanity in others. If we don't, no one will.

1 comment:

Donna said...

I haven't met a sports parent yet who has not lost his or her cool, myself included (a lot...really...OMG so much). And it absolutely infuriates me when uneducated, unprepared or just plain assholish officiating takes the game away from the skill and coaching of the teams. I don't know how old or skilled your officials were, but I do know there were many games this season when the head official could not see over the majority of our 13-year-old players. And the politics involved in competitive youth sports is just, just, I can't even think of a good descriptor.

Your passion is an asset. Even when it feels otherwise.