There Is Crying in Soccer!

cry

And a lot of it.

Ask me how I know, and I’ll tell you the story.  But it’s not all that sad.

It just is.

Here goes.

For reasons not altogether completely clear to me, there seems to be an unending shortage of soccer referees around here these days.

Upon further reflection, I really think I do have a relatively good idea why there are problems in this area:  Referee Abuse — from parents and coaches and players.

But mainly from coaches and players.

It’s gotten so bad that many of the younger refs we’re trying to nurture along simply get so intimidated early on that they abandon the pursuit and turn their attentions elsewhere to less demanding climes.

In my case, I’m so old and curmudgeonly that I pretty much don’t care what kind of things are verbally launched in my direction.  Plus, I can’t hear most of what’s said anyway, so I kind of works out in the end.

But this post is not about the greater ill affecting the game.  It’s about the symptom — the ongoing shortage.

Over the past weekend we were collectively facing the dilemma of not being able to source and assign enough referees for all the available games here in my region.  So in a fit of misplaced selflessness, I volunteered my services on Saturday, already knowing I had been assigned some terribly difficult games Sunday morning that would require all my strength reserves and resolve to complete.

The only condition I made to my assignor for Saturday, should he need me, was not to put me on any sort of demanding games in the afternoon, lest I be rendered so tired and unfit I would be unable to rise from my slumber and work the next day’s assignments.

Accordingly, he paid attention to my warning and gave me three little kids’ games to handle — Under 7 and Under 8 Year Olds.

No problemo, man!  I can help you out!

But then I realized I hadn’t done these types of games in years and, sometimes, the parents at that level can be horrendous.

No matter.  I was “taking one for the team” because, after all, without me, there would be no games at all.

Not really.  I’m fairly sure my assignor could have put his hands on some other schmuck, but I can be delusional when the situation warrants.

As it turned out, most of my time on Saturday was spent teaching the two new assistant referees working the games with me the finer points of soccer.  The instruction went something like the following:

“How long have you been refereeing?” I innocently asked.

“This is my second weekend,” answered one.

“And you?” I hazarded to the other.

“Third weekend, but I have a good understanding of all the rules.”

Okay,” I thought.  “At least I won’t have to work so hard on that one.”

Wrong-O.  My “experienced” guy soon proved he had no understanding that being an assistant referee required one to move up and down the sideline, even (gasp) occasionally run.

This was going to be a longish afternoon, clearly.

Then there were the little happy-go-lucky players themselves.

They didn’t stand a chance out there.

They were subjected to a constant and unending barrage of “encouragement” from their parents and erstwhile coaches.  And from their real coaches, too.

To label the atmosphere as confusing would be akin to comparing this blog post to Hemingway’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls.”

It don’t toll for thee, dude.

In the midst of the audio bombardment, an attempt was made by a few to play some soccer.  However, more time was spent re-doing throw-ins and chasing down errant balls than anything else.

Then came the crying.

Some of it was understandable.  Here and there a player took a soccer ball to the face or the stomach, or simply tripped.

Oh, that’s right.  I forgot.  We also experienced many stoppages of play for shoelace tying.  These kids were as bad at that at playing soccer.

But back to the crying.

Outside of the normally explainable instances, there were other, unique events.

The first involved a little boy who couldn’t figure out which side of the center line to stand on before the kick-off occurred.  The more he was “encouraged,” the worse his immobility became.  He was glued to that piece of turf, and I suppose he figured things couldn’t get any worse if he just hung tight there.

But then his resolve started to crumble and the tears began to flow.

I had had enough  of this scene and stepped in to help out the little bugger player, since everyone else was screaming at him.

I crouched down next to him, told the sideline to zip it, and just talked to him in the calmest, most reassuring voice I could muster.  The problem was, I really didn’t know what to say.

So I just made it up.

“You don’t need to cry.  No one is mad at you.”

More tears.  Trembling lips.

“All you need to do is stand on the other side of the line here, and life goes on, kid.”  I didn’t really say the second part.

“You’re just out here to have fun.  Don’t worry about them talking to you.”

I gently maneuvered him to the correct position, and the world started spinning again, and the salty discharge quickly evaporated.

Until the next incident.

Two little boys starting a teensy tiny shoving match.  Nothing much to it, really, but I needed to get them to knock it off before somebody decided to bite someone else.

“You, two.  Come here.  Both of you.”

My summons was met by the classic “if I pretend to look away, then he’s not talking to me” feint, but they soon got the message and frighteningly approached me.

“Look, you two should be having fun.  I want you to knock it off and stop. . . “

Then the tears began to flow.

“He started it first (sob),” and so on.

I had to calm down these tykes quickly or half the field might erupt in waves of sorrow.

“Guys.  I’m not mad at you.  You just need to stop shoving each other.  You’re supposed to be having fun out here.  Now no more pushing, okay?”

I had to give the one kid a hug in order to prevent a total meltdown.

I’m a bad man.  A very bad man to cause such pain.

After the games were complete, I sat on a bench at the end of the field, packing up my stuff for the drive home.  I was more hot than tired, and more thirsty than hungry.

And though I hardly ran at all, my feet hurt.

So much for selflessness.

But then a couple of parents passed by on the way to the parking lot and commented on how well they thought I handled the kids out there.

Okay.  Feeling a bit better now.

I guess I wish all crying were so easy to stop, but I do keep a lint roller handy because I never know when I’m going to be herding cats, or little kids.

- Dad

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I Guess I Should Write About My Birthday

cake

Not the one yesterday, of course.  That went just fine, thank you.  Two hours at the office, five hours at the golf course, and an hour at a restaurant accompanied by the female remnants of my family.

The highlight of the meal was the following exchange with the server.

Me:  “When she (Daughter) ordered, did she use the term ‘slab of meat’ when referring to her selection?”

Server:  “Yes.  Yes, she did.”

You see at some point I have to hold Daughter accountable for her random declarations of factual intent – “I’m not hungry, but I’ll go out with you since it’s your birthday” – which, last night, was almost immediately followed by her literally inhaling a steak in about three minutes.

I probably took as much pleasure watching her eat a hearty meal (of crow) as I did ingesting my own tasty selection.

It’s a low bar, I know, but I’m comfortable with it.

You see, as far as I’m concerned, as I age I really try to appreciate that fact that an awful lot of folks in this world don’t make it to their mid-fifties.  Far fewer are still able to run, play basketball, referee soccer, and enjoy treating their families to biting, sarcastic humor on a daily basis.

A long time ago I came to the conclusion that living past a certain age (you can fill in the blank here) is a privilege, and I try to remember that.

So what if I can’t hear worth a crap these days?  I’m not interested in most stuff directed to me anyway, and as a bonus, losing my hearing really annoys the hell sh heck out of my family members.

But let me spend a moment relating a few birthday experiences from some of the formative years of my extreme youth.

I don’t really remember doing anything extraordinarily special on these occasions.  Many of my friends had “cool” parties, with activities like sitting in jet planes (father was in the Air Force), or visiting a National Park (father was a Cub Scout Master), or visiting an exclusive club to go swimming in their pool (father was an exclusive club member).

In comparison, if my Mom was feeling really ambitious, she would organize a trip to the bowling alley.  More commonly, however, we would hang around the house and play some cheesy games at home, before breaking out the birthday cake and ripping open presents.

It was fine.  Really.

But most of my birthdays as a kid featured one consistent hallmark:  I would usually inadvertently break or destroy a favorite present at some point during the day.  For instance, I used to be a Matchbox Car Fiend (MCF).  So much so that I still have my stash hidden around the house somewhere today — it’s really hidden well because I have no idea where the cars are right now — but I do have them.

Guaranteed.

I can remember receiving several Matchbox Cars one birthday, and before the day was done I had accidently sat on two of them, causing a lot of permanent damage.

And then there was that other birthday when I received a really neat sectioned bamboo fishing pole that came in its own carrying case!  I was so proud of that one that I slung it over my shoulder, hopped on by bike, and rode up the street to show one of my friends.  About halfway there — you guessed it — the whole thing somehow became entangled in the rear wheel and was shattered — as was my fragile youthful psyche.

Interestingly, the innate inability to keep any personal possession intact and undamaged has haunted my to this day, in various forms.  All my cars have dents, my clothes tend to get stained rather easily, and I seem to be fighting a losing battle keeping our house in somewhat decent shape, as all the subsystems here are somewhere in the process of completely failing.

It’s a life.

However, one of the benefits of Middle Age and Getting Older is that most things that used to bother me just don’t that much anymore (except for morons, in all their permutations).

It’s not that I don’t care.  It’s that very few things Muggles tend to get upset about are really important in the end.

So what is important to me, you might wonder?

Well, for starters, finding that damn Matchbox Car collection.

Because I know if my hearing is really starting to go, my mind is soon to follow.

And that’s something to look forward to, as well.

Just think about how annoying I will be to everyone around me when I can neither hear nor think!

Nirvana.

- Dad

Falling to Earth

broken

“Why don’t we just shoot it? It’s all broken down anyway.”

If you read my post yesterday, you would have discovered I was feeling pretty good about myself.

Focused.  Engaged.  Relevant.

What a freaking difference twenty-four hours makes.

Today, I felt like sh crap.  And it all actually started last night, after a day filled with lots of physical activity, sunshine, and dehydrating wind.

I fell into bed, not exactly in a fit of exhaustion, but darn tired and unable to read a few bedtime story pages before extinguishing the nightstand light.  Unfortunately, as so often happens to me these days, I slept soundly for a total of approximately two hours before waking up, completely penned in by a geriatric cat and multiple throw pillows.

No worries, as I’m fairly used to it by now, but it is very annoying, to quote Daughter.

To compound matters, both my knees seem to have developed nighttime personalities.  They don’t hurt, exactly, but they feel funny — that’s the best way to describe them.  They are weird enough that they keep me awake, after I wake up in the middle of the night.  To calm them down, I try shifting around, lying this way and that, and in desperation I usually prop a pillow under both of them, hoping they will be satisfied.  Really it’s my brain trying to convince my knees to knock it off at this point, and haltingly drift back off to a troubled slumber.

It’s not Zombie Terror sleep when I do finally manage to fall off, but the broken pattern makes me feel mostly dead when I wake up.

Then the real trouble begins on the morning after.

My feet feel like waffle irons, or like they’ve been roasted by a George Foreman Grill, a la Michael Scott.  My right knee is swollen which, I suppose, is better than experiencing the previously described amorphous midnight sensation.  The inflammation issue with the knee throws off my hip, leaving me with a cruddy limp and a painful twinge whenever I walk.

And my eyes.  They are red and sore like I’ve been stranded in the Sahara for days without a hat and sunscreen.

All this after about five hours running around as a referee yesterday.

Man, it sucks.  Big time.

Normally, I would just take it easy today, and engage in the type of leisurely Sunday activities that would allow my body to heal — drink some hot tea, read the paper, watch some golf, and take a nap on the couch.

No such luck.

I foolishly bravely signed on to officiate several more games today, which meant one thing to me:  Medication.

Compared to just a few years ago when it was nothing for me to suit up and work outside ten hours per weekend day, now it has become a carefully planned activity, not as complicated, perhaps, as the D-Day Invasion, but not as simple as taking regular aspirin and heading out the door, either.

Though I begin each day with a small regimen of vitamins and other witchly concoctions helpful mixtures developed by my Spouse, today I had to bring out the heavy artillery, and several rounds of it.

First up, a large, strong cup of coffee.  This comes after I’ve already have several cups of tea with a booster of oatmeal.  If I’m feeling really crappy, I’ll eat part of a scone, as well, after splitting it with Daughter Number Two (DNT).

Next, Extra Strength Tylenol; at least two, but maybe four, if the first two don’t take the edge off.  And I’ve got to time the dosage, as well.  Too soon, and it wears off in the middle of the afternoon.  Too late, and it does no good at all.  I’m a dead man walking, trying to look sprightly and alive.

Third, it’s liniment, or Cramer Gesic, or Atomic Balm.  And I spread it liberally over every part of me that hurts or is sore, and some areas that aren’t, just for good measure.  I smell like a medicine aisle at the drug store, but that’s a small price to pay for the illusion of relief that topical creams bring.

Fourth come the eye drops.  Whatever is available in the medicine cabinet — allergy drops, sensitive drops, cleansing drops, soothing drops.  It doesn’t matter.  Any of these choices help the sandpaper scratching the inside of my eyelids.

And last?  Sunscreen.  Lots of it.  I now use so much sunscreen that beach babies are envious of me.  Their overprotective mamas have nothing on Yours Truly.  I slather the stuff on like tomato paste on pizza crust.  If a part of me is exposed, it gets covered.

So, I’ve cunningly deduced that these preparations are the “Man-Equivalent” of my Spouse getting ready to go out, anywhere.  I guess you could say all this stuff is “Man-Make-up” and “Man-Drugs,” but that would be “Man Stupid” of me to classify it, as such.

In reality, I’m simply getting carried away with the “Man-” quotation marks thing.

So after all this preparation, I managed to make it through the afternoon, on a day I was hoping would end shorter than it did.

The last game I refereed late today was for the championship in that particular age bracket.  Unfortunately, it ended in a tie after regulation, and it was still tied after two overtime periods.

I was running on fumes at that point, but I had a game to finish.  Fortunately, it was decided by penalty kicks which required exactly zero running by me.  Just blow the whistle and write it down.

I could do that, but little else.  And the game did, in fact, finally end.

Now the biggest decision left for me in the few remaining hours of consciousness is whether or not I should try to play basketball at lunch tomorrow.

I guess I’ll have to see if I can walk first before deciding.

In the meantime, I’m going to squeeze in a couple more Tylenol and have a heart to heart discussion with my knees about their sleep patterns.  I figure if they don’t behave, I’ll call out the Zombies to take care of them.

After all, we share the same bed.

- Dad

More Morons

moron

Maybe the title for this piece is a bit harsh.

But in my mind, whether one qualifies for the label “moron” almost completely depends on whether that person exhibits a loss of context, a loss of balance, or a loss of what most of us consider to be rational thinking.

Allow me to provide a couple of examples from my most recent experiences from the last eight hours.

I spent the afternoon with Daughter Number Two (DNT) running around various soccer fields in my capacity as a referee.  The beginning of summer is the start of youth soccer tournament season, and many weekends I officiate, as it keeps me off the streets and earns me foo-foo coffee money.  Since Daughter and my Lovely Spouse were otherwise engaged, DNT was doomed to  accompany me hung out on the sideline while I worked, where she read books, played on my phone, and constructed straw crucifixes out of dead grass and other trash.

She didn’t complain once (a trip to In-N-Out first didn’t hurt), and seemed happy to spend an afternoon in the sun watching other people yell at her dad.

She is not a moron; just a pre-teen.

In between games while I was sitting with the other miserable referees, I detected a strong odor in the air.  Although no one was in my immediate vicinity, I was downwind of a couple of my compatriots, and I soon figured out that one of those guys was the source of the stank.

Which one is it, I wondered?  The nattily attired older dude who looked like he just stepped out of a Viagra commercial or the younger guy who looked like he just stepped out of a run-down Laundromat?

Let’s just say looks can be deceiving.

It turned out to be the posh guy.  He simply hadn’t washed his uniforms in God knows how long.  That’s the only logical explanation for such extreme rancidness.

He is not a moron.  He is just filthy and oblivious — and handsome, but not in a “Man-Love” sort of way.

Finally, after I finished six long hours of officiating, I stood in the middle of the field after the final game and shook hands with both teams and coaches.  That last match was a hard-fought affair that ended in a zero to zero draw.  I called a bunch of fouls, made a number of very carefully considered “no calls,” and stayed on top of the pace of play from end to end.

For this kind of thing, I generally know if I’m focused and doing well, because I’ve been doing it so long.  I continue to referee because I enjoy it, and I think I’m pretty good (most of the time).

Today I was “on;” no question about it.  But that doesn’t mean I don’t occasionally miss a foul or make an error in judgment.  I am, after all, a Muggle.

As one of the coaches was walking away afterwards, he asked me to explain a call I made against one of his players.

“He just got completely taken out by the defender,” he said.

“I thought he fouled first,” I replied, though it was such a bang-bang incident among many, I very well might have got it wrong.  Who knows?

But in my mind, his perspective missed the forest for the trees.  Of the thirty or so times I blew the whistle during fifty minutes, I’m pretty sure 29 of them were completely on the button.  Probably all thirty, even, but I can’t be completely sure.  But both teams sure as hell received a full $27 dollar’s worth of effort from me (my game fee).

It’s not the World Cup, for crying out loud.  Deal with it.

What about saying something about all the things I got right?

Nope, and for that coach to ignore the entirety of the game to focus on one insignificant negative part (in his mind) is simply crazy.

And for that, I consider him to be a moron.

The beauty of this particular moron is that, because he’s a moron, he doesn’t realize I’ll be right back out there tomorrow, probably working another of one of his team’s games.  Heck, I’m also doing the championship match for my last game of the day.

I wonder what he’ll think if his team makes it to the final and he sees me in the middle?

I know what I’ll think — moron.

- Dad

The Difference Between. . .

chair

“Nope. That’s not going to fit. Let’s change cars.”

. . . going alone to my Sunday morning refereeing assignment, and bringing my eleven year old daughter (Daughter Number Two) with me:

Going Alone Looks Something Like This:

1)  Wake up early enough to eat breakfast before heading out the door.  In reality, waking up at 6:30 a.m. is simply the third of fourth time I wake up during the night.  The only difference is that I’m up for good.

2)  Determine if I can walk, or resort to an immediate infusion of Extra Strength Tylenol in order to move.

3)  Boil water.

4)  Take medicine while water is boiling.

5)  Make a pot of tea after water has boiled.

6)  Make a bowl of oatmeal while tea is brewing.

7)  Eat oatmeal and drink tea while watching the first half of whatever English Premier League Game is playing on Fox Soccer.

8)  Realize it’s getting late, throw my bag in the car, and drive to field, stopping off for foo-foo coffee on the way.

9)  Armed with Tylenol, medicine, oatmeal in my tummy, and caffeine, pretend I’m ten years younger than I really am while feeling ten years older than I really am, and act like a referee for the next four hours.

10)  Walk very slowly back to the car, drive home, drink a cup of leftover tea warmed up in the microwave, and make myself a tasteless gluten-free sandwich.

11)  Fall asleep on the couch while watching whatever PGA tournament happens to be on.

12)  Finally figure out that it’s easier to nap in bed and curl up with a cat for an hour.

Going with an eleven year old looks something like this:

Steps 1-7 are exactly the same for me, taking into account Daughter Number Two (DNT) is already awake and has eaten breakfast.

8)  Make sure Daughter Number Two is dressed.  Grab my bag, a portable folding chair, blanket, water, snacks, paper and pencil. 

9)  Change cars to drive in Daughter’s Killer Cabrio, since all the crap in Number Eight above will not fit in my Miata.

10)  Stop for foo-foo coffee and blueberry scone, chocolate croissant, and brownie.

11)  While pretending to focus on refereeing, keep constant eye on wandering DNT.

12)  Spend all available time between games looking for a restroom for DNT. 

13)  Forget to drink water between games because of restroom search.

14)  Walk slowly back to the car, reload most everything we came with, and figure out where to stash all the wooden branches and other craft items DNT has gathered all morning.

15)  Eat lunch at In-N-Out as a reward for being a good kid.

16)  Pop a bowl of popcorn while watching PGA event, while trying to prevent DNT from eating more than me.

Steps 11 and 12 above are the same, and become Steps 17 and 18 in the second scenario. 

The above accounts are true and almost completely accurate, missing only details I cannot remember or are too potentially gross to mention (thanks, Daughter). 

Though I thought this morning might be a hassle, it was a lot of fun for both of us, as DNT was adored by the other two refs I was working with. 

Unfortunately, they initially thought she was my granddaughter.

- Dad

More Bad Trips

kitten break

Not one of Daughter’s Ninja Kittens, but could have been.

Based on second-hand information gleaned from my Significant Other, apparently one of Daughter’s kittens was accidentally stepped on a few days ago.  It’s been easy enough stepping on Daughter all these years, so a once-removed skittering feline receiving the same treatment doesn’t seem all that far-fetched to me. 

Please note that the photo above is not one of Daughter’s foster kittens, but it is my fanciful representation of what it may have looked like had either Daughter or her roommate actually broken its leg. 

They didn’t, and the kitten eventually resumed playing with its sibling within a short while. 

Notice, also, that I do not refer to either kitten by name, thus avoiding the predictable lamentation from Daughter about bringing one home from college.

“No, and what kitten are you talking about?  I don’t even know their names.”

That kind of thing. 

It’s my understanding that Daughter’s period as a foster mom for the Mama Cat and her two kittens ended within the last day or so, as it was time they were returned to the shelter and placement in permanent home(s). 

I applaud Daughter for her personal sacrifice in caring for the cats, and I know it’s difficult to return animals that have been in your foster care because you do grow attached, no matter how hard you try not to and no matter how ornery, aggressive, and just plain unpleasant the animals might be. 

I know, because we had a German Shepherd like that for over eight months.  That story ended happily, however, as she was eventually reunited with her canine brother, and they both spend their days running together to their hearts’ content with a great family with a big yard in the country not too far from here. 

But today, for me, was another reminder of why I spend my days now refereeing rather than playing soccer. 

Oh, I could play well enough.  I just couldn’t walk for several days afterward, not to mention the real and ever-present risk of incurring serious injury. 

To be honest, it’s gotten fairly bad for me in terms of physical pain, just as a referee.  Parts of me hurt afterwards that I never used to have any trouble with at all. 

Beginning with my feet.  After completing a couple of games, it’s as if I’ve been hung upside down and beaten with a rubber hose on their soles. 

Yep.  They hurt a lot.  Podiatry appointment in three weeks, by the way, thank you. 

Next comes my back; my lower back, specifically.  Though I stretch and twist throughout the game in my best Denise Austin impersonation, I can barely bend over by the time the final whistle blows.

And even my eyes hurt, if you can believe it.  My vision is already just naturally deteriorating because of age, and after four hours in the sun, my peeps look like someone dribbled a mild acid solution in them. 

But all of these aches and pains pale compared to what happened to one of the players this morning. 

There was no collision, no fancy footwork.  This poor guy was just running down the field, mildly changed direction and suddenly went down in a screaming heap. 

Screaming.  Really screaming. 

Having witnessed someone blow out a knee on the basketball court (several times, actually), I know the pain must be excruciating because the yelling is so loud and persistent (and usually very high-pitched, strangely enough — Note to Self:  When in horrific pain, be sure to vocalize in a manly fashion). 

But today it was clear this guy hadn’t ruined his knee.  Rather, at least his tibia had snapped, and probably his fibula, as well.

How can I make that assessment?  Well, the lower leg itself looked bad (I won’t say how bad — just use your imagination), and everyone within about 50 feet of him heard a wicked snap when the bone(s) parted.  After attending to his immediate needs and making sure he was somewhat comfortable (I mean, how comfortable could we make him), we all stood around and watched the EMTs work and joke with him. 

One of his teammates also snapped a bunch of photos for the league newsletter.  It was all rather convivial, in a macabre sort of way. 

Turns out this player works in a hospital nearby, which is where the ambulance took him, and he was in good spirits when they carted him off the field in a gurney.  Perhaps the massive amounts of morphine had something to do with his improved, non-screaming disposition. 

He looked to be in his mid-thirties, maybe older, and I hope he’s not done with soccer forever now, though I can understand why he might want to switch to playing canasta in the future.  It’s going to be tough coming back from that injury. 

And to be honest, I have seen much, much worse on a soccer pitch, but I won’t describe the details here.  I probably wrote too much about this one already.

But even though I walked away today “sore, soaked, and slightly punchy” as the old TV ad used to say, I was thankful that I made it through another couple of matches without feeling too bad physically, without getting physically assaulted, and without leaving via emergency vehicle. 

My thoughts tonight are with the injured player, and today’s events just proved to me that all bad trips are relative, after all. 

- Dad

I’m Certified; But That’s a Good Thing.

referee

No self-respecting referee really gesticulates like this guy, but he looks to be a bit of a dandy anyway.

For various reasons, most of them bad (complete and utter lack of time away from work being primary), I have been unable to become re-certified as a soccer referee for 2013.  I usually knock this process out some time either in November or December for the following year.  But four or five months ago, I absolutely could not spare even a few moments to schedule, much less study for, my recertification test. 

As a result, I have been working on an occasional basis what we call in the trade “unsanctioned” games.  That’s a fancy way of saying the particular soccer league at issue does not enjoy inclusion into the United States Soccer Federation umbrella or any other similar organization.  It’s not really a huge deal to me, but to give you an idea of the level of adult competition involved, no slide tackling is allowed and audible profanity results in a mandatory five-minute send-off. 

I have to watch my own mouth as much as the players, as in, “I can’t believe I’m fu freaking doing this.” 

The games aren’t particularly challenging, but they are somewhat enjoyable in a laid-back sort of way.  I don’t even take the time to warm up before taking the pitch (field).  I simply stop for a foo-foo coffee on the way over to get my “caffeine on”, and I’m pretty much good to go by game time. 

In a way, it’s sad, because I’m used to working much higher level, more violent and demanding matches.

So, since the cauldron at work has recently begun to cool, I decided to schedule my referee recert test and get back in gear. 

I reserved my place online about a month ago, and yesterday morning was the exam session.  I had a solid plan in place for the week prior.  Starting on Monday, I was to study just a few pages each night so that by Friday evening, the bulk of the prep work would be complete and I would be good to go for Saturday.

You might have guessed what really happened. 

I only managed to crack my study book after supper the night before, and I managed to review the necessary text while simultaneously watching the NCAA March Madness basketball tournament.

Note to Daughter:  Don’t try this methodology at your Lesbian Cult College.  It is proven to deliver mediocre results, at best. 

Saturday morning dawned bright and early, but it was only because the test site was about a 40-minute drive from home.  I had to build in enough time to pick up a foo-foo coffee on my way over.  Just like working a real game, I knew I needed that caffeine boost to encourage the gray matter to kick it up a notch during the test. 

The first bad sign was when I rolled up to the elementary school where the test was scheduled; it looked like about a thousand cars were parked all over the place.  I just wasn’t really up for a group cluster. 

All I wanted was an easy multiple guess choice test, and an instructor who wasn’t shy about giving away the answers ahead of time. 

The second bad sign was at the registration desk, after I finally found the correct room.  Yes, I was on the list, but, no, I had no idea what the guy checking off names was talking about.

“Yes, sir, I’ve got you on the list.  Now I need your $20 facility fee.”

“My what?  I already paid for all of this online.  Are you saying I owe twenty more bucks?”

“Sir, you’re the only one who didn’t get the word this morning.  No one else has had a problem.”

Well, I already was not in the best of moods, and now this.  I really had no choice but to pay the piper.  Thank God I had more than the usual two dollars in my wallet, but this was really beginning to piss me off upset me. 

This day was not starting out well at all

Once inside what appeared to be the school cafeteria, I grabbed a seat right up front, since it seemed there was going to be some kind of presentation which I was going to have a very difficult time seeing, since I forgot my glasses.

In fact, I was woefully unprepared, not even taking into account the lack of studying.

To wit, I was supposed to bring a couple of pencils — nope, I brought one pen.  Note taking paper was encouraged — nope, I figured I could write the really important stuff on my hand in ink.  The instructor had some kind of pre-test lesson planned — nope, I left the good ole hearing aids at home, too. 

Geez.  This was shaping up well, I figured.

I had been sitting at the table for all of two minutes, when another older dude plopped down beside me, either because he was as disadvantaged as I was, or because almost everyone else in the room was fourteen years old.

He did seem to have a lot of notes with him, so I casually asked if I could use him to cheat.

“What kind of work do you do?” he asked me in an Australian accent.

I told him I was a program manager.  I just as easily could have said architect or veterinarian, but I didn’t feel like I could pass for either at the moment.

“I just needed to make sure you weren’t a lawyer.  These notes are from the pre-marital agreement with my new wife.  We just got married, and now I’m reviewing them.”

Clearly, I did not have a monopoly on issues this morning.  In fact, this guy turned out to be really nice, and he spend the better part of the next two hours whispering to me about not only various refereeing problems, but his new marriage, as well.

Since I didn’t have my hearing aids in, I understood maybe, maybe about ten percent of what he said.  I just smiled, nodded my head frequently, and occasionally gasped “really?” to any comment that seemed especially important, or so I guessed.

When it came time to take the actual test, we broke up into groups, and we could actually talk and reason through the answers together.  Since I was one of the few adults in attendance, I was saddled with assigned a group of four teenagers to mentor through the exam.

This pimply convocation of hungry ennui was a life-saver for me, because they both studied and remembered the answers to last year’s exam, and could cite specific problems for reference.  However, the kid at the end of the table was only a little more clueless than me.  He, in fact, didn’t have a clue, but was clearly benefiting from the brainpower around him. 

As was I.

Long story short, we managed to complete the exam in about 45 minutes, and then spent 30 minutes waiting in line for it to be graded. 

We all passed, and we only missed two or three questions. 

The Pimpletons pulled me through.  Hooray!

Second Note to Daughter — do what I say; not what I do.  Prepare, study hard, write outlines, revise, and then revise again.

Or find a damn good graduate student tutor to help you out.  It only gets worse as you get older.

- Dad

Who Needs A 401(k)? Not Me!

financial

“Yep, that looks about right. We’ve lost half our net worth in the last three years. Time to switch to Plan B, or C. One of those. . . . “

 I’ll be the first one to admit I’m no financial genius.  I’m not a multi-millionaire, though I think I could handle the pressure.  Still, hope springs eternal in this household, and we religiously play MegaMillions.  I’m not sure about the odds for winning at our measly investment level, but I know you can’t win if you don’t play. 

So we play; I mean invest; I mean waste our spare cash on lottery tickets. 

I’m also sure we spend more on foo-foo coffee annually than we do on lotto, but I’m not sure how significant either statistic might be.  Neither one would reflect very positively, I’m sure, with most financial advisors.   

Still . . . to give you an idea of the great financial moves I’ve made over the last five years:  I did not buy any Ford stock when it was trading at $1.50 a share, though I meant to for days and days on end.  I didn’t completely miss that F wave in the end, but I caught it very near the shoreline when it wasn’t much of a wave anymore anyway.  I also did not buy Facebook when it was trading at $18 or $19 a share several months ago, even though it seems everyone I know (I literally mean everyone) spends the greater portion of their waking lives using the site (except for me, of course). 

I can go on at great length, not so much about the money I’ve lost (or, rather, haven’t made), but about being prescient enough to recognize when to jump into the “Next Big Thing.” For me, the Next Big Thing usually translates into a swollen body part (mainly ankle-related), that then deteriorates into a debate about why I continue to play basketball at my age. 

Some folks (spouses) just don’t get it, I suppose. 

I am somewhat excited that Daughter possesses a bit of entrepreneurial spirit, but I fear her FaceHelmet (tm) represents misdirected zeal on her part.  On my end, I continually misremember her invention as HeadHelmet or FaceTent (sounds better anyway), but I don’t think Daughter will be making an appearance on Shark Tank any time soon. 

Come on, Daughter, you can come up with something better!  Keep working it.

My greatest money-making idea has been the t-shirt, “I Love Soccer Moms” ™.  Unfortunately, it has a very, very limited audience, and half the potential buying public (Soccer Dads) aren’t necessarily enamored with the idea, especially when the garment is worn by other men. 

Oh, well.  I do have an Ace in the Investment Hole:  DandyDog.

On those rare occasions when I am a solo visitor at our local foo-foo coffee establishment, I sometimes bring Dandy with me out of some sense of pity for him.  You see, I only contemplate him as a semi-willing companion if his Goddess-Mother is not at home, for some reason.  Perhaps he thinks by jumping in the car with me, Mom might be waiting on the other end.  I cannot imagine the kind of Dog Thoughts that permeate his brain, but I’m fairly sure that is one of them in this particular scenario. 

The real magic only begins to happen, however, when we sit outside together on the foo-foo coffee patio.  It turns out that DandyDog is a veritable Babe Magnet Soccer Mom Magnet People Magnet. 

“Oh, can I pet your dog?  He’s so sweet.”

“Oh, he’s so soft.”

“Oh, he looks so sad.”

To which I reply, “He misses his Mom since she passed away she’s at school today.” 

Son has accompanied the broader family on a few of these foo-f00 coffee outings.  His observation:  “So this is what happens in middle-class suburbia on the weekends?  Pretty sad,” as he takes another hit on his $4.50 latte that I just bought for him.

I figure my Plan G or K, or whatever, for the future should I ever be alone (sniff, sniff), will be to sit outside of the local foo-foo caffeine place with Dandy, and watch the potential high-rollers file in.  Hanging there with him is probably better than eHarmony.com and OurTime.com combined, as well as any potential return on MegaMillions ticket purchases and whatever minimal balance I have in my 401(k) by then. 

Then, again, after Mom reads this, my days of coffee visits with Dandy might well be over for good.

Back to the investment drawing board, I guess. 

- Dad

dandy

“Do I look sad? I feel sad, and I don’t like being used as a tool. Where’s Mom?”

 

 

Zen Doesn’t Always Work, or Does It?

ref

They don’t pay me enough to put up with this sh . . . .

After being gone from home for the past two weeks, sleeping in my own bed last night, among my own clutter, felt great.  Becoming unconscious around 8:00 p.m. because I’m still on east coast time was not so, but you have to take the good with the bad most days. 

This morning I left the house early for an 8:00 a.m. soccer match, which meant assembling all my crap as noiselessly as possible so that I didn’t affect the nascent Pajama Day by waking everyone up before 9:00 a.m., including Dandy Dog. 

Just before I made a successful departure, Dandy did bother me for a quick trip outside.  We took him running on the beach yesterday, and by the looks of him today, it seems his joints and mine share the same sort of creakiness the day after.  But he is endlessly happy as long as he is in the company of his Momma, so I bailed relatively guilt-free and with enough time to stop and pick up a foo-foo coffee before the game. 

For context, one of the few outlets I have remaining for real exercise on the weekends is through refereeing soccer games.  I handle all types of games, from kids to adults, and have been out there on the “pitch” for well over a decade now.  I really should be riding my bicycle now, but it’s embarrassing being passed by pedestrians while peddaling. 

This morning’s game was a perfect segue back into the mix for me, since I’ve had barely enough time to eat and sleep lately, much less engage in any sort of activities outside of work.  I was really looking forward to running around for a couple of hours though, honestly, I’m not really in the best shape of my life right now. 

Nevertheless, this particular soccer league consists of older men, and it has basically two rules:  no profanity and no slide tackling.  Violating either results in a five-minute send off. 

It’s the kind of environment where I worry more about the potential for player heart attacks or strokes, rather than fouls; where my hair color (gray) is probably the only natural one there; where there are more Ace bandages and knee braces than in an orthopedic clinic; where the average gut size makes my own look really ripped; where player substitutions (due to a general lack of condition for everyone) are more important than scoring goals; where the after game gatherings for snacks and beer have more participants than the game itself; and where it’s not unusual for a substantial number of players to legitimately park in handicapped spaces in the adjoining lot.

Get the picture? 

It’s not exactly challenging — at least physically.  But that doesn’t mean everyone out there isn’t killing themselves to give it a good effort.  They are simply doing it at one-tenth the speed compared to ten twenty thirty forty years ago, and for five minutes at a time, if they are really well-conditioned.

In short, the biggest obstacle facing me is usually keeping tempers at bay.  Just because these guys now suck don’t play as fluidly as they once did, doesn’t mean they don’t want it just as bad.  It’s the perfect case study for the phrase, “The mind is willing, but the body isn’t.” 

Almost without exception, these bodies haven’t been willing for decades. 

So just before kick-off, I announced we were ready to get going, and one of the goalkeepers wanted to know if it was eight o’clock.  He’s a big, mostly friendly fellow, who I knew fairly well from previous seasons, so I was a bit perplexed he would challenge me on such a small detail before the game even started.

“It’s game time,” I replied. 

“Is it eight o’clock?” he repeated.

“It’s game time,” I said again.

“Is it eight o’clock?”

Clearly, this was going nowhere.

“Yes, it’s eight o’clock,” I lied (it was about 7:58 a.m.). 

“Okay.  That’s all I was asking.”

Play began.

But not more than ten minutes later, I made a call that necessitated a penalty kick against the same keeper, and as we were lining up for the kick, he chastised me.

“You’ve got to use your judgement out there.  That was no penalty.  The trajectory of the ball was straight.”

“The trajectory of the ball is not an issue.  The hand was away from the body.  Unnatural playing position.”

“Still, that was terrible.  The trajectory of the ball wasn’t affected.”

Whatever.  We lined up for the kick, and — the shooter missed.  No harm done, it seemed.

Five minutes later, I called a corner kick at his end, which was confirmed by the linesman.

“That’s your quadrant.  You’ve got to make that call,” he strongly advised.

“Hmmm?” I thought to myself.  I did make the call. 

So, I decided to apply a little Zen to the situation.  After all, I wasn’t upset, but this goalkeeper was becoming increasingly so, no matter what I did. 

“You are being uncharacteristically negative this morning, my friend.  I’m not used to it from you,” I soothed, as I put my arm on his shoulder.

“That’s your quadrant.  The ball was tipped.  You missed it.  You’ve got to do better.”

All this for about a $28 dollar game fee to me.  I just decided to carry on and not worry about it, because even though Zen may not have worked, Zen-me was still nominally in charge of the game.

As things turned out, this goalkeeper’s team lost pretty handily, 3-1.  After the match was finished, a drizzle began as I shook a few players’ hands before leaving the field.  Most of these games are friendly, and it is rare that real, lasting conflict ever occurs.  Today was about the same, for the most  part.

As I packed up my bag to leave, the goalkeeper in question was busy helping break down the goals and gathering the corner flags for storage. 

The last flag was near me, and he came over to shake my hand.

“Good game,” he said.

“Well played,” I replied.

And we shook hands. 

Maybe Zen does work, after all — in mysterious ways. 

- Dad

 

 

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