Check Back Next Year, Soccer

I remember watching globs of slimy things under the microscope in high school. A big glob sort of clumsily chased a smaller one. I think they were amoebas or cells or something. I got a D in biology that year. It’s how a 5 year-old’s soccer game must look from 10,000 feet: A jiggling mass, awkwardly chasing its round prey.

Despite being a little too young for the 5-6 soccer league, Silas was eager to join. He seemed to muster some amount of amusement from the practices, but lasted only a brave 20 minutes in the first game before becoming discouraged and claustrophobic enough that he’ll likely never kick anything again. “I don’t know what’s happening, and everyone is bumping into me,” he said. From what I could see, his assessment was entirely accurate. It looked like rush hour on the Tokyo subway.

We tried to take him back this week, “just to watch,” but despite it being 85 degrees, he hid under my sweatshirt and watched a movie on Lindsay’s phone. I felt like we’d forced a POW to re-visit the jungle shack he’d called home for 5 years. I lifted up his makeshift security blanket every few minutes to blow some fresh air on him. He was sweaty, but adequately shielded from the source of his emotional malaise.

Sitting on our blanket at the sidelines, watching Silas’ ex team, it became clear to me that the theater of kid sports isn’t for the kids; they just run around kicking wildly until someone falls down . This production is for the fathers, many of whom are in need of a clear way to express their paternal support in a masculine way.

This particular game on Saturday featured an English referee and Scottish coach. I had no idea my community was home to so many of the Queen’s people. I think they hide until someone says soccer, then they rip off their regular clothes to expose a superhero football costume. If you tell them to calm down, they turn red, break a pint glass over your head and start chanting.

The Scottish coach yelled at his team, “Someone cover the striker!” He seemed flabbergasted when none of the 4 year-old kids covered the striker. Even the opposing “striker” looked over as if to ask, “Am I the striker?” He frequently barked, “Create space everyone!” and then made dramatic physical gestures of frustration when the players didn’t immediately break into a 3-5-4 Arsenal defense. Kids would often walk off the field to get a drink or hug their moms. To the coach, this created an opportunity to really put the pressure on. “They’re short a player, attack attack.”  I was waiting for him to turn to me and gently say, “You know, in Scotland, kids play soccer inside the womb.”

It all became ridiculous enough that I said sarcastically, and unfortunately loudly enough for more than just my wife to hear, “Wow, it’s almost like this matters.” A few people stared at me blankly for a moment.

One of the dads was lying on his side in what I like to call the Playgirl pose (one leg straight, and the other bent at the knee for full penile exposure.) He was wearing khaki shorts, a polo shirt, and a PGA hat. He never looked up from his Blackberry, but still yelled out generic encouragement. His kid could have walked off into the woods to play with a badger, and he still would have been yelling, “That’s my boy! Score or something, or whatever!”

Meanwhile, in stark relief to the coach and the BBD (BlackBerry dad), I was rolling my eyes, and occasionally checking that my kid didn’t get heatstroke in his poorly ventilated cotton tent. A few times, I lifted the flap to checked on him without even looking away from my iPhone. I wanted to see how many “likes” I was getting on my article in support of extended breast feeding.  My advice? Stop resisting, and let fatherhood emasculate you. Trust me, it’s the easiest way to be dad enough.

I'm a contributing writer to Parents Magazine, GQ, Psychology Today and some others. My book, "This is Ridiculous. This is Amazing: Parenthood in 71 Lists" is available here Look for two more books in 2015: "Must. Push. Buttons (Bloomsbury Kids), and an as-of-yet untitled memoir I’ve appeared on Comedy Central’s “Live at Gotham” and “Nick Mom’s Night Out." I live in New Jersey with my wife and two sons and enjoy making them laugh more than anyone else.

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