Saturday, February 17, 2007

Soccer Talk

My daughter plays soccer pretty much year round, so I've spent a lot of time watching soccer games over the past several years. I'm a pretty hard core football and baseball guy, but I've learned to appreciate the game of soccer. At the same time, I've also become increasingly creeped out by the general level of kookiness of many soccer parents.

No, it isn't the pathological stage mothering of some soccer parents that I'd like to talk about, although I could fill volumes on that. What has provoked me to write is how into the whole soccer scene some of these people are, how utterly ridiculous they look, and how borderline delusional they act.

One of the things about the youth soccer scene that's particularly ridiculous are the expressions that these folks pick up. For example, when somebody makes a good play, they say something like "thank you" instead of "nice play," or "unlucky" if a good pass or shot goes astray. These expressions are undoubtedly perfectly appropriate if you are a member of the British aristocracy, but they sound truly absurd coming out of the mouths of upper middle class yentas from the Cleveland and Akron suburbs. Some of these folks take it even further, and dress themselves from head to toe in soccer togs, even though it's painfully apparent that they've never set foot on a soccer field in their entire lives.

Then there's the "how many games did your kid play today?" one upsmanship that goes on among the more disturbed segment of the soccer crowd. I was at a game a few weeks ago when a guy I'd never met sidled up to me and started explaining how he had started his day with a 7:30 a.m. game, was now on his third game of the day, and had another one at 8:00 p.m. that night. I guess I should point out that he was wearing a Manchester United hat, a soccer sweatsuit, and Adidas indoor shoes. I managed to escape while he was telling me about his two kids who play in the Olympic Development Program or "ODP," as the kiddie soccer cognoscenti call it. I got as far away from him as I could during the game, although there was no mistaking his shouts of "unlucky!" and "thank you!" that echoed through the indoor facility.

Then, there's the whole Walsh thing. Here's the deal: Walsh Jesuit High School is without a doubt the premier high school girls soccer program in Ohio and perhaps the finest in the nation. Now, there have got to be about 1,000 girls who play on various premier youth soccer teams in the Akron and Cleveland area. The parents of approximately 750 of those girls are totally convinced that their daughters are going to play soccer for Walsh. There are 25 players on Walsh's varsity roster. You do the math.

So, I guess my advice to everybody would be that if you see a minivan with a soccer ball sticker on its window, make sure you stay out of its way and do nothing to provoke it. Better safe than "unlucky."

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