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The soccer dad


October 19, 2010
By Ian Robinson

Worst thing about parenthood, bar none, is pretending to care about soccer.

Now, I know you’ve met parents who claim that everything about parenthood is wonderful and that they wouldn’t change a thing and whatever did we all do with our time before little Ashley and Jordan arrived?

Implying that if you don’t have kids, you’re wasting your time on the planet.

Yeah, right.

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I'll tell you what we did and you tell me if it was a waste.

We sipped wine in a civilized fashion after work; more familiar with elegant stemware than sippy cups.

Held hands with our significant others in the park.

Stayed slim and beautiful and attractive.

Exercised and moisturized.

Took cooking classes, made gourmet meals, went dancing afterwards and made giggling visits to Victoria’s Secret with the one we loved and, when we walked out of the store onto the mall concourse, she looked you square in the eyes and said, “Take me home now!” and you just knew at that moment you’d be young forever.

We read books and went to the movies whenever we damned well felt like it and those movies never — EVER — involved a green whatever the hell Mike Meyers is supposed to be with a bad imitation of a Scottish accent.

But as a parent twice over, I was OK with pretty much all the goo and guck and troubles of parenthood.

The time I was changing a diaper and the kid peed into my eyebrows? I managed to turn that into a funny and charming story about child rearing, and when my childless friends winced and said, “That sounds kind of disgusting,” I got the sanctimonious parent look and replied, “Oh, you don’t understand; it’s different when it’s your own child.”

As though parental love was a magic wand that, when you waved it over a giant puddle of kid puke on a brand-new berber carpet, kid puke was transformed into a non-toxic and harmless substance.

Trust me.

It ain’t.

Wave your wand all you want; you’re still gonna have to rent a steam cleaner.

The meningitis scare, the time my daughter’s kindergarten teacher misplaced her and I couldn’t find her for 30 minutes, watching my son learn to ride a bike—which resembled nothing so much as kamikaze training in the Japanese air force … I coped and very well indeed, if I do say so myself.

But soccer posed problems for me.

However, if you’re not able or willing to spend the price of a new house on turning your child into a mediocre hockey player while deluding yourself and him that he’s the next Sid the Kid, your kid is going to wind up on a soccer team.

Personally, I agree with the British King Edward who ruled from 1307 until 1327, who issued a proclamation that stated: “For as much as there is a great noise in the city caused by hustling over large balls, from which many evils may arise, which God forbid, we command and forbid on behalf of the King, on pain of imprisonment, such game to be used in the city future.”

But you’re not allowed to criticize soccer when you live in the suburbs, probably because it’s a politically correct, non-violent game with a small carbon footprint. It’s the recycling of sports.

I watched some soccer during the recent World Cup and was impressed not by the athleticism, but by the Academy Award-worthy acting. One player would brush up against another like two fat people passing each other in the pasta aisle at the Walmart, and one would scream, contort his features into fake agony and topple to the turf, clutching his shin.

Soccer fans respond to criticism of their beloved sport by noting that it’s the most popular game in the world, the “billions of people can’t be wrong” argument.

Well. Actually they can.

Billions of people are wrong about everything, from religions that involve wearable high explosives to those who insist couscous and seaweed are edible.

The only reason soccer is the most popular game in the world is that you only need two things to play soccer— irt and a ball. Once large numbers of a society get out of the subsistence-farmer stage of social development, they can drive SUVs to the football field.
I remember the day five years ago that my son, now 13, told me he wanted to quit soccer for football and I nearly wept with gratitude.

But I played it cool.

I said, “But you’re a soccer player.”

His reply was, “No, I’m a kid who was forced to play soccer. There’s a difference. I think football’s the perfect game for me. I’m not real fast but I’m big and I’m pretty sure all I’ll have to do is run two feet and hit somebody. I’m down with that.”

So he started at centre and then, as he grew taller and leaner and, quite frankly, meaner— because football is not a politically correct sport—he became a defensive end and is now a linebacker who looks at opposing quarterbacks the way lions look at wildebeest.
Talk about thumbing your nose at political correctness? My kid has a football team T-shirt that reads: “I'm the reason your soccer player is afraid to leave the house.”

I think the thing I enjoy best about youth football is that, unlike soccer, nobody ever worries about self-esteem. You’ll never see a football player screw up and see the coach clap their hands together and yell, “Nice try, Jordan!”

No, you’ll see the coach bounce a clipboard off the turf and yell, “My #$@! grandma has better hands than you!”

I think I love this sport the most because there ought to be one activity in a kid's life that teaches him that—just like in the real world—failure has consequences.