Rules of the Game

Wait . . . dad?


I don't want to go to school tomorrow.

That's silly. The only way to learn how to do stuff is to go to school.

But I can't.

Of course you can.

But there's so many rules.

And he's right . . . there are a lot of rules. So I told him that all he needs to do is to learn the rules and then follow them and he will never get in trouble.

Which is almost, but not quite, totally unlike the game of soccer.

A game where you can become an official referee even if you know nothing about the rules.

Even if you have never actually watched a game before in your life.

All you need to officiate a soccer match is a pamphlet, a stop watch, and a whistle.

Which is why life is hard, and soccer is stupid.

No, that's not entirely truthful. I am sure there is an elegant nuance that I am just clearly missing and I am sure that I am missing it because I have never watched a single game. I have friends that are into it, my wife's dad loves it, and half the people in the world follow it with a fervor that pales their own religiosity, so the impetus to bridge the gap between my understanding and the beauty of the game clearly falls at my feet.

But that doesn't make it any less stupid.

And to be fair, I also think baseball is pretty stupid. Especially if you're playing it. But going out to the ballpark with my old man and sucking down an ice cold beer is easily a top twenty life moment, so the hypocrisy runs deep.

So why enlist my son and force him to participate in an activity that I find so silly? Well that answer is a two parter. First, there are no pool halls in my town and second, it's just what parents do. I may see no rational value in the game, but it gets him up, its gets him outside, gives him a first lesson in competition, it gets him socializing with other kids and it gets my wife and I socializing with other parents. Win, win, win, win, win.

And at each practice the coach would ask for referee volunteers. He would look in my direction and I would smile and shrug for I know nothing about the game.

For ten whole practices. Smile and shrug. Smile and shrug. For I know nothing of the sport.

Then comes our first game. We arrive a few minutes early to find a nice shady spot and dig in for what will be the first soccer game I ever see from start to finish.

Walking through shady patch of trees, Coach John makes a beeline in my direction. (That is his real name, we don't pull punches here at Wait Dad)

"You wanna be a ref?" he says.

"Not in these shoes." I reply. I wasn't being flip, I was just wearing shoes that are not made for running around in.

"Aw, come on, you'll have fun and we really need a referee or we will be disqualified."

Damn it.

I've been dreading this moment for weeks. Either I'm a total dick for telling the soccer coach to blow me, or I make a total ass of myself trying to officiate a game that I have never even seen played.

And then there's the WaitDad me who wants to be fearless. So in the end, I have no real choice, Coach John just threatened to rape my integrity.

"Sure." Fuck it. "What do I do?"

"Here are the rules." he says as he hands me a piece of paper. "I've got a whistle and a shirt for you in my bag."

Giddy up. And so it began.

And it ended pretty much like the farce from which it began. Turns out Coach John was supposed to have referee volunteers attend a little training camp, so the other team was a little shocked to find out how wet behind the ears I was. The shirt was black and the sun was hot. Our team didn't know what was going on. The opposing team easily scored seven to our zero. I was told to help the kids along by coaching them a bit. Then I was yelled at for coaching them a little bit. At the very end, I was tired and sweaty and my back was screaming at me. I handed Coach John his whistle and his jersey. What I expected to hear from him was a little pep talk and a thank you. He just told me how much he hated getting his ass kicked and that Joey's father said he'd ref next week.

I wanted to tell him that he should probably get used to getting his ass kicked and that I had to work next week anyway, but I just smiled and shrugged and made my way back to my wife who handed me a bottle of water and a sympathetic look.

Sucks to be shit at something even if you had no reason to think you'd be good at it. And now that I have an idea of what to expect I will be much better at it in the future.

Cause at least now I know the rules.

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