Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Next Time They'll Wear Metal Cleats

Summer sports are in full swing here in Buffalo. Sam's playing baseball and taking golf lessons and the twins are kicking the soccer ball around again this year. They moved up into the older league this year and at their first game, it was evident that they were the young ones on the team. They were smaller and slower than most of the other kids. Did that bother them? Not one little bit. Aidan and Noah are their own team. And that team loves soccer.

We watched the World Cup Championship this past weekend. Well, the final ten minutes anyway. I mean, really, who can sit and watch an entire professional soccer game? Dan Rydell put it best when he referenced the "sheer pointlessness of a 0-0 tie. A modest suggestion - make the goals bigger." But I digress. It's the kids' soccer we're talking about here.

We've been to five games now. The team is 3-2. Aidan has discovered that he can run. Fast. And Noah has turned his fearlessness into goalie skills that let him charge straight at kids that have him by six inches or more. I find myself drawn into every game they play now.

I never played soccer as a kid. In a friend's back yard is one thing, but as an organized sport, it never held any fascination for me. I'm not big on the running constantly for an hour thing. I have a feeling that I will know the rules and strategies inside and out in the coming years. Parental ignorance at sporting matches is a shameful thing.

Noah, with some amazing advice from the coach's son, has not let in a goal. Not one single goal. It's still a kid's league, and he doesn't play goalie the entire game, but I think he'd like to at this point. He seems to understand that if he makes the other player kick before they want to, they will screw it up every time. So Noah charges at them.

Every time there is a break away, he springs to life in a competitive jump and challenges the other player. Out of the goal he comes running, and every time, the other kid doesn't know what to do and ends up either kicking it right to Noah or trying to kick it and tripping. Of course, it the moment before this happens there is a collective wince from the crowd, as everyone at the game watches through one squinting eye to see if Noah has been kicked in the face or bowled ass over tea kettle. Won't happen. Noah doesn't flinch. He doesn't look away. The other kid hesitates first every time.

Aidan, after a little coaching also, now inserts himself into the scrum as much as possible. He goes after the ball now, something he did not do initially. He can match every kid on his team in speed, save one. If only those kids would learn to pass to each other, they would be unstoppable. I suppose at six and seven years old, that might be too much to hope for.

Aidan also challenges the other players, but on the open field. He steps directly in their path and either kicks the ball out from under them, or creates a good enough clog to allow the rest of the team to swarm over to where the ball is.

Tonight's game was no different, except that the white team wasn't so lily white. They were a bunch of dirty little bastards. They pushed, slid tackled, and tripped their way through the entire game. The ref actually kicked one of them off the field. One of them actually tried to slide into our goalie at the time. What a bunch of shits.

An example: Little Number 11 was one of the bigger, quicker kids on the other team. He always got to the ball first. But he wasn't able to do anything with it because someone was always in his way. So he ran up behind one of our players and slammed him to the ground from behind.

It was Aidan.

Aidan got up, dusted himself off, and laughed. His brothers do it better than Little Number 11.

It might have gone unnoticed but for one of the people on the sidelines jumping out of their chair and screaming at the top of their lungs, "COME ON!!!!!!!! THAT WAS DIRTY PLAY!!!! GET THAT KID OFF THE FIELD!!!!!!!"

That was me.