At the park I found soccer, a fierce competition between the Pipsqueaks and the
Smallfries. The Pipsqueaks were running in circles just as fast as the Smallfries,
and progress toward either goal was imminent.
I was weak with too cute ... need help when a father yelled from the sideline, "Get
your butt upfield, Josh. What are you thinking?"
Josh looked over with saucer eyes, afraid to ask what "upfield" meant.
While Josh's father smoldered from the ears, the enemy scored a goal --
well, a pass that just kept going -- and a hundred little humans piled on
the shooter. You had never seen the like. It was Santa Claus, the Easter
Bunny, and a ten-foot tadpole wrapped into one.
As the bodies untangled, Angry Dad blew up. "That was your man, Josh.
Your man! Why weren't you covering your man?"
The players ran around trying to get the excitement off, and the last thing
you could find there was a man. Josh limped back to center field, considering
his shoelaces. He wasn't really injured; he just wanted respite from The
Voice. So it goes.
And so it went throughout the game. Josh's father dogged him up and down
the field, noting errors so he could chart them later. He yelled and cursed
and made his wife bury herself in an upside-down book. For Angry Dad the
fate of the universe hung on the performance of one toe-headed Earthling
boy named Josh. I could see the Vogons watching from their spaceship...
"It's not looking good, commander. Josh didn't cover his man."
In every sport you find this dad with defective perspective. He pushes his
children like every play foreshadows success on driver's tests, SATs, bar
exams. And he badly needs Little League glasses, a corrective lens that I
am working on to remind Angry Dads that it's only a fricken game!
Right now a football dad is in court getting his assets kicked for striking
a referee. He got so carried away that he chased the poor guy past thirty
gawking 12-year-olds. As you know, referees are not the stoutest men. They
only become referees because they weren't tough enough for the chess club.
I wanted to rush in and save Josh from the madness, my cape waving in the
wind. I would pull him aside and say, "Go with the limp, man. Turn it
into something fantastic. Let 'em name the disease after you."
Even if I could address the boy, he still had to drive home with that irate
fan who was his father. Josh would be lectured and I-told-you-so'd and forced
to review an itemized list. Then his dad would drive to the ice cream parlor,
where they would watch the winning team eat their cones.
I know Josh. I grew up in a world where losing meant no ice cream. I felt
that weight as I ran onto the field. I faked the same limp. It didn't give
me an edge in the real world, either; it gave me a facial tic.
Dads, if you did not sign with the Yankees the way you intended, let it
go. Don't take a second run through your child. Do like the other dads and
mock the men who did make the team. AYSO trophies represent the tiniest fraction
of life. I've got 12 rusting in my garage, and not one was there when I had
my nervous breakdown.
Work with your kids. Teach them to sweat. Break out the rubber cones even.
But when they've had enough, say amen. We'll all be dead in a hundred years,
championships and all. If your child is healthy enough to run in circles
with the others, jump for joy. If he scores on the wrong goal in overtime,
make him a writer.
And remember, there's only one thing worse than the withdrawal of love,
and that is the withdrawal of ice cream.