God, I'm tired. The latest youth soccer tournament found me refereeing ten games over the weekend. Saturday and Sunday I essentially ran for four straight hours. My aged legs are bitterly complaining this morning. By the numbers:
2 blown throw-in calls
3 incidents of parent, player, or coach bitching that required a snappy comeback
2 groups of parents (out of 20) that actually just watched the game and supported their kids instead of screaming directions and invective the entire time
1 coach (out of 20) who made a complaining player apologize to the referee, and yelled across the field for a complaining parent to be quiet
5 ibuprofen and 1 naproxen sodium consumed Sunday
1 sip of Gatorade Rain needed to determine that Gatorade Rain is actually vile watered-down Old Spice
I worked at Jacobs Park, where five fields were in play. At one point I wandered from the big fields over to where the 8-year-olds were playing, and it was as if I had just walked across several borders at once into Peru--teeming crowds of very short people, dogs everywhere, trash cans overflowing, alien smells, bare dirt ground splotched with liquids of dubious origin. I didn't stay long.
In the final analysis, it's clear that virtually all the soccer parents in Tucson are still operating out of the football-basketball model. We grow up watching these games on TV, seeing coaches scream at referees every time a call goes against their teams, hearing the announcers chuckle at the coaches' gamesmanship, noting that there's Coach K again, getting into the ref's ears early, there's Bill Cowher making sure the ref knows he's on top of things today. Basketball coaches stride up and down in the coach's box, constantly shouting instructions, directing play, badgering the players and referees alike. There's the crowd chanting BULLshit, BUUUUUULLshit, at a call against the home team. There's Jim Leyland going toe-to-toe with the umpire, both of them jabbering simultaneous profanities a mile a minute.
It's so deeply ingrained in the American sports psyche, spectator as active participant (Lute Olsen visiting the students waiting in line before the ASU game, asking them to make sure they're loud early, the 12 Man at Texas A&M, the Cameron Fuckin' Crazies), that perhaps it's futile to even hope that people will behave differently when they come watch their 11-year-old kids play a soccer game. It still makes me sad for the kids, though, when Dad stands on the sideline and spends the entire game hollering at his son, his son's teammates, the other team, and the referees in his finest SundaySUNday SUNDAY! roar. When I coached, I enforced a strict sideline conduct policy that pissed off a few of the dads. No one was allowed to yell instructions to the players. No one was allowed to yell anything to the referee, period. Parents could cheer and shout encouragement, but that was it. Why? Because too many times I heard parents scream at their boy to do something exactly opposite of what I had already asked him to do. Too many times I saw kids actually stop in the middle of the game, look at Dad, and say, what? I can't hear you. Too many kids getting stressed, trying to follow the directions from the parents' sideline, instead of just playing the game.
If you watch the top youth coaches in action during a game, you'll likely be very bored. Good coaches do their teaching and directing at practice. I used to tell my players that if I had to scream at them and micromanage every move on the field during the game, then I hadn't done my job during the week at practice. Good coaches sit quietly and watch the game, looking for things that need to be corrected, and making the correction with the player when he comes off the field. Baseball and basketball parents don't get that. They can't handle the silence, watching the kids work things out for themselves, learning on the fly on the field.
Boltgirl's Oscars dish: The only nominated film I've seen so far is Walk the Line, which I very much enjoyed. No, I still haven't seen the gay cowboy movie, although I've been planning on it since before it was released. No desire to see Capote because the guy creeps me out. Is there a book version of Good Night, And Good Luck? I think I'd rather read that than watch it. Crash? Guess I'll rent it sometime. I thought Jon Stewart was very good, even if no one seemed to get his joke that Ben Stiller's jumpsuit confirms that he's Jewish. Salma Hayek's right breast seemed freakishly out of proportion with the left one, as if it perhaps had eaten part of the left one in a late-night feeding frenzy. I like Heath Ledger's Civil War sort of facial hair configuration (channeling Matthew Broderick's Glory look?). I'm growing a bit tired of the gay cowboy joeks, although the film clip montage was brilliant. I'm not a huge rap fan and really dislike the whole pimp-theme bullshit, but the underlying meter of the 36 Mafia thingy sounded like a steam engine to me, and given my penchant for steam locomotives I thought it was cool. For all the wrong reasons. The pleas for people to actually go to see movies in theaters were a little too transparent and pathetic--sure, I'll go to the theater as soon as the major chains adopt and strictly enforce rules about bringing in newborns and toddlers, having nonstop conversations, and answering cell phones. The fake commercials lobbying for various categories were also, thanks to the Daily Show influence, hilarious. Was Johnny Depp there? Didn't see him.