Sunday, January 15, 2006


This weekend, despite the rain, soccer season continued across LA.

The SO is a referee, and sometimes I go along to be his tiny cheering section. How many times have you heard "Good Call Ref!" unless it was delivered in an incredibly sarcastic tone?

With rare exceptions, the kids don't question calls. They simply play the game. The problem is the parents.

There have been games where the SO has had to sprint for his car after the final whistle, or get an escort off the pitch. I've seen a player's mother grab and shake a teenage referee after a game. We occasionally sit down to dinner with the referee staff, and the stories passed around the table are discouraging. And yet, those men, women, and teenagers still give up their weekends from September until March to be out there for the kids.

I read several years ago about a girl's team in Ohio that was so disgusted by their parents' behavior that they demanded a game in silence. No adult was allowed to speak during play. They could clap, but that was it. Those girls were brilliant. I'd like to see silent weekends more often.

Unfortunately, it doesn't happen.

So I stand on the sidelines and have to hear not only the horrible things parents say to their children, but the crap they spew at the SO. It takes every ounce of willpower not to point out that being in an offsides position does not mean that the player is offsides. (Not that the parent could see if the player was offsides from their position near the center circle. That's why the assistant ref on the sideline is lined up with the second to the last defender, so that they can see when a player is truly offsides. But that major point seems to escape most parents.) I have patiently reminded enraged spectators that the referee clearly signaled advantage, meaning that he saw and acknowledged a foul, but to stop play would mean taking a developing play, and a possible scoring opportunity, from the team that was fouled. But since those parents wouldn't know the hand signal for advantage if they saw it, and they have no idea what advantage means, they keep trash-talking the referee. What a wonderful example they set for their kids.

This weekend really tested my ability to stay silent. One father questioned every call the SO made or yelled "It's about time you called that, Ref." And their team was four goals ahead! By the third quarter, the teeth marks in my tongue were probably permanent. So I turned to the idiot and said, "Gosh, they're always looking for more volunteer referees. Why don't you sign up to be a referee next year?"

He looked shocked, and then shook his head. "Naw, it wouldn't work out."

Because you obviously don't even know the basic rules of the game, asshole?

No, I didn't say it, but I thought it. I wouldn't want to be one of those mouthy spectators.

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