Sunday, September 26, 2010

Simple Pleasures

Fall is here -- translated that means increased highway traffic on weekends for the foliage, crisp, cool nights and still warm days, and fall sports. For me that means soccer. Between coaching my son's eighth grade team and ferrying my third grade daughter to her games, I am a busy soccer Dad. But I love it. Sports are an escape into a time and space separate from the concerns of the everyday - green, mythic fields ruled by the eternal verities that we like to believe translate into moral character: hard work, hustle, the ability and desire to rise to meet challenges, bravery.
I never played soccer. I was a decent miler and half miler in high school and played winger on my college rugby team, but I fell in love with soccer as a twenty two year old assigned to cover the U-17 World Cup in Acapulco, my first year working for the old UPI. The athleticism, the combination of technical skill and sheer improvisation, and the constant pace won me over. When we moved back to the States, the presence of a strong youth soccer tradition was something that made me feel good in the midst of the Bush years and the rightward drift of the country. I was right in my hunch that my kids, at least the first two, would enjoy the sense of accomplishment and competition. Michael is turning into a solid and selfless midfielder, and Eve has become the revelation of the season, with dribbling skills and a knack for making beeline, cutting dashes for the goal from anywhere, the ball seemingly glued to her feet.
Sometimes I am one of those parents that has to force himself to take a step back, to reengage with the reality that life is not about soccer, that it's just a game, one of the many pastimes and entertainments available to us in our media-soaked global village. But I am grateful for it and look forward to the fall and my escape into a simpler time and space.
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