If anything can make you smile, it's watching five and six year olds on a muddy soccer field. I just got back from my daughter's game. Her team is called the "black cats", and they wear trendy black shirts. The color came first, hence the name. The team is large, so at any one time there are six little boys and girls on the corner of the field waiting their turn to play. This is a problem, as the orange flag which signals the edge of the field has been pulled out of the ground and paraded around, bent over to the ground and let go thereby endangering the kid who was standing nearby actually watching his teammates, and generally played with. The coach had the bright idea to encourage the nonplaying players to cheer instead. The chant went quickly from, "Go, Black Cats!" to "Go, Back Packs" then to "Blow, Black Cats!" and finally to "Blow, Black Blats!"
The team has improved greatly over last Saturday's game in which there was confusion as to which goal they were to kick the ball into. My kid actually did kick the ball into the goal, but it was the wrong one, so my cheers went from, "Kick the ball!!" to "Kick the ball the other way! The OTHER WAY!!!" I don't know what happened at practice this week, but there was absolutely no problem with goal confusion today. Yay!
However, there was a problem with Riley. Riley is not his real name, but I want to protect the little kid because I think his life might be hard enough as it is. I first took note of Riley because of his parents constantly hollering at him. Riley has a lot of joi de vive. And his parents are doing their best to kill it. Oh, the sweet angelic smile on Riley's face as he pulled handfuls of grass up and threw it at his teammates.
"Riley! Stop throwing grass!"
Riley messed with the flag and was told sternly to stand in a certain spot and "Don't move."
Don't move? Were they kidding? Little kids can't not move. I know. I've witness constant squirming for years now. Riley didn't let the command spoil the fun. He didn't even pretend not to move. When Riley got on the field, the real fun started. He was a guard. I think this was because when he was the forward, he spent most of the quarter in the huge mud puddle on the other side of the field.
"Riley! Kick the ball! Get out of the mud!"
As the guard, he had a certain spot that he was supposed to stand in until the ball came to him.
Then I heard the coach say, "Get off the ground, Riley."
"Riley, would you get up off the ground?"
"I don't think your mama's going to like cleaning those grass stains off them shorts, Riley."
Lastly, "The ball, Riley!" as the ball sails right by Riley.
Joi de vive to the last. Grinning as big as you please.
His parents were in on this as well. His mom yelled out, "Put that down! Stop playing, Riley!"
Of course, she didn't want him to stop playing soccer. She wanted him to stop playing with the little piece of plastic he had picked up off the field. Err, can we lighten up? The kid is just trying to entertain himself while the rest of the players are stomping in the La Brea tar pit of a mud puddle on the other side of the field.
As the umpire or official (or whatever the heck you call her) blew the whistle three short tweets to signal the end of the game, Riley was herded back toward his teammates (because for some reason he had run toward a large oak tree), they lined up, and did their "good game" routine while slapping the opposing team's hands. I was pretty sure we had won as we had actually put the ball in the other goal several times. Maybe it wasn't entirely fair. A six foot wide mud puddle within a few feet of their goal was just too much fun (and too much distraction) for the green team.
I asked the assistant coach to be sure.
"So, what was the final score?"
Wow. I guess it didn't matter.