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No, I Didn’t Say “Lou”

Many thanks to you Grace and to my classmates for your feedback and encouragement!

No, I Didn’t Say “Lou”

Several years ago my son’s fourth grade soccer team was playing a game for particularly high stakes. If the boys finished the year undefeated, their coach had promised, they could cut his hair. This was no small wager.

The coach had a long, dark mane and was young enough that it worked for him. When down, his locks framed his face like a curtain. Sometimes he pulled them up into a samurai’s ponytail. With my gray temples and thinning bangs, I couldn’t help but wonder why he would risk all that on a pack of ADHD kids easily distracted by, well, anything?

It was a sweltering Kansas afternoon, so hot the game clock seemed to sweat away the seconds. As the game wore on our boys were dominating, and our coach inched closer to getting his wig busted.

The other team, falling behind, resorted to cheap shots. Shoving, high elbows, tripping. They were a reflection of their coach, a grown man pouting and stomping up and down the far sideline. Yelling, arms flailing in disgust. He kept coming onto the field to berate the referee.

By referee, of course, I mean a teenager.

It had not been a good day for the kid ref. This was his third consecutive game. At halftime he crouched dehydrated and dry-heaving near a goal. Luckily, one of our parents was a doctor. He’s an OB/GYN so his special skills didn’t come in handy. Still, when he handed the ref a bottle of water, it came with a certain credibility none of the other parents could have conveyed.

In the second half the asshole coach screamed in the face of another official, a supervisor who’d been attracted to our game by the coach’s assholery. The supervisor tried to explain a ruling. The asshole shoved him.

That is, he shoved a young man of no more than nineteen years.

Boooooo!

I don’t know where it came from. I am not, by nature, someone who boos or is fearless. But I wasn’t afraid. Not very, anyway. To get me, the asshole would need to run full speed across the field. I was betting on him being out of breath when he reached me.

Also, I fight like a girl. A reform school girl—scratching, biting, pulling hair, producing razorblades hidden under my tongue. Still, I slid over next to another dad, a six-foot-four, two-twenty-plus ex-marine. I booed again.

One of our moms shushed me. “We don’t want to sink to their level!” she scolded.
Oh yeah, I thought, how do you know I don’t? I’m a former high school jock with a bad back and kids I live through vicariously. This is all I have, lady.

I understood that her shushing wasn’t personal. It was just a mother’s reflex, like ordering you to wear coat because it might get cold or taking an immediate dislike to younger, child-free women. She couldn’t help herself.

But I was confused. Just what level had I sunk to by letting an asshole know society wouldn’t tolerate his bullying? That makes me an asshole too? And what message did not booing send our kids? To stand by as a grown man pushes around a weaker one without even contemplating stepping up to cut the bully good with my tongue razor, surely that lives at some depth far below booing.

I eyeballed the asshole across the way. Instead of chugging toward me with rage in his eyes, he merely shot me a look. But the rest of the game he stayed off the field and he didn’t lay another finger on either official. The game ended with only a single item on the injury report: bruised ego. Cause: brutal shushing.

Our boys won that game, then lost their next. Despite the loss, at our season ending party the coach sat in a chair with his hair partitioned into sixteen pig-tails. As each kid stepped up, eager to snip one of the pig-tails, I considered how lucky our boys were to have a decent man for a coach. He was a fine example for our kids. Were we, I wondered?

Turning to a dad next to me, I was about to ask him his thoughts on the subject. But then I shushed myself.

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