Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Cetaceous Utility Vehicle: A Report on the Nation's Soccer Dads

"[Red] Devils are good fellows enough.” I said, which was meant to show them that I was one of the guys, though as a cringing liberal, I’m not sure that’s entirely true.

I mean, I do want my children to be involved in sport, at least of the right kind, but I also worry about injuries—concussions, of course, are the real nightmare—and I also think that their manners are sometimes not improved by unbridled competition.

I cringe, in fact, at some of the barest forms of the thing, but I suppose it’s better than having them fall into a terrible spiral of ennui, you know, absinthe and so-forth, in immoderate doses.

And so I added, to what I thought was the most bland and most blameless of hopes, that our youngsters would succeed, adding that the weather seemed good.

I mean, you can’t too much get in trouble with that, right?

And they seemed perfectly normal at first, these Westchester soccer dads, out for a weekend tournament and apparently enjoying their time away from banking and brokering and lawyering.

But then I had from one of them this: “Skies the most effulgent but basket the deadliest thunders.”

And from the guy next to him this: "Keep your weather eye open, and sing out every time."
Odd. I mean, I know that some of them have summer places in Nantucket, but this tone seemed new. Only to me, I guess, because, after grunting an assent to this nautical command, somebody else commented, “This animal is named from roundness or rolling.”

Which inspired much activity in the way of agreement, if that’s what was meant by all that nodding and growling, and then it all came to an end, reverently, when one of the venture capital guys said: “These things are reciprocal; the ball rebounds, only to bound forward again.”

I was happy to see the game get underway, or thought I was, when one of our lawyers advised that “Could annihilation occur to matter, this were the thing to do it.”

I think he was talking about one of the kids on the other team, who, ok, was maybe a bit bigger than most of ours. Still, it seemed pretty, well, fraught, for Interboro Youth League 12.

Now the rooting and taunting and howling begins in earnest! “Take it easy,” bellows one of these fathers, I guess not entirely in good humor, but who knows: “why don't ye take it easy, I say, and burst all your livers and lungs!”

To be fair, there’s some direct praise. One of the few moms shouts out, about some venturesome boy, that he’s showing “a degree of footmanism quite unprecedented in other planets.”

Positive remarks, however, are not heard frequently, and even less so as our prize retreats, with strike after strike missed by our poor devils and not by theirs. 

The opposite side comes in for special abuse, in the conviction that they are “untouchable and immaculate to any foulness.”

The bona fides of the referee are called into question. One father is firmly of the opinion that said officer is “intent on an audacious, immitigable, and supernatural revenge.”

For what?

I cannot tell you.

I do know that the accuser was adamant on this point. I do not know of a reasonable certainty that he was, or is at this moment, in possession of any reliable information that might certify his accusation.

Never mind about our enemies, because even our own boys are suspected of treachery, one even being accused of “dashing among the revolving circles like the lone mounted desperado Arnold, at the battle of Saratoga, carrying dismay wherever he went.”

That evaluation, by the way, came from the lad’s own father, and when I later interviewed the poor kid, he told me this:

“Coming afoul of that old man has a sort of turned me wrong side out. He might as well have kicked me, and done with it. Maybe he DID kick me, and I didn't observe it, I was so taken all aback with his brow, somehow. It flashed like a bleached bone.”

I am getting ahead of the story though, and should say this: I have not told this young man all of what I know to be the truth. I can say that while, blessedly, he was being carried away from the coliseum with his teammates, in vans booked for the team, on their way to a previously planned treat—at an emporium specializing in frozen confections—we encountered his half-mad father in the parking lot.

 Crazed with terrible desire and grief, he was bellowing: “Hast seen the whale?”

Well, his behemoth no doubt looked pretty much like all the other ones in the parking lot. White, black or in between, one hulk of an SUV looks pretty much like the rest.

After shifting around a few cases of white wine in our little Swedish sedan, we got him back to the hotel and watched him limp off.

And then we drove off to dinner, at a fairly pedestrian but somehow worthy Eritrean bistro, in one of the nearby and long dead mill towns of Eastern Pennsylvania, wherein plenteous deliveries of baleen once served to provision a most profitable manufacture of corset stays. 

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