I just did something I swore I’d never, under any circumstances, do once I had a child. It’s difficult to reconcile that I’ve gone against my principles and risked all that I hold dear, gambling both my and my child’s well being.
I signed my son up for soccer.
There’s a list of sports I want to kill and soccer holds a place firmly in the top 5 along with golf, tennis, lacrosse, and golf. Yes, golf is listed twice because I harbor double the disdain for this so-called “sport”. It’s a skill, certainly, but not a sport. At least tennis and lacrosse require some level of physical fitness. You can play golf if you have one eye, emphysema, or even a wooden peg leg. Not to mention the fact that watching it is like staring into an empty abyss for all of eternity only not as exciting.
Soccer held a similar position in my heart up until a few months ago. It was not Cristian Ronaldo or Lionel Messi that swayed me. Nor was it the great and glorious god of hairstyles that I worship, David Beckham. It was my one year old son himself, Frankie Four. See, I’d purchased F4 a little soccer ball on a whim one day. Not because I wanted him to play soccer, far from it, but because the ball itself was more durable than the other balls on sale for $4.99. My vehement opposition to soccer is overshadowed only by my frugality. I hate soccer but I still want to kick it in its cheap balls. Anyway, Frankie Four and I were outside playing the day before his first birthday. The ball was just sitting there when he walked up and kicked it. I figured it was an accident, that he’d been walking toward it and his foot hit before he had a chance to pick it up. Then he kicked it again. My son is only one but he’s sharp, so I doubted that the second time was inadvertent. Just to be sure, I pulled out the trusty phone and nudged the ball with my foot. Seconds later-
Boo ya! And ever since that first flurry of kicks, roughly 3 months ago, he’s constantly dribbling the soccer ball. Dribbling. Is that what it’s called? I know that’s what you call bouncing a basketball to move it down court, but is it the same for soccer? I could Google it but I’m terrified that soccer related ads will start showing up in my email and newsfeed. I’d rather Google “animal with largest testicles” or “is human pancreas edible” or “am I secretly a woman trapped in a mans body?’ than have soccer related marketing target me. That’s my level of disdain for soccer.
You’re probably wondering why I hate soccer worse than Donald Trump hates well, everyone. First off, I played one season of soccer back in elementary school and I sucked at it. I know, I know, it’s hard to believe there was ever anything at which I did not excel. That should be proof enough that soccer is a ridiculous activity. If I wasn’t good at it then, by default, it must actually be the thing itself that sucks, because look at me. Aside of the traumatic childhood experience of participating in that horror show of a sport, it’s fucking boring. Painfully boring. Granted, it’s not “golf boring”, but it’s definitely a snooze fest to the nth degree. Proof is in the goals. The average number of goals in most World Cup matches is less than 3. Remember, we’re talking about a 90 minute game. That means you’re lucky if you see one goal every half hour. In between those goals you’re watching 22 people run toward a ball. One of those 22 people kicks the ball really far down a field roughly the size of Rhode Island. Then, all 22 people turn and run after the ball. Whoever gets there first kicks it back in the opposite direction and they all turn the other way and run. In the unlikely event that someone kicks the ball into the opposing teams net, a man, always from a foreign country, screams “GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAL!” then immediately dies of surprise that someone scored. His scream is roughly 19 minutes long and is easily the most exciting part of the game. Unfortunately, just after he dies, the 22 people go back to playing soccer.
To make matters worse, I’m going to have to pretend to enjoy soccer. My son is only 15 months old so there aren’t a lot of sports he can play. I can’t sign him up for Jiu Jitsu or wrestling because it’s too early for the other toddlers to get choked out or suplexed. I considered swimming but that breast milk gut he’s rocking is not a good look in a Speedo. I’m going to discourage him from football because I prefer to avoid brain damage. And don’t start lecturing me about how MMA fighters can get brain damage because I’ll head kick you. When he’s ready to fight, he’ll fight.
One aspect of this that I do enjoy is that Frankie Four is going to start the soccer program at exactly 16 months old, to the day. The age range is 18–26 months for the starter program so he’ll be one of, if not the youngest kid on the field. If he’s good, I can brag about how advanced he is for his age. If he sucks (like I did), I can explain it away because he started so young. Either way, I win.
If I take a step back, and pretend that I’ve signed him up for something that’s not soccer, I’m really excited. It’s Four’s first group activity other than a sign language and sing along class that I never had the opportunity to attend. The soccer “league” is on Saturday mornings, right in our neighborhood, so that gets to be a daddy activity. I’m looking forward to seeing him interact with other kids in an “organized” manner and introduce him to being a team player. Although most of the sports I personally enjoy participating in and watching are solo endeavors, I understand the value of the team structure. Mostly I’m just enamored of the idea that this will be the first of many activities throughout his life where I can be there to cheer him on. Watching him school the other toddlers enjoy himself while learning valuable life lessons will be an immense source of joy for me. Whenever I took on a sport as a child my dad was always there and it was a great bonding experience. I look forward to sharing the same experiences with my son.
At the end of the day, I don’t care that he likes sports as long as he embraces physical activities and fitness. But if he does like sports, and wants to play, I’ll be on the sidelines 100% of the time, cheering him on, encouraging him, congratulating him for wins, consoling him for defeats, and always reminding him that I am his biggest fan.
Even if he loves to play soccer.
Although I’d prefer baseball.
Originally published at http://badassdad.com on May 24, 2016.