I know I've complained about soccer's pernicious creep into my life (and maybe a bit hyperbolically by invoking 1984), but I survived our first double soccer weekend of the season --Big E on Saturday and my husband on Sunday. I'm trying to keep a more positive outlook, which in spring is made easier by the fact that the weather is getting warmer rather than colder and high school soccer isn't in season so my husband's coaching duties are restricted to Saturday afternoons.
Of course, I still have some gripes. For one thing, calling the field the pitch and cleats boots makes me uncomfortable in the same manner that Madonna's and Gwyneth Paltrow's British accents do. I also struggle to find patience for any game that can end in a tie and in which the referee adds injury time at the end seemingly on a whim. I've always been a basketball girl, and in my world all games have winners and playing time is kept with precision and transparency. I won't even get into the business of what happens when an injury occurs; suffice it to say it's all very well-mannered and involves passing to the other team and clapping. Weird.
But, despite my complaints there is at least one thing I love about soccer, the thing that makes it okay to drive over an hour and cross state lines to watch a game that ends in a one-one tie. What I really love is my husband's Sunday morning soccer alter ego.
My husband is a genuinely nice guy most of the time. He takes the first shower every morning so that I get a few extra minutes of sleep and uninterrupted hairdrying time. He is effusively appreciative of my cooking and doesn't complain about cleaning up my mess in the kitchen. He delights the girls, though probably not the dog, by using our Boston Terrier as a puppet to act out scenarios like Cleo is a supervillian, Cleo is a lifeguard and Cleo is the Great Cleodini. He is a kind and patient coach to Big E's soccer team and reminds them before every game that their goal is to work hard and have fun.
But if you only knew him from watching him play soccer, you would guess none of this. That is because my husband --the man who tucks me in at night and then irons my clothes for the next day-- is that guy on the field tugging on people's jerseys, throwing discreet elbows and generally raising the ire of the opposing team. He is the guy who provokes his opponents to say within earshot of the wives and children on the sideline words that make even me a little uncomfortable, and he is the guy who can feign utter shock and innocence when the man who is marking him retaliates with an angry shove.
At a game this past summer the wife of one of his teammates turned to me and marvelled, "He's just like a bull in a china shop. I mean, you go up against him, you're on the ground."
I opened my mouth to explain to her that it really wasn't like that, that I really hadn't married a brute, but instead I nodded in agreement. "Yup," I said, accepting the compliment.
Maybe he is the guy that the other team delighted in crashing to the dirt in front of where the girls and I sat on Sunday, but he's also the guy who turned to me a few plays later as he stood on the sideline awaiting the ball for the throw in and reminded me that I could wear his jacket if I was chilly. That tenderness, along with the toughness to get right up and dust off after the dirty hit (and, honestly, to inspire the dirty hit in the first place), is what I love. It's how I survive a double soccer weekend.