Friday, April 30, 2010

The Boys III

Monday night soccer. I had a lovely assist and some nice crosses, and so, to the pub to celebrate. As usual, I am the only girl in the group. But get this - Kelly, our usual server, comes over and says “Hello, gentlemen.” And no one bats an eyelash. We order and she leaves.

“Hey. She called us gentlemen.” I say.

“And?” both Steve and Chris say together, always teasing.

“Well, I understand it for me, of course,” I say, “but for you guys...”

Monday, April 26, 2010

12 Again

I read an article in the New York Times recently about a group of middle-aged men who play in a touch football ‘league’ every weekend, and have been doing so for twenty years. I love that they call it a league. And I love the league’s name: “12 Again”. (It is called that because “that is how they feel for two sweet hours each week”.) Just like us on the soccer pitch, the article says they don’t want superior athletes or football players. When a former pro joined them temporarily, people ran away from the ball rather than catch it, since he threw it so hard it hurt them. You know the kind of player they are looking for? “If your wife is saying: ‘What are you crazy? At your age? ‘ That’s the guy we want.” I will point out that they also bring a defibrillator along in someone’s car.

I recall a conversation I had once with Jerry, our 72 year old informal leader who is there at soccer absolutely every Wednesday morning, rain or shine. When you ask how he is doing, Jerry unfailingly says “Perfect, as always!” and pumps both his arms in the air with a big grin on his face. (A far cry from the answer you get from most of my relatives who are in a similar age group, who start in on all their aches and pains, and most incredibly, their bowels. Why on earth would I want to know about that?) When pressed, Jerry will admit his hip is arthritic and he should probably get it replaced. Jerry and Ted, who is fiftyish, have a pact that if either of them collapses on the field, the ambulance is not to be called. They want to die doing what they love doing.

Of course, I wish they hadn’t told me about this pact, because if either collapses while I am there, the first thing I am doing is dialling 911 against their wishes. There’s no way I am explaining to a widow that maybe something could have been done, but their beloved husband had said he’d rather be out here with us, all sweaty, in shorts and a yellow pinney, instead of cozied up with the wife at home, in bed, gazing into each other’s eyes while he breathed his last. I understand Jerry and Ted’s idea of course. It appeals to me somewhat too. But I’m just 41 and I have little kids. As I told Jerry and Ted, please, please, please, if I collapse, call the ambulance right away, and yes, fine, go ahead with the mouth to mouth if you must (I think Jerry had a bit of a twinkle in his eye here). If I died on the soccer field my husband would be so pissed that I saddled him with the kids all by himself I don’t even think he’d bother to throw me a funeral.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Nice Pass

Some of you who know me know that I love the Urban Dictionary. Words like ‘crunk’ which stands for ‘crazy drunk’ and ‘stoptional’ for ‘optional stop’ – they make my day. Look, you can even use them together: “Ha ha, he was so crunk he thought the four way stop at the intersection was stoptional.” Actually it’s not a very good example sentence, when I think about it. Let it be known that I don’t endorse drunk driving in my blog.

Because of this love of weird dictionary definitions, I have decided to make my own dictionary definitions for the phrase “nice pass”, in soccer. You might think you know what it means, but I doubt you know all of its meanings. You know how we have been told that Inuit people have many words for snow? It’s kinda like that. Allow me to show you.

1. “Nice Pass!” Said in a shocking tone when a girl is playing with the boys and does a lovely cross from the corner into the middle, resulting in a beautiful goal. Here the phrase does, in fact, mean ‘nice pass’. Rarely used from male to male, since it might seem gay.

2. “Nice Pass.” said in a mocking tone to a friend playing on the other team who does not do a nice pass to their teammate, but accidently gives the ball directly to you, an opponent. Here the phrase is being used sarcastically. You might want to beware of getting hacked in the knees from behind by said friend when you use this phrase.

3. “Nice Pass,” said in a disappointed tone when someone on your team who is not as good as you passes you a not-very-nice pass and you screw it up further by missing a shot on net. Said to make the teammate feel better about their shoddy play. A consolation prize. Sometimes accompanied by head held in hands when the lousy player is not looking.

4. “Nice Pass!” said from one player to another when the first player could have selfishly taken a shot on net, and probably missed, but decided against it and laid off a beautiful gift of a pass to another player who gets the goal and all the glory. It means “I feel guilty that you teed it up so beautifully for me (but not that guilty since it was my amazing shot that scored), and I should acknowledge in some way your assistance.”

5. “Nice Pass! Pff!” Notice the extra tag-along at the end, the ‘pff.’ This is the sour grapes use of this word, since someone on the opposite team was trying to pass to someone else on their team but the pass was so bad that they accidentally scored a nice goal.

6. “Nice Pass!” Said sarcastically, but not entirely untruthfully, since the player who did pass it almost never passes it at all, but is a major ball hog and normally just dipsy-doodles all over the field but for some reason, decided today was a good day for sharing and sent it over to you. A combination of sarcasm and an attempt to encourage more of the same passing behaviour in future.

You see why they call it the beautiful game?

Friday, April 16, 2010

Make your own shin pads!

Some things are better when they are homemade. Strawberry jam. Flannel pyjamas for kids. Pie. But sporting equipment? No.

Graham, my friend from indoor soccer, has joined a ball hockey league and plays goalie. I don’t play ball hockey but these three things I understand:

1. The ball they use is pretty hard.
2. Fairly big grown men play hockey in this league.
3. Goalie equipment is expensive.

So, the resourceful Graham prides himself in his own homemade equipment: a lifejacket for his chest protector, soccer shin pads for his legs, and.....something for goalie gloves. They aren’t goalie gloves and they aren’t oven mitts, but something in between. And despite these precautions, he’s always showing us these brutal bruises he gets on his upper arms from ball hockey. I keep suggesting he gets some water wings to go with the life jacket, but I think he’s ignoring me. And a valid point could also be that it might be tough to get water wings large enough for a 40-something year old Burton Cummings look-alike.

This brings me to shin pads. You, dear reader, may remember that I mentioned in a previous post that I don’t wear them to play soccer, by choice. My legs are pretty banged up. Even though we play ‘gentlemanly’ soccer- no slide tackles or hacking away at each other- I do inevitably get kicked. And when I run my finger down my shin, there are pretty serious potholes in the road that is my leg. I say it is because I don’t like the loss of control, the way the ball deadens and bounces differently off shin pads than it does on your real legs. But there may be another reason.....

As a kid, I played on a great soccer team. Back before it was popular to do so, my team had car washes and bottle drives and did all kinds of fundraising to buy ourselves special new uniforms with our names and numbers on the back, team sports bags, and winter jackets like the boys got for hockey. We were expected to polish our soccer cleats with black polish before every game. The idea was that if we looked good, if we perhaps looked intimidatingly good to the other team, we might have an edge and beat them. And it worked! This was powerful for the self-esteem of 12 or 13 year old girls - to realize that we looked and were good. We had earned this.

But the problem was that my parents wouldn’t buy me shin pads. Most of the girls had these thick, white, sock-like things you pulled up over your foot, and wore under your soccer socks. Some had the cheaper plastic and foam kind that simply sat inside the front of your sock, which held them up. I had magazines.

Yes! My mom used to get this magazine called Homemakers which was a smaller, TV guide-sized magazine, and my dad used to stuff those into my socks. (Now that I think about it, perhaps Homemakers magazine suggested this as an alternate use for itself, the way they suggest saving all the little broken pieces of soap and moulding them together to make one big soap ball, to save money. Who knows?) Running up and down the field, the magazines would inevitably slide around once there was any kind of contact, and if my socks started to fall down a little, as knee socks are wont to do, the magazine would be revealed to all, and little bits of it would soon litter the field as I played. I wonder if it was good as mulch.

He also experimented with shin pads made of corrugated cardboard, thin foam, and masking tape. If I was a child now, perhaps he would save those Starbucks sleeves from getting a takeout coffee and simply slide those up my leg. He could even get some free Starbucks napkins and slide those up inside the front part for extra padding. (My dad is the sort of guy who will buy two of the same well-used car, each for a hundred dollars, and between the two of them, and along with some empty dog food cans, cobble together a vehicle that ‘works’.) He may have planned to save money on my cleats too, formulating a pair using old beer bottle caps and running shoes; we’ll never know.

So, I don’t wear them at all. And because I don’t know them, or really understand them, shin pads have on this kind of strange, mythical, otherworldly quality. Sometimes I see the beautiful metallic shiny red and cobalt blue ones people buy, and if you wear them with white socks pulled up tightly over them, under the turf lights at night, they sparkle and it looks almost like the shin pads have lights that flicker while you run. Talk about distracting the other players! I am ashamed to admit it, but at times I am mesmerized by people’s thickly padded, sparkly shins.

A few years ago when I had to buy shin pads for my daughter, I was amazed to find them for five bucks at Walmart. Five bucks! Why didn’t I just buy some for myself back then? That’s was maybe 2 hours of babysitting money. When I think back on my teenage years, sometime I just want to kick myself. And it hurts, because I am not wearing shin pads.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Why I have to go to the bar

Chris is lamenting his league team’s goalie, who we know, since he often plays drop-in Monday nights with us as well. Chris got mad at him last week and thinks he’s a twat.

“That guy’s a twat." he says. He doesn’t pronounce it the way I would though, since he’s English. When he says it, it rhymes with fat, and it sounds underlined.

“Why?” I ask. “Cause he’s not very good?” (He let in a few easy goals.)

“Nah, cause he’s such a girl. Sorry. But he is. I yelled at him in our league game, and he just said ‘Chris, I’ve had enough, I’ve just had enough of you.’ And I thought he was going to cry.”

That does sound like a girl, I reason to myself. And I am a girl. But I don’t find the goalie to be that way. He just talks a lot, but he’s mostly positive. Everyone’s positive on Monday nights. Maybe that’s why I like it.

Chris doesn’t stop. It’s like he knows what I’m thinking. “He just talks so much. I can’t stand all the talking on Mondays sometimes. It’s so relentlessly positive. It’s too positive.." He takes a sip of his beer. "‘Nice pass.’ " he says, in a smarmy voice. "Come on, no one needs to say that. We’re all football players for Christ’s sake. If we can’t make a decent pass, it’s time to go home.”

Oh no. I’m probably the worst. At first I didn’t talk much, but now that I know them all, I’m always yelling out ‘well done’ or ‘nice pass’ or ‘lovely cross’. Geez, I’ve never thought about it before. The talking’s probably a bit much, isn’t it? It’s exactly what a girl would do. I’m a stereotype.

Now I have to stay til the end of the night at the pub. If I leave, they will mock me mercilessly in my absence. I can hear it now. “What’s with the 40 year old housewife with all the good vibes? Can’t she have her Oprah moments somewhere else?”


So....what would happen at the bar after the game if I didn’t go? After all, as the only female, I assume some of the politeness is there for me. (Wait, is there politeness? Maybe.) But if I didn’t go, here is what I imagine might happen:

“Tonight was awesome.”

“Wasn’t it?”

“I don’t know why, but it just felt different. We didn’t miss so many shots on net – all our players were strong – no weaker players dragging us down....”



Long pause. They silently check the score of the Canucks on TV. Beer is chugged and wiped off their lips with the backs of their hands. Crotches are scratched openly. Well, more openly than usual.

“So, how about ______? Coventry will have to fire him soon.”

“They haven’t scored in nine games.”

“And did you see Rooney get that nice one this week?”

“And ______ from Ipswitch....”

The scene gets fuzzy around the edges here, mostly because the imaginer (me) doesn’t know what the hell is going on in English soccer. I do recognize some words though. Periodically they pop up. Man U. Arsenal. Black... something. Blackburn? Ah, who knows.

Kelly the server comes by. “More beer?” she asks.

“Yes,” they say heartily and slap her on the ass. She giggles coquettishly and bends over just slightly, butt towards them, and they do it again. She shrieks. All the guys are laughing knowingly at each other. Is she topless? Wait, all the women in the bar, even the customers, appear to be topless. Oh dear. Is that a stripper pole? In a suburban English-style pub?

Kelly walks off to get the beer. Instantly faces are silent again. A UFC fight is on TV now and everyone is watching it intently. More beer is delivered. More beer is drunk. Strippers come in, do some lap dances, and leave. Perhaps the gay guy gets a male lap dancer. (Is that possible? I think I don’t want to think about that. ) More crotch scratching. Megan Fox is on TV doing....something. What does she do? Anything? Act? Does it matter?

“Whoa,” of them says....”Megan Fox is hawt.”

Dude.” Says another. (It is pronounced to mean ‘it goes without saying’.)

More beer chugging. Burps. Farting, perhaps.

Daniel Craig comes in and joins them. He is also shirtless. (Well, after all it is MY imagination.) He comes over to our table and says “I heard there was a girl who played with you guys....where is she?”

“Ah, she couldn’t make it tonight.”

“Too bad.” Says Daniel Craig. He sighs and leaves.

See why I have to go?

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Dream Team

I really didn’t intend to play soccer with the boys. When I registered for indoor soccer I asked if there were any other girls signed up and was told yes, there was one other. Then on the first night, I saw no women, but I did meet a guy named Ashley. I stuck around anyway.

Over the years, the guys have grown to tolerate me and pass to me, although it was tough at first . (After years of running up and down the gym, waving my arms and yelling Hey! I finally wore them down.) Sometimes we have another girl or two show up, and mostly they struggle at first too, but we do have one superstar – Jodi. She’s amazing. She plays for the Whitecaps and the Canadian National Team and occasionally, when she’s injured, she slums it with us – and she is the best player on the floor. When I was Jodi’s age, I wasn’t mature enough at all to commit to soccer the way Jodi has, and I definitely didn’t have the same level of skill. But at times I do wonder, wistfully, if I knew then what I know now....

When they made the teams in indoor soccer, they put Jodi and me on separate squads – to spread out the girls, of course. But then one time I asked to be on her team, and it was great. We scored a lot of goals together, and by that I mean she danced around and did all the work, and I stood around in front of the net and just flicked the ball in when she passed it to me (that’s how I roll).

At one point she said “I’m so impressed with your shot,” and even though I am old enough to be her mother, I felt all shy and weird and flattered. And then the following week she showed up with this older woman who sat in the viewing gallery above the game, watching us. I’ve met Jodi’s mom, so I knew it wasn’t her, so who was it? My imagination started working overtime – this is a scout for the Whitecaps! She is here to see me! It was because of my incredible shot, of course – Jodi had told her about all the goals we scored together and she wanted to come to see me play and ask me to play for the Whitecaps too. With Jodi.

Now I know this is ridiculous. Let me defend myself a little though: no one ever sits up there, in the viewing gallery. Once, someone brought their kid because they couldn’t get a babysitter, and he sat up there and read a book, but otherwise I never see anyone there. And why would a woman sit there and watch us so intently? And show up with Jodi? Right after she said that to me?

Okay, it is still ridiculous. It was so ridiculous, in fact, that when I came home and told Steve what had happened, he laughed so hard at me that he put it in our Christmas letter. He wrote about everything going on in our lives, and even though it all had a whisper of truth to it, none of it was real. He started the letter by saying that I was the oldest (yes, he said oldest) woman ever to be invited to try out for the National Team, and that our daughter Hannah was dancing the lead in Swan Lake and was being thrown around the stage by her partner (she was 8), and that our other daughter Sophie was making dioramas of the death scenes from Hamlet (she was 6) and that we had taken a backpacking trip to Peru to study llama poetry, and had subsisted on gibbon milk. (He is a poet.) But the weird part was...some people believed it for a second! Some people called after they got the letter, saying, “Wow, I actually thought the letter was true, until I got to the llama part.”`s not just me. For a split second, other people who are far away and who I often don`t talk to anymore, and who are insanely busy and who skimmed our Christmas letter through quickly—those people thought I might have had a chance to play for the National Team too!

For the record, my playing was truly awful that night the woman came to watch and I never found out who she was.

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Yoga Rant

When you don’t have kids yet, you imagine all the amazing little things you’ll shape them into and how they’ll be these more perfect versions of you. Then you have them and it is all just stumbling around and coping with who they actually are – there is no shaping. I thought Hannah would be this funky little soccer player with her red hair and the attitude that goes along with it. Instead, I think partially to defy me, she hates soccer with a passion and is into yoga.

I watched her stroll around the field looking at the dandelions for a whole season of soccer and realized that when I started bribing her with a dollar to touch the ball even three times during practice – and that she couldn’t even do that – that I was going to have to open my mind on this one a bit. Okay, so something else. We are all our own individual selves, after all. We tried skating, we tried swimming, we tried ballet. All were temporary fixes. But Hannah’s 3rd grade teacher, who was endlessly frustrated with her learning disability, her ‘slow processing’, said only one positive thing I can remember during the whole year: “ Hannah is really into yoga.” Apparently in P.E. they had a segment on it, and unlike every other activity involving a ball or running, Hannah didn’t suck at it. So this is where my kid shines. Does it have to be yoga? I am not only NOT into yoga, but almost sort of against it.

My friend, one of the millions of women in the Western Hemisphere who have gotten sucked into yoga – sent me an email page from her yoga teacher’s online journal. She said “I love this ‘happy‘ issue so I can’t resist foisting my yoga woo-woo on you.” What’s a woo-woo? Is it a yoga thing? It doesn’t sound good. She knows I am sceptical. She also knows Hannah loves yoga. I look at the issue: there’s a picture of a bony ass young thing, smiling (why are they always smiling? It’s just stretching. This is perhaps why I am sceptical) and talking about happiness. It says: BE HAPPY RIGHT NOW. Then underneath: “This week, break negative thought patterns and focus on the positive. Stop waiting for happiness to find you and make the choice to be happy, grateful and content in every moment.” (bolding hers.) Wait just a minute. Every moment? When I’m cleaning out the cat litter? When I’m fishing clogged hair out of the bathtub drain? Impossible. I know that woman is smiling in the picture, but I think it’s because they put some food down in front of her, and then took that snapshot right before they let her eat some lunch. She doesn’t look happy, she looks HUNGRY. I just can’t buy the sorta spiritual, breathy fakeness that accompanies everything about yoga. But my kid loves it.

The only yoga class I can find for kids her age is for parents and children. Since it is on Sunday mornings, I can’t go. Mercifully, I am coaching soccer for my other daughter at that time. I sign up Steve. He raises his eyebrows at me, but he goes, because he does anything for those girls – plays Barbies, hosts tea parties for the dolls – he really puts me to shame.

Of course he is the only dad there. The teacher is about 22 and her name is Skyler. (Red flag right there, I think.) Every week he kinda balks at going, and I cajole him into it, by saying, there must be yummy yoga mummies there, right? Apparently the 22 year old Skyler is quite the dish. At the end of the course, Hannah hugs Skyler goodbye and asks to sign up again. Next year she wants to do a whole year long yoga course.

I sigh. That’s breathing, right? That’s about as close as I’ll get to yoga.

Side note: I am not a moron, and that is to say I do like the clothes that go with yoga. I own a Lululemon hoodie. I resisted for the longest time, but that damn thing is the most comfortable item of clothing to ever be created. And yoga pants are great too. Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t advocate wearing this yoga stuff all the time. (Or perhaps I should say in every moment.) No one deserves to be that constantly comfortable. It’s like trying to be happy all the time. It just doesn't work.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Boys II

A conversation at the pub after soccer, drinking good beer that we have earned:

Jason: Agh, I had to drink the worst beer on the weekend.

Steve: What kind?

Jason: That Rickard’s White.

Steve: Oh yeah, tastes like your own bile.

Me: Hey, I like Rickard’s White.

Chris: I thought you were going to say you liked the taste of your own bile.

Steve: Well, maybe with an orange slice…..