My beautiful son takes on the beautiful game (English football)

11:50pm Sunday 6 May 2012 Nunhead Heights

Show me a hood whose father is a hood and I’ll show you a man whose father loved him. Show me sinner whose parents are “saints” and I’ll show man whose parents are no saints. If your parents love you, you’re gonna be like them. I believe this.

My son, the Wild One, played his first sports game with Nunhead’s Athenlay football today.

I want my son to be a killer at football. I don’t know if I can expect that. I’m not a killer at sports.

[And they call it "sport" in England. Sport in the singular as if they cannot expect anyone to play more than one sport.]

One summer at Camp Wahnee in Torrington Connecticut I was the catcher in a big game. Maybe I was 10? I let in few runs, okay, five or six. I don’t remember. Balls going through my legs, through my mitt, etc.  We lost. Afterwards, feeling full of self-hate I sat on the bench by the diamond, crying. Two teammates walked by, saw me there.

“Do you feel bad?” one of them asked, softly. “Yes” I replied meekly. “I’m sorry. I feel horrible.”

“WELL YOU SHOULD. YOU LOST THE GAME FOR US!” They snarled.

There was a lesson to be learned: Run from failure?  Blame your teammates? Don’t be a catcher? Whatever it was, I didn’t learn it. I hang around after bad shows, hoping someone is going to put his arm around me and tell me it wasn’t my fault.

The game today was a “friendly” in Shooter’s Hill. The season is over and it wasn’t a league match. Athenlay were looking for replacements for dropouts. One lost player has been signed by Millwall. Signed by Millwall at nine-years-old! In a society that decides what someone is going to do with their lives at birth, nine-years-0ld seems ancient.

[Note, the British refer to a team as a plural. Shouldn’t a team be singular? One team. No “I” in team, after all. In American it would be Athenlay is looking for players. Odd. Explain, dear readers.

Another child refused to play because he couldn’t stand losing – he’d go mental and walk off the pitch screaming at his teammates. His mother, a child psychologist, told me he is either going to be a champion or the opposite. I think he’s going to be winner. Blame your teammates before they blame you. I should have learned that at Wah-nee.

Finally, many kids don’t want to have turn up every Sunday in the English winter, which, hard to believe, is even worse than the English summer. It was maybe 50F (10C) today and it is May 6th.

Today, I think I was more nervous than my son was and he was nervous. That is why one should never have children. You feel bad enough about your own problems you don’t need another person’s worries added on to it. Children are a bundle of worries ’cause they have no money and no control. Even less than I do.  But once you have children, you’re stuck. It is bad form to turn your back on them. So you try your best.

My worries for him were, One, he barely watched any football, let alone played it. How is he supposed to play a sport he’s never seen? Yes, he’s kicked the ball around but being on team on a pitch is different. I have never taken him to a football match and we’ve only watched a few on TV. The logistics of being a divorced dad, blah, blah. And if you blame me, well, there I’m on bench, crying.

And Two, he is a wild one, and I was afraid he wouldn’t take direction or take the game seriously. He can get very comical. I wonder where he gets that from? Not that there is much direction in football – “Stand there. Kick the ball. Go back over there.” You don’t need to be genius to play football. Think Wayne Rooney and David Beckham, for God’s sake. I was unsure the Wild One could do even that much.

But he did, and more. He got in position and stayed there. He didn’t once goof around. He is athletic and committed and I think he was great. The coach thought so, too. Now let’s hope I didn’t love him enough so that he’ll want to be way better than his father.

@lewisschaffer

Listen to Lewis Schaffer on the Radio Nunhead American Radio with Lewis Schaffer every Monday evening at 10:30PM on www.resonancefm.com and 104.4fm London. Or listen to the show’s podcasts at bit.ly/NunheadAmericanRadio

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Posted in Life in Britain, Parenting

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