Foul Play

My very first real job was with the SL County Parks and Recreation department as a referee for their junior soccer league.  I was 15, and had never played soccer aside from playground pickup games.

I did not then, nor do I now, know the rules of soccer.

That's not entirely accurate.  I know some of the rules.  For example, I know that the ball has to stay within the lines on the outside of the field or it's out of bounds.  And I know that when the ball goes in the net it's a goal.

But that's about it.

It was easy enough to fake it when I was reffing for the three-year-olds.  Every thirteen seconds I'd have to blow the whistle because the ball went out of bounds.  They almost never scored goals, and at that age they didn't keep track of points, anyway.  I spent a lot of my time on the field tying the kids' shoes.

The seven-year-olds, however, were a different breed.  The kids themselves still didn't quite understand the game and were just in it for the fun of running around on grass and kicking a ball.  But the parents... the parents were out for blood.

It usually took them until about two minutes into the game to realize that I had no idea what I was doing.

"Come on, ref! What're you doing?" they'd scream from the sidelines, fists clenched, faces red.

"I wish I knew!" I'd think.

"Stay off the field!" I'd say.

I'm pretty sure that's a rule.

One day, one parent was particularly upset.  I can hardly blame her.

I mean, I've seen Jurassic Park.  I know that a butterfly flaps its wings in Peking and in Central Park you get rain instead of sunshine.  Seemingly tiny, insignificant events can create absolute catastrophe.

So when I, a poorly-trained teenager with a plastic whistle, carelessly called a foul on her precious little child when he merely kicked an opponent in the back of the knee, I must have opened Pandora's box.  Because that child had a foul called against him, because the other team got a penalty kick, because that penalty kick was missed and the game resumed, that woman's kid would not grow up to become President of the United States.

Also, that woman would not be able to see the end of her son's soccer game, because I kicked her off the field for rushing out me and screaming.

It's all my fault.  I can see that now.

I'm sorry, America.

When soccer season ended and the Parks and Rec department released the work schedule for basketball referees, I wasn't on it.  I still don't know if I was fired or just overlooked.

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