So, me and The Coolness played in our first game of the season this Sunday past. As The Daughter had no games, she came along, too.
We play with two refs, one on each sideline (more or less, they move a bit infield but not across the half.) I did not recognize either ref, which was reason to be cautious.
We knew the team we were up against, having played them before on several occasions. We’ve usually ended each game on nearly-even footing, which lends a sense of accomplishment if we come out on top.
They have an excellent stopper, a bald guy who plays hard every play of the game. He’s a bit rough, but that’s not entirely undesirable at your central defense, given that the refs are there to call the game and keep everyone safe.
Bald Guy leveled a few of our players, some were on fifty-fifty balls, and therefore pardonable, but others were not. While not carding offenses, there should have been a free kick or two in there.
Despite this skilled player’s best efforts, we kept the ball in their end most of the first half, opening the scoring in the last few minutes. After we re-set, they came charging up and spent the next few minutes right in front of me.
They got a shot off.
As I dove for it one of my players deflected the ball into the dirt, moving it from my stretching hand to under my torso. A clapped my arm to my side, but the ball rolled under me. I landed, hard, on my left shoulder. The point hurt less than the fall, but it still wounded pride. I got up, did the walk of shame into my net, and retrieved the ball. Play resumed for a minute before the whistle blew.
I commented to my team about the forcefield that seemed to accompany Bald Guy around the field, knocking people over. I got a few chuckles.
When I went back on the field, The Daughter was shooting at the goal with a bearded man wearing a baseball cap and what I presumed were his two children. Seeing us coming, they moved off the field, leaving a thermos at the edge of the box. I picked it up and called out to them. The daughter came over and took the thermos from me and ran off. They set up an impromptu field behind my goal, started playing.
My game resumed.
They were pressing pretty hard, but we were doing well.
One of the impromptu game’s balls rolled onto the field while our play was at the other end, I heel-kicked the ball back to them, making no comment, hearing no apologies.
Some moments passed in play. I collected a save and booted the ball up field. One of our players, one of our fastest players, got under it and skinned it off his head to prevent the midfielder behind him getting a piece of it. He turned to give chase, and took a few strides when Bald Guy, knowing it was a goal scoring break, came in from the side and slammed Fast Player. Bald Guy went down, but Fast Player had seen him coming and managed to keep his feet under him.
The far side ref blew his whistle and called Fast Player for the foul.
“WHAT!?” I bellowed, outraged. I shouldn’t have, but I did. It was so very clear to me that the call was incorrect and only served to punish the person who’d kept his feet that I just lost it. It should be noted that I am capable of stopping traffic with a shout. I have actually done so, on multiple occasions. I know I was loud.
I shouted it again before becoming aware of the ref on my side of the field, who was blowing his whistle and calling out to me.
I bellowed something more about a horrible call and, “Come on!” just as I realized he was telling me not to say another word. I said a few more things. I let my base instinct to argue get the better of me and was duly given a yellow card.
I deserved it. Entirely. The far side ref made a shit call. I should have left it at that.
I did not.
Play resumed. The ball was back and forth across the center line and there were a number of shots, all of which I managed to save.
The ball was coming across the half when another loose ball from behind rolled onto the field. I jogged up and booted the ball to the left, clearing it off the field. There’s a hill that rises almost immediately from the edge of the field, and acts as an automated ball-return.
“Dude, I was behind you.” I hear Bearded Cap shout at me.
“You got the ball back, right?” I say, still watching the play.
“You didn’t have to kick it up there, the ball wasn’t even down at this end,” Bearded Cap says. He’s wrong on so many levels I don’t know what to say.
“Playing here,” I say, wanting him to stop distracting me. The game ball is around midfield still.
“The ball was down at the other end,” he repeats.
“Not your call to make,” I say, “you are not playing.”
“You got a swollen head,” he shouts.
“Wha- No! That’s right, my head is quite large, PHYSICALLY!” I say as I turn to face the man and remove my baseball cap. Who the fuck is this guy, interrupting my game with his bullshit?
The ref blows his whistle, comes rushing across the field. FUCK! I think. He’s gonna throw me out.
The ref, though, is a good one: he charges past me and tell Bearded Cap to take a hike.
As he walks back to his sideline, I say, “Thank you. I’ve never had that kind of shit happen before.”
“I saw it all,” says the ref. Then tells me, “Careful, you’re on a yellow.”
I bite my tongue. He has a point. Had he not known what was going down, I might have been thrown out.
The game ended in a hotly-contested draw at one to one.
As I’m walking off, the ref comes over and says, “The guy is still here.”
“Let’s please act like adults.”
At which point he lost me. “I was with you up till that, sir. I don’t need to be told such things.”
Probably thinking I was an ass, he began to walk away.
“Hey, ref, you made very good calls today,” I said, meaning it. He had done a great job.
Just don’t ask me about the other ref.
So, the game is over, I walk off, take a seat, start to get out of my boots. All the sudden, Bearded Cap is standing over me. “I just wanted to say: you didn’t have to kick the ball, the game was in the other half.”
“And I heard you the first time.” I say, standing up. No way am I going to let this nutbag get into position to whack me, if that happens to be his intent. “You really shouldn’t be saying anything to me just now.”
“You shouldn’t have.”
FUCK, REALLY? “Were you playing?”
“Then it’s not your call to make.”
“It’s just a rec league, man.”
“Yup, one you’re not playing in, so you’re not the one making those calls.”
“I hope you get picked up by the pros, they’ll recognize your intensity,” he says, walking away.
“Rrriiight, I’m the one arguing with the guy who was minding his own business, trying to change after a tight game. Yeah, that’s the way this all went down.”
He joins a woman from the team we just played and the two children who’d been playing with him in the backfield. This is when I first realize that his wife or significant other was playing in the game, on the field, against me.
Now, won’t someone please tell me I’m not the jackass of this story?
Oh, and for those of you who know me, you’d have been terribly surprised by the distinct lack of profanity I used in the above encounters. I was quite proud of that, at least.