Parent Assistant Referee
Stan Wiechers: Soccerfield Deluxe, 2009 (CC)
From The Threepenny Review:
The coach, as always, asked for a parent volunteer to be a linesperson. I took a couple of steps back. I had done this before, and I hated it. When the ball went out of bounds, as it frequently did, the linesperson called which team had last had contact with it, determining which team should have it now. You could say the stakes were not high. Still, this was a job that called for someone with complete confidence in his judgment or, failing that, the belief that being decisive was more important than being right.
I was the opposite of that person. I once heard liberal defined as someone who won’t take his own side in an argument, and to some extent that was me, a person who would do anything before he would risk being in the wrong. This seeming self-effacement may in fact be a kind of egotism, the conviction that one knows what the rights and wrongs of a situation are, that one is above the rest of squabbling humanity.
Convictions are tricky. To be without them is to live, at best, a meaningless life. To follow a conviction too devotedly—say, the conviction that your son should learn to play baseball come hell or high water—can do more harm than good.
How had I managed this balance in my life, up to age forty? The answer could lie, or not, in a quick glance at that life. I had a decent job and was happily married and raising two girls I adored in a beautiful neighborhood. At the same time, there were things I dreamed of and pursued but felt very far from achieving. Did I have the balance right, or had I gone wrong somewhere, followed the wrong conviction or not followed the right one? There were times when I thought of my life as a giant machine, one that I had built but that was now controlling my actions with merciless regularity, regardless of what I might want or any convictions I might have. There were other times, in the few hours I had to myself, when I wrote or read or watched a film or listened to music, when I felt as one with the creative spirit.
What would my father have done?
This is the person I was, this was the life I lived, these were the questions I asked as I stood on the sidelines and cheered for my daughter’s soccer team. After the game was over, the parents and kids all met at the coach’s house to have pizza and celebrate the season. The coach and his daughter lived not far from my apartment—one street over and a few blocks down the hill that gives Park Slope its name. The house, a brownstone, was near the bottom of its block. The house number seemed familiar. When we walked in, I looked around at the layout and the high tin ceilings. In the same moment I realized, and said aloud to whoever was nearby, “I used to live here.” And for a moment, like a character in a science fiction series, I was transported to another time, another life, another self.
Cover image: Several seconds: game, 2014 (CC)