Father Robs Son of Sporting Glory

(my dad likes these reports from the ol’ football pitch- hence I keep ’em coming.)

our typical Montana, game-day breakfast

Yesterday evening I was in a funk. What should have been an enjoyable afternoon of Hawks soccer- a local game on our beautiful, thick-grass field by the pastures of Stevensville, perfect Indian-summer weather, and the whole roster present to provide fresh subs, plus an opponent we’d beaten by one goal in an exciting away game, down on our turf to exact revenge- all the elements were there for a great rematch as Owen joined the team for pre-game workout and I found a spot to throw my towel on the lush grass.

Then the coach came to the parents and asked who would be willing to be a line judge.

“I can do that,” I volunteered. Coach was pleased and surprised, and asked if I knew how to do the job.

“Yeah, I’ve reffed before, in Japan. Line judge and head referee both.”

“Well, we’ll have to get you into the system in that case.”

But I can tell you now, I won’t be volunteered into any system. Here’s why:

This is the team we beat up in Poulson- the game I described before where each goal we scored was son matched by the opponent’s equalizer, until it became 5-5 and we plugged away until Owen scored his fourth- the go-ahead for the 1-point win. Yesterday’s game was very similar. Our midfielder Caden scored the first goal, he got a back pass from the right winger and looped it over the keeper from 20 yards. That was nice as it was Caden’s first of the year, and he’s the coach’s son. Owen put the next one in, a well timed and placed right-footer on the ground that hugged the left post. “That was a slow kick but I didn’t think the keeper would get to it, ’cause there was so much open space on the left.”

Owen put in two more in the first half and Poulson managed one. I thought this would be a home-game walk in the park. O already had his hat trick and things were running smooth. Shame on me, though, as these are the last thoughts that should be in the head of an official- speculating on how many points the home team is going to win by and how many more goals will be netted by his son, and worse, calmly enjoying the game. I’d told myself early on to “just concentrate on play and don’t think about the game!” but it’s hard.

The only two obvious errors I made were critical.

The first: Near the middle of the field, but on our half, our defenders brought the line forward and the Poulson striker was offsides by a foot or two. Their midfielder advanced the ball which struck one of our players and then bounced into the open field, in front of said striker. That’s it- the minute he touches the ball it should be called as offsides, but I didn’t call it. Of course he brought the ball down and scored, while I wondered, “Hmm. Was he offsides? Probably. Oops.”

Now I’ll skip the game details and get right to my boner move that probably cost us the game. Late in the second half, Poulson had netted three goals using the same method each time. Their two best players were the center midfielder and right wing. Their keeper or defenders get it to the big midfielder, he brings the ball up to just before the midline and then makes a nice, long pass up the right side. The right wing is faster than our left defender, so he waltzes past to the ball which has slowed down nicely in the heavy, tall grass. Our keeper is loathe to come out of the box so the winger takes the ball up and scores an easy one- three times. Now the game is getting real interesting- just like the barn-burner two weeks ago in Poulson. It’s 4-4 and Owen has three goals. Will he score the go-ahead? Will our defense fall for the same trick from these Poulson one-trick ponies? STOP THINKING ABOUT IT! You’re the line-judge for crying out loud!

Not as an excuse, but just an explanation for why I was shirking my duty a bit:

  1. The Poulson defense made no attempt to come forward and hold a line, forcing the Hawks offsides. There weren’t any plays that I could raise an offsides flag on. (and of course, in my head, I’m screaming, “Take advantage of this defensive oversight, boys!”) So I relaxed a bit and let my guard down.
  2. It’s rec-league youth soccer, not a world cup qualifier where refs have to fear for their lives (like I said, explanation not excuse).
  3. The Hawks are fighting like mad to get that winning goal, and of course I’m cheering silently for my own son to put it in.

And then it happened. The Hawks advanced the ball. The assistant coach’s talented midfielder son Hayden gets it to Owen at the last moment. There is a moment of confusion with Poulson defenders swarming down on O, but he manages to break free enough for a quick blast from 15 yards, which slams against the crossbar, then bounces down hard onto the ground and back onto the field. I was so absorbed by the exciting play that I forgot to concentrate and watch to see if the ball might have hit the ground behind the goal line, then spun out- which would be a goal. Then three of the Hawks players, including Owen, looked at the ref, then at me. The ref was looking at me. It’s my call!! I was stunned. I waved off what I now thought was probably a goal and indicated “play on!” to the ref. Owen and his teammates couldn’t believe it. I robbed him of the go-ahead goal.

The excitement continued. Later we indeed managed the go-ahead when Hayden brought it down the left side, taking two defenders with him, and made a high-speed, perfectly placed pass to Owen who struck it in from just in front of the goal. Alas, Poulson answered with their bread and butter play, twice (!!) to go ahead in the final minutes and take the 6-5 win- just the margin we’d won by in Poulson.

I apologized to the boys after the game. “Sorry guys, I think I robbed you of one.”

The boys and coaches already knew it- even the parents and Hawks girls volleyball team on the sidelines cheering on knew it. But everyone was friendly about it. A couple of the boys said, “That’s OK.” A couple girls on the volleyball team said, “Good job guys,” as we passed (I think one had her eye on O.)

But I felt crushed. Took Owen’s probable winning goal away from him. In the car ride home I learned from O that the ball hadn’t hit the ground behind the goal line; it actually hit the second crossbar that holds up the netting- well inside the goal (so even more obviously a goal)! Ugh.

Owen was a good sport about it- more worried that I felt bad than angry about losing. A better sport than I was at that age.

Life goes on!

One thought on “Father Robs Son of Sporting Glory

  1. Anonymous October 10, 2020 / 2:09 pm

    Exciting game, Boys! And good for the volunteers who sometimes goof!
    Your describing the game, Dan, is fun and a nice diversion from the lousy news we are bombarded
    with these days!
    October was the month one of my co-pilots always took his vacation–knew where and how to catch big German Brown trout.Said Montana fishermen were the hardest drinkers he’d ever seen!
    —play-on, good travelers , G’pa

    Liked by 1 person

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