Quick question: What is yellow and black and sunburnt on the top of its head? That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, it’s Yours Truly. This past weekend was my debut as a NC Grade 8 soccer referee.
Given that it was my first at-bat in roughly 15 years, my assessor decided to break me in slowly with only 6 games this weekend, 3 of which were Challenge or Classic level (for the soccer neophytes, those leagues are reserved for the faster and more skilled players). Of course this weekend it was approximately 200 degrees outside and while there was one cloud in the sky, it decided that it was too hot and went inside at 10 am.
Given that this was the first weekend of the fall season and the first opportunity many parents had to see how their child would compete against their “frenemies,” they were all uniformly nice and respectful of my efforts to call a fair game. Only a few parents used language that wouldn’t pass a TV censor and absolutely no one threw rotten food onto the field in protest. Compared to some games I’ve witnessed, it was absolutely tame.
In fact, the crowds were so polite that one gentlemen shouted “You Suck, Sir!” after I had clearly blown a call in his team’s favor. It is unclear whether he started yelling before he realized that the foul was in his favor and attempted to modify his tone mid-harangue, or if he simply thought that by adding a “sir” to the end of it he was adhering to some archaic rule of sports etiquette; what I do know is that I found it so funny I nearly snorted my whistle.
As I hobbled off the field Sunday afternoon I realized that I had learned a few things besides creative ways to incorporate the word “bitch” into comments about soccer referees. I have learned that I am not now (and might not ever have been) “as young as I used to be.” This is a common lesson that people approaching middle age learn, but it is still painful and embarrassing. I also learned that running around on the soccer field in cleats while playing one game might not be “comfortable,” but it isn’t too bad; running around several fields for several hours in soccer cleats two days in a row can be best described as “crippling.” It is truly amazing that something as light as a pair of soccer cleats can inflict such pain on parts of the body that it never touched like your knees, hips, and back.
Refereeing soccer is truly not for the faint of heart. It takes a certain mental toughness that is often only found in Marines, Navy Seals, and elementary school teachers.