Try music to soothe the savage parent.

| Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Spectator
Jeremiah M. Murphy

“It’s a bunch of kids kicking a ball around.”

I try to keep that in mind when I watch my kids play organized sports. It helps keep things in perspective.

I’m not a great fan of organizing sports for kids. I think I understand why organized sports have swept away sandlot games. But I also think the organization of so many kid’s games creates problems - problems like parents on the sidelines.

Take soccer for example –

I was at a boy’s soccer game at Sioux Park one fine autumn afternoon when a parent went ballistic over a remarkably inept call by the referee. The parent hollered at the ref in a voice so loud it was heard by people eating lunch across town at Tally’s. This knucklehead went off like a bomb. I understand he apologized to the coach and to team members (including his own son) for his outburst. Rumor has it he even gave his kid a prized t-shirt to make amends for his gaffe.

Parents can really mess up the simple pleasures of a bunch of kids kicking a ball around.

Some parents coach from the sidelines. “Move up!” “Move back!” “Move to the left!” “To the right!” “Don’t mark that guy!” “Mark that guy!” Paaass!” “Shooot!” This drives (actual) coaches and players nuts. I don’t coach from the sidelines. This isn’t due to virtue but to ignorance - I don’t know anything about soccer.

Some parents goad opposing players. You’ll hear parents at soccer games yell stuff like this: “Don’t stoop to their level boys!” Nice huh? I’ve used that one. My wife Kaia hates that. Hate’s it. That’s because she’s a good person who is kind to others.

Some parents heckle refs - “Hang in there kids – you can beat all twelve of ‘em!” This one is a guilty pleasure of mine. I shouldn’t yell this, but I do. It’s a stealth taunt - am I picking on the ref or am I innumerate? I’ve yelled this at soccer games and gotten a neat double-take from parents and refs. “Hey, wait a sec, did he mean . . . ?”

But don’t despair. If you’re a parent like me, there is help for you.

I discovered the solution to my bad sidelines behavior at a soccer tournament in Boulder. It was a tournament for sixteen and seventeen year olds so the play was physical and emotions ran high. For the first couple games I was goading opposing fans, players, and the refs for all I was worth. Opposing fans were giving as well as they were getting. Some of us parents were doing our best to suck the fun right out of the deal.

Then, to pass the time between the second and third games of the weekend, I listened to music through the earphones of my MP3 player. When the third game started, and with the music still playing, I realized something – this was nice! It’s fun to watch kids play soccer. But it’s a gas to watch kids play soccer with a soundtrack.

BB King and Gary Moore were playing “The Thrill is Gone” as I had this epiphany. It was a great combination – soothing music laid over soccer. Better yet, I couldn’t hear taunts from opposing fans so I wasn’t tempted to respond. Bonus!

If you want to add music to your soccer experience the trick is to find tunes that synch with the speed of play.

A song like “Last Night” by the Mar-keys is a great compliment to a soccer game. “Sack O’ Woe” (I like the George Benson version) works well. “Express Yourself” by Charles Wright and the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band or “As the Years Go Passing By” by Boz Scaggs with Booker T and the MGs are great for soccer. “Neighborhood” by Tift Merritt is good. “Yeah, yeah” by Georgie Fame and the Famous Flames is terrific.

Be careful though, punch up something hot like “You Can’t Stop Progress” by Clutch or “Money” by the Sonics and you’ll only make things worse. Your pulse and blood pressure will ascend to dangerous levels and you’ll be tempted to throw yourself right into the middle of the game.

You get the picture. If you find yourself at a kid’s soccer game, plug in the tunes and leave the game to the kids. Because I’ll tell you, if I’d been listening to “Loan Me A Dime” by Boz Scaggs or “Corrina, Corrina” by Bob Dylan that fine autumn day at Sioux Park, I wouldn’t have had to apologize to all those people. And I’d still have that t-shirt.

I really miss that t-shirt.

(Originally published in the September 16th, 2007 Rapid City Journal)