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Imagine yourself in a multiplex movie theater. Curiously, no walls separate the half-dozen theaters that form the multiplex. Miraculously, you are watching six different screens all at once, thoroughly understanding and enjoying every scene, word, character.

Welcome to ADHD. 

[You in the Real World, be sure to click on the red underlined hyperlinks!]

Really

“This … this is not happening,” I say in absolute disbelief.

Yes, it is! cheers Screen Six.

“No, it’s not. It … it can’t be.”

Wow, whistles Four in admiration. Those punches look like they’re being thrown by professionals!

Yeah, Six agrees, and the power behind those punches … unbelievable. They’d knock you out, boss.

“Yes, guys, I imagine they would,” I murmur.

Imagine, nothing! proclaims Five. That’s a fact, Jack.

“But I’ve never – not in all my days – seen players get this angry. And I’ve done a lot of coaching.”

Apparently, then, reasons One, you’ve never coached women’s soccer.

I think back to the gentle persuasion coming from Mark Town, my good friend and fellow player on the men’s over-30 soccer league team. “Hey, Black!” he says, and gives me a hearty thump on the back. “Sure could use another guy to help me coach the women’s soccer team.”

“Nope.”

“You’d help keep me out of trouble with Susan.” Susan is Mark’s short but talented wife, one of the premier players. “It’s not good for a husband to coach his wife.”

“I played coed, Mark. Remember? The women could trip us all they wanted, but I throw one legal slide tackle and the ref – ”

“Well, you could learn a little more about the strategies of the game. That would be useful for us in our matches.”

Say, comments Five, there’s a shot at your skills.

“At the same time, Black, we could split some of the duties. Y’know, you could work with the offense and I could run the defense.”

“Not. Thanks for the offer.”

You know most of the ladies. Mark is your friend. It’s only for one night a week, Two says, seducing me by minimizing the true time required. Well, that plus the game. We’re talkin’ hardly any time.

Tweeeeet! goes the whistle in my mouth. “All right, ladies, bring it on.” This being our first practice with me as solo coach –

Mark TownYeah, where did the Real Coach go? bellows Six. Do you seriously think the electric company sent him out of town on a two-month assignment?

– I’m hoping to set a few ground rules and establish my alpha-male dominance.

Good luck with that! laughs Five.

Ladies gather ’round me, but my one voice is no match for their excited, rapid-fire conversations.

Apparently, Four surmises, they still have quite a few of their 20,000 daily words yet to be said today. Have them run.

I suggest an easy jog or two around the field to warm the muscles. They counter with an easier stretching session first.

“Didn’t you stretch before I got here?” I ask, incredulous.

“You’re the coach. Why would we stretch before the coach gets here?”

Sigh. My forehead throbs. “Look, let’s get down and I’ll show you some exercises to loosen up. The most important thing to remember – ”

“Coach, the ground’s soaked,” says one woman. “All that rain last night.” She turns to the others. “Hey, let’s stretch standing up.” The women chatter their approval.

This is Washington State. When doesn’t it rain? Don’t they understand their games will be mud baths? asks Four, who then suggests, Call your brother Barry. Join his next swim through hammerheads. You’ll have more success.

As I slowly, carefully, patiently demonstrate and explain each stretch, I am drowned out by recipes exchanged –

Drools Screen One, Man, that pecan pie sounds killer!

–  family problems lamented, school board decisions contested and men rejected.

“Guys,” I whisper to my screens, “my gender doesn’t have the best record right now. Maybe skip the run? Tread lightly here?”

Run ’em! bellows Six. Never gonna win if they never, ever run.

“Not gonna run, Blackie,” curtly says one of the team’s more, umm, solid players, who really could use several runs of several hours apiece. “Won’t do it.”

Ask her why not, commands Five.

“Can’t,” she snaps. “And that’s all you need to know about it.” Ladies cluck in agreement and shoot looks suggesting that anyone with half a brain would understand.

Hunt brown bears, whispers Six. In Alaska. With a knife. Better survival rate.

Somehow, we make it through practice. And then through several more, as the Real Coach remains “out of town.” Game day mercifully rolls around and the evening is perfect, a light breeze offsetting the sun’s fierce heat.

hard playBut nothing offsets the competing team’s fierce play. They are everywhere at once. Time and again, I count opposing players on the field, expecting to find more than the regulation 11. As tempers rise, these players throw elbows, tug shirts, trip ankles and just generally bump, bang, bruise our gals.

After 45 minutes, players circle around me and list lamentations in less than ladylike language. I finally cut them off. “Look, I told you before we’d have to play hard. Now go out and play hard. Show them you want this match.” Sixteen mild-mannered ladies hold hands, shout, and then send 11 onto the field to the encouraging cheers of all six screens.

Minutes later, these same six screens ask, Who are those women? Momentum shifts as an impossibly perfect shot secures our first goal and a second shot not long after evens the score at two apiece.

Tensions are high, observes One. Language has slipped, says Three. They are pooped, declares Four, and I realize I’ve called no subs in several minutes. Fresher, less-experienced players now step onto the field, and the other team –

Eats them alive, sighs Five, seeing yet another of our players battered mercilessly as the referee’s whistle stays silent. Put first string back in, he begs.

Angie, young and fast and strong, turns to me and, in an ominous tone, says, “Ohh, I’ll go back in, all right.” My screens hit hyperfocus and shout, Stay tuned!  “But this – this [you can probably guess word choice] !!! – stops here, Coach.”

Our halfback’s smooth pass puts the soccer ball out to the wing, where Angie nimbly scoops it, fools a defender and takes off at high speed, her long, blonde ponytail trailing like gold flames behind her.

Trailing, that is, until the pursuing defender grabs that ponytail and yanks Angie right off her feet. A shock tsunami hits the crowd, but Angie rolls upright, catches up to the defender and –

Wow! whistles Screen Four in admiration. Those punches look like they’re being thrown by professionals!

Yeah, Six says, and the power behind those punches … unbelievable. They’d knock you out, boss.

Daydream ended, I stare at the scene before me, a surreal nightmare unwilling to release its grip. More than two dozen females punch faces, pull hair, pinch skin. Males in the form of dads, husbands, brothers and sons pour onto the field, trying to separate combatants and restore calm. Their pacifying efforts are met with hot tears, cold words, hard swats and quick slaps by friend and foe alike.

“It’s not good for a husband to coach his wife,” the Real Coach had said.

No truer words in all the Earth, laughs Six. Let’s go home.

Screen Shot 2013-04-26 at 6.52.03 PM

Postscript: This coming Saturday (Oct. 19), is “National Sweetest Day.” I state this not to accelerate my holdings in Hallmark Cards (I have neither stock nor cards) but because the holiday (with its Cleveland origins) is nicely situated among high school homecoming dances.

Ahh, those ceaseless rites of youth, sighs Screen Two. More painful than a total knee replacement.

Miss KristiJust-moved-here Kristi McMahon winds up directly behind me in the New Providence High School lunch line. Myriad times. I mention her beauty to my locker-room cohorts during second-period gym class. Occasionally I add, “Y’know, I just might ask the new girl to our dance – to Homecoming.”

Laughter and catcalls greet me. “Chicken!” several shout. “You’ll never do it. Besides, she’s quiet. Really shy. And you’re just a dateless little guy with a big mouth.”

They’re wrong, protests Five.

“Hey,” I say, touched, “thanks for speakin’ up.”

Sure, replies Five. She’s probably not that quiet.

After similar ego-bashing exchanges across several days, Four suggests I ask Miss McMahon to the dance or fall silent. “Today’s the day, boys,” shouts big-talkin’ Six through me as I burst into the locker room.
Mr. Mike“To do what?” shouts back soccer teammate Mike Monroe, one class down in grades and four grades up in class.

“Ask Kristi to the dance.”

“Seriously?”

I nod. He asks, “Gonna call her tonight?”

“No, stupid. Don’t have her phone number.”

“So, how you gonna ask her?”

“Lots of times, she winds up right behind me in lunch line.”

Screens improvise a brief scenario in which I ask the lunch ladies for a bologna sandwich, two milks, one oatmeal cookie and – oh, is too late to add a Homecoming date with the blonde beside me?

Mike laughs. “I’ll believe it when I hear it. When’s lunch?”

“Fifth period.”

Gym class ends, sending mud-slicked bodies to shower, dress and head for third period instruction. The day is normal for all of us –

Until fourth period, reminds One. Then Mike shifts his own schedule and scoots to Kristi’s classroom. There, he smiles and confidently asks the quiet new girl to the Homecoming dance.

Shyly, she accepts, says Two. And glows the entire fifth-period lunch.

*****

Not quite the soccer skill our ladies had …

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