Saturday, February 14, 2009

The magic helmet

If you have ever participated in organized youth sports as a coach, team manager or player, you know that there is never a shortage of psychotic, maniacal "adults" who simply cannot grasp that sports for kids should be about, well, sports for kids.

No, no, no . . .

and no.

No, not for these lunatics, who somehow cannot distinguish between the importance of seven, nine, 10, 13 or even 16 year-olds playing a game because they're seven, nine, 10, 13 or even 16 and enjoy it. Or love it. Or live for it . . .

and, oh, I don't know, the decision of the Pakistani government to reach an "accord" with the Taliban. Or the 45 million Americans without health insurance. Or the "Oh, come on" attitude of the permanent political-media establishment in Washington at the suggestion of any sort of investigation into the Bush administration's flouting of the law or President Obama's still-standing decision to limit lobbyist influence in his administration.

Who needs caffeine at 6.55 a.m. on a Sunday morning in a freezing cold ice rink -- or, better yet, a freezing cold outdoor ice rink in January or February -- when you can have the pleasure of watching some angry father, usually two or three lifetimes removed from any sort of proper physical conditioning, bang the glass when his son skates by, imploring him to "SKATE, SKATE, SKATE!!!!!" Of course, there is the argument that perhaps the nine year-old needs to be reminded that since he is wearing skates, he probably should skate. On the other hand, let's just assume that most nine-year olds can figure that much out. Picture this: the nine year-old who can't figure out that he is supposed to skate with his skates on is standing just outside the window of his dad's office, screaming at him to "WRITE, WRITE, WRITE," or a few feet away from the sawhorse at his dad's construction worksite, standing on a ladder so he can meet him at eye level, yelling at him to "HAMMER! HAMMER! HAMMER!" or he will pull him off the site and dock his pay -- right in front of his co-workers just so he learns a lesson.

Stories like this abound . . . the mother who threatens to pull her son from the team because the coach is playing him at the "wrong" position and thus costing him a chance to play in high school or college.

At 12.

The mother who always "volunteers" to keep score during the game so that she can award her son goals and assists he didn't have, all the better to improve his "standing" among the "league's statistical leaders."

At 11.

The father-coach so angered by a bad line change on his team of House Squirts that, without looking, he slams the bench door so hard that he breaks a player's hand . . . his own son's.

At 9.

The father-coach who "retains counsel" so he can sue the league or, at minimum, file a complaint with USA Hockey over the "tie-breakers" used to determine the playoff seeding of the House Mite end-of-season championship tournament.

At 7 and 8.

The mother-team manager who insists that a referee is calling penalties against "her" team and her son specifically because the referees think the other mom-manager is hot.

At 14.

And on and on it goes. And goes and goes and goes . . . .

But no story I can tell can capture the plaintive needs of children to be left alone to play a game they love than a current video making the rounds called, "The Magic Helmet." A nine-year Canadian boy tells a story of what happens to him at the rink when he puts on his "magic helmet." Here's the sad part: the parents to whom he's speaking -- not the ones in his basement making the video -- will watch, shake their heads and say, "You know, that reminds me of so-and-so on that team 'we' played two weeks ago," without realizing that the boy is talking to them.

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