Ain’t life a kick in the pants?

May 3, 2011 by Brad McElhinny
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Hello, it’s me, a daddy (a.k.a. “under-evolved mommy”) filling in for Carrie this week. Usually you can find me at If you read far enough into this post, I think you’ll figure out why.

All right, so if anybody’s gonna ruin my kid’s day through the arbitrary, harsh interpretation of a rule, it’s gonna be me. So imagine my surprise to show up at a peewee soccer game to find my little goofball disqualified for her footwear.

The athlete on the left was suspended one game for improper footwear. Also, see those taped-up earrings? Illegal, too. The athlete on the right gets away with the sunglasses only by being super-cute.

This has not been the greatest year anyway to be a pint-sized outdoor soccer player, unless Noah is your coach and the animals happen to be on your team. (“OK, I need two midfielders, two fullbacks and so on and so forth. Perfect!”) So even though there are only three weeks left in the season, this past weekend featured the first, actual, not-rained-out games.

The trouble at our house was conflicts. My wife had another commitment, and my two goobers had two games on separate fields at the same time. And I don’t have Star Trek-style beaming technology. Well, I couldn’t leave my littlest knucklehead alone because, for a solid hour, I would have horrifying images of her somehow winding up in a full body cast. That meant I arranged a ride for Big Sister and went to Little Sister’s game. After watching little dudes cluster around a single ball for 60 minutes, we rushed to the car, drove a couple of miles and got to Big Sister’s game around halftime. The skies were blue, the sun was shining, the kids on the field were shouting with joy and … my kid was upset out of her mind.

As it turns out, what I had missed was a referee lining up all the 8-year-olds as if they were newly-enlisted servicemen and checking out their footwear. I’ve only seen referees for that age group a couple of times, and I’ve never seen an inspection. I have no idea why it happened. Maybe the Federal Aviation Administration took over the rulebook and insisted it be as difficult to play soccer as it is to board an airplane. Well, my kid, along with her closest pal, flunked the footwear test. This is because… prepare to gasp… their shoes had toe cleats, which is athletic cleats with a rubber bump on the front.

Technically, that means she was wearing softball shoes. Which, if you want to get even more technical, makes the guy who bought the shoes (me) a doofus but does not make the wearer of the offending shoes a cheater or a danger to anyone. OK, well, maybe I’m kind of wrong because here is the rule spelled out on Page Freakin’ 4 of the rules, which I’m sure you’ve read and memorized: “Footwear must be worn. The officials during the pre-game inspection must deem the footwear non-dangerous. Examples of dangerous shoes include baseball spikes or baseball cleats with toe cleat or any sharp metal cleats.”

I get it. The idea is you might kick someone just a little too dead-on with that toe cleat and injure their Achilles tendon or some part even more sensitive. But have you seen my kid play soccer? I have. Aggressive is not her middle name. Her middle name is Marie, if you want to get REALLY technical, which, apparently, you do. What she does when she’s playing soccer is if the ball happens to come within a couple of yards of her, she’ll drift up near it and take a casual look around to see if anybody else seems to want to kick the ball AND SHE WILL LET THEM. If not, she will give the ball a gentle tap, whereupon the opposing team will recover the ball and score. She wouldn’t be a danger to anyone, even if she had Chinese throwing stars in her socks and a flamethrower strapped to her back.


Had I been there, I would have thrown a giant fit like Billy Martin back with the New York Yankees, kicking wet sod all over the place with my no-toe-cleat shoes. (In reality, I would have rushed us all off to the same dumb retail store where I bought the shoes in the first place and bought some new ones. Or, I would have run off to a nearby tool store to get a hacksaw to whack away at the offending referee toe cleat, thus making my goober eligible.)

But since I showed up at halftime and there was really nothing that could be done by then and because I was totally flummoxed since I’d had the entire situation explained to me by an exasperated 8-year-old, I sat down yoga-style, ready for some stupid affirmation and ignoramus reflection.


So on the other hand, this sucked. True, we had unwittingly broken a rule. And you have to pay the penalty when you break a rule even if it is an arbitrary one that doesn’t take into account your good character or solid citizenship. Adults learn this all the time, like when they get stopped on the highway for exceeding the speed limit with the police officer paying no attention to the mitigating circumstance that a really good song had just come on the radio.

What I mean is, at 8 years old, she’s already learning that a faceless bureaucracy can unfeelingly grind you against its wheel of inflexible rules the first time you’ve gotten to play soccer, after a season of rain, on a beautiful day, when you are wearing the wrong stupid shoes that your doofus dad bought you, and when that same doofus dad was at your embarrassing little sister’s game and not there to defend you and, in fact, you had no intention of kicking anyone — not even the actual ball.

Life’s not fair.

But I’m the one who’s supposed to teach that. Not some dumb soccer referee.

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10 Responses to “Ain’t life a kick in the pants?”

  1. Katy BrownNo Gravatar says:

    I would have given a month’s billable hours to see you pull a Billy Martin!!

  2. bradmcNo Gravatar says:

    Better to pull a Tommy Lasorda, which means you get to go eat a big plate of spaghetti once you’ve been kicked out of the game.

  3. Katy BrownNo Gravatar says:


    REALLY funny piece. I’m still laughing over the hacksaw.

  4. CaraNo Gravatar says:

    Sounds like a great time to switch the kiddo to the clearly superior sport of softball. I kid, I actually made the same mistake the first time I played outdoor soccer (I started in an indoor league). Someone asked if I had cleats, and of course I carry around a pair in my trunk, so I pulled them on, played a game, and only after was told I was wearing softball cleats at the end. So, it’s not as common knowledge as soccer refs believe. Either that, or everyone knows but you and I…

    And I will chip in with you Katy, I want the Billy Martin tantrum as well. The more upset Brad gets, the more subdued he becomes.

  5. Karan I.No Gravatar says:


  6. Katy BrownNo Gravatar says:

    I’m glad Little One wasn’t wearing the toe cleats when she nailed you in the leg over the before-dinner-candy-bar incident.

  7. NoelleNo Gravatar says:

    If I makes you feel better, I too am a dufuss and it’s a good thing I wasn’t t there either because I reacted badly on the phone upon hearing of the incident. I am liking indoor soccer even more at this point!

  8. EvanNo Gravatar says:


    Having played soccer for the better part of my past 29 years on this earth, I’d like to offer a cleat tutorial. Not now, as it would lengthy and detailed, but soon. Great post.

  9. bradmcNo Gravatar says:

    I really wish I’d gotten better guidance from the disinterested-seeming guy in the chain retail store where I bought the shoes in the first place. It’s been a long time since I bought the shoes but I really think I said the key word “soccer.”

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