Well, friends, it was a wild weekend of sporting….shenanigans….for Team WestEnders, let me tell ya! I mean, there was the obvious NCAA mayhem, which we couldn’t seem to tear ourselves away from--although to me, the atmosphere of upsets and unpredictability created an uncomfortable feeling...sort of like rubbernecking on the highway,as you drive past an accident.
I mean, c’mon...first the overall #1 seed falls in spectacular fashion to a scrappy 16 from Baltimore that no one (except perhaps those of us who attended school across town in Charm City) had ever heard of, and whose mascot is a friendly, hardworking family pooch. And then, speaking of spunky...and alma maters (yeah, yeah, a different Loyola, but still the same saint, right?...how about the Ramblers from Chicago, and their adorable chaplain, Sister Jean? But could you please do me a huge favor, and NOT mention the hometown crew, the reigning champs, who got embarrassingly bounced out of the Round of 32…’cuz it’s just too soon…
Moving on to a more personal note, Riley and I ran our traditional “first race of the season”, the 5K for Education. We like this one because it takes place in downtown Chapel Hill, and the route winds mostly through UNC’s lovely campus. However, I will say that--although the path is always exactly the same--it somehow manages to feel hillier to me every year. Eh, it’s all good, though--anything under a half-hour, I’ll take for the win! Riley, of course, cruised in 9 minutes ahead of me, and finished just out of the medal contention, 11th overall, and 4 SECONDS behind the guy who beat him out in his age group. (Rats--so close!) Regardless, we were both content with the results, especially having just started back up after our self-imposed “off season” (which in NC consists of...only January and February….)
Then we could go home and chill for the rest of the day…whoops...I mean “get cleaned up, grab a snack, and drive an hour to an early afternoon soccer game”. Now, I realize this is nothing unusual for our family...however, the match itself turned out to be quite the drama-filled affair. The first half actually progressed fairly routinely--a goal was scored on either end of the pitch, making it even when the whistle blew to signal the end of the 35 minutes. Early in the second period, though, was when things got a bit...chaotic. You see, the spectators rooting for Riley’s black-clad team felt that the referee had been regularly calling fouls that just...weren’t...with all of them going against the visitors. On one of these questionable whistles, he granted the opposing team an indirect kick in front of the goal.
It’s what happened next that began to send things careening off the rails: on the free kick, several of the other squad’s players appeared to fall to the ground. The ref promptly decided that they’d been pushed, or tripped, and awarded a penalty kick...which they converted, to put them up 2-1. But here’s where it goes to crazytown: our goalie’s father was recording the sequence, presumably for analysis and instructional purposes later. Obviously, we don’t have the benefit of instant replay, or multiple camera angles, or ESPN-quality film...but his short video seems to show the players in question throwing themselves to the ground under our guys’ feet, to draw the ref’s attention, and the foul call.
Soooo….at this point, our normally soft-spoken, calm, understated coach...went ballistic. Not in a profane or disrespectful fashion, mind you, but...let’s just say, “loudly stating his opinion on the quality of the officiating”, and leave it at that. The ref immediately issued him a red card, essentially ejecting him from the field. We heard later that this was ostensibly done because he’d “stepped out of the coach’s box”...which I’ve never seen enforced, in all the years I’ve been attending soccer events, by the way.
For good measure, he also red-carded one of our players, and sent him off as well. (In this case, I assume he was making...inappropriate and/or uncomplimentary remarks...within the ref’s earshot.) Finally, in a stunning coup de grace, while we were all milling about, talking amongst ourselves about this shocking turn of events, the ref blew his whistle with an air of finality...and declared that the game was OVER.
I’m sorry...what now? According to our team manager (a player’s mother), since her name wasn’t written on the official roster, she wasn’t allowed to take over for our ousted coach and finish the match. (I will restrain myself with great difficulty from commenting, here....except to say that it sounds like something that rhymes with wool...spit.) Much furious discussion ensued, but to no avail, so we had no choice but to pack up and drive an hour back home, after a supremely unsatisfying interlude in Sanford, NC. Apparently, an appeal will be filed with the league, requesting to replay the game at a neutral site...WITHOUT the services of that particular referee, one would hope.
Anyway, it certainly gave Riley and me plenty to talk about on the long return trip. And by now, he had definitely earned his relaxation time, yeah? Suuuuuure...right up until Sunday morning, that is, when he and Husband had to get back in the car and travel TWO hours this time for another game...in which the team would be instructed by an alternative leader, and playing without the boy who’d been tossed, since a red card essentially amounts to a one-game suspension.
As for me, I was just happy I got to sit that one out, having paid my dues on Saturday. And that, my friends, is entirely enough athletic commotion for one weekend, thankyouverymuch! And now, it’s Monday…..siiighhhh…. Hey, is there any way I can get myself penalized...and sit on the bench until Tuesday? Hmm...