match-ups and results


Like every other Good American Male, I take my sports page seriously.

One of our local newspapers has begun printing the scores and highlights of youth soccer games. The report is thorough, filling all of page 4 above the fold. In small print, with players' names in bold to make parental scanning easier, and to ensure subscription renewals, match-ups and results are here for all to see. Leagues are formed by age group and gender, in two-year divisions from 6 to 13. Under 6 is co-ed.

I'm certain the only people who read this are parents, grandparents, and siblings of the participants.

And me.

I read this page not because of my interest in soccer but because there is great truth in the drama of team names. They are arrived at by consensus of the players (one hopes) in the pre-season and are heavy with implications of ferocity, anthropomorphism and, particularly in the case of young girls, a love of pink. Like candy makers, they giggle and throw their ideas into a pot and whatever comes out tasting best is what goes on the t-shirts. They want to be known as winners, but they also want to be known as Raptors and Sharks and Lightning.

Even before a game, a child's imagination, and now mine too, will conjure an outcome in a sort of Rock/Paper/Scissors method of deciding victory.

For example, in the Girls Under 10 division, the Purple Pythons beat the Queen Bees. Anyone could've predicted this. Queen Bees are smaller than any snake known to science; the python, a constrictor to boot, wins hands-down.

This logic carries through to the contest between the Dolphins and the Sparklers - it's a hot piece of wire versus a toothed whale fer-cryin'-out-loud. In the match between the Grasshoppers and the Firecrackers, however, one cannot help but expect explosives to triumph over insects. That game may be one-sided, but it makes for some thrilling visuals.

In a clash between the Pink Panthers and the Twisters, all bets are off. Speed versus unpredictability renders it a toss up, in my mind. And what can be said of the struggle between Pink Ladies and The Living Nightmare? I've known pink ladies with potent venom, but that's no good against something as wispy as a living nightmare. Each seems to carry its own mysteries here.

The battle between the Blueberries and the Fireflies - too close to call.

Among the boys' teams the predictions are no easier. Silver Snakes vs. Firebombs? You decide. Tigers vs. Fireballs, simply not enough information to go on. And what's the difference between a firebomb and a fireball in size, duration, intensity? Green Goblins vs. Blue Bulldogs? Again, mysteries.

Despite what may seem an obvious choice of victors in the battle of the Wolf Pack vs. the Bad Boys, remember, a wolf may be a wolf, but what muddles our senses and leaves us heading for the hills to rethink our strategies more than a Bad Boy? Some days, especially the ones where I've dodged one-too-many skateboards, secretly, shamefully, this is one battle I'd like to watch.

* * * * * * *

If you're lucky enough to be around when kids are giving names to things, the world is suddenly funny and dear and young again. The alchemy of a self-named group is still sweet among the little gangs of girls and boys whose only turf to guard is a rectangle of grass in a park between ten o'clock and noon. In other places not far away are names that produce an alchemy altogether different, and turf is stained by something other than Gatorade, though still at the hands of children.

We suburbanoids get a lot of flak about living where we do -- it's in op-ed pieces, sitcoms, talk-radio, you name it -- as if we were lost in well-mown bliss, AWOL from the Good Fight. But the fight isn't in exotic locales as much as it's in that space between your lips and your kid's ear, or in whether he knows ignorance when he sees it, be it in the streets of Birmingham in the '60's or in the mall yesterday.

Life and death, pain and sacrifice, ignorance, stupidity, injustice, they all happen here. I can drive around the block and find them. It doesn't matter where you are, if your eyes are open you'll see a fight. To know where trouble lies you have to know what trouble is, and you can't know what trouble is unless you know what trouble isn't. What it isn't is a girl in gold and blue running on a sunny September field of grass, her heart in the game, and her eye on the ball. At first glance it's child's play. But if you take another look you might find the future wearing a t-shirt that says The Living Nightmare, and her kind is soon to be in charge of caring for the welfare of families and nations. It may be very dull to you, but I think it's where the Good Fight is. Mine, anyway.

Of course, I won't be absolutely certain of this until I open the paper one day to find that, in the Under 8 Girls division, it was Utopians 7, Philistines 0.


Today's Music:

"Airegin" -- The Manhattan Transfer -- VOCALESE


Wisdom of the Day:

"Names are not always what they seem. The common Welsh name Bzjxxllwcp is pronounced Jackson."

-Mark Twain