Wholesome activities

Jacquie wanted to go see her young nephews play soccer.

I’m still wondering how she roped me in. If I were a parent and my eight-year-old tried to drag me out of bed on my day off, just to stand on a cold, dank field for three hours while she tried to get her spasmodic neuromuscular issues under control, I’d tell her to fuck off. How boring. Then I’d stick a bag of Doritos in her hands, and go back to sleep. After all, I don’t hate kids. I just don’t want to have anything to do with them.

Parents are by no means immune to such thoughts. Don’t be fooled. The square community just doesn’t like to advertise the contempt they hold for most of their children’s activities. They think it would make them seem like bad parents. But it’s quite the opposite.

A conscientious mother or father should gladly provide their children with a healthy dose of reality. Would it really hurt a boy much if his mom said something besides “good job” every time he accidentally came in contact with a ball roughly 65% his mass and volume? That’s not an accomplishment. Kids accidentally bump into things all the time, but you don’t hear parents scream “good job” when that happens, do you? Why is soccer so special? If you put a bunch of kids on a field with a ball, chances are one of their feet will touch the ball, eventually.  So, just once, it would have been nice to hear a soccer mom scream something like, “well done, honey, statistically speaking,” while continuously looking at her watch.

As I said, I’m not sure how Jacquie roped me into getting up at 7 a.m.—an ungodly hour even on a work day—simply to watch other people’s children play soccer. It is annoying to get up early on a Saturday. But to to so with the express purpose of enduring two of life’s most tedious horrors, sports and children? It buggered belief. I sat in the car during 25 minute drive to Huapai when my life went so wrong.

We found the Norwest United AFC soccer club playing field, in spite of my sister-in-law’s best efforts. This is not a slam on her in particular. Kiwis generally hate giving or receiving directions. Whenever someone at work asks me where I sit, and I don’t want to see them, I tell them my desk is in the northwest corner of the building. That usually does the trick. By the time it takes them to figure out which way north is, they’ve given up on ever seeing me in person, and send me an email instead.

New Zealanders hate road maps. They prefer GPS devices instead. I’ve always found GPS devices rather distracting. The one that I used last year couldn’t articulate Maori place names. A text-to-speech feature unable to pronounce a country’s other official language is pretty useless. And besides, if want driving directions barked at me in an incomprehensible accent, I already have Jacquie in the passenger seat.

As we walked across the field in the rosy-fingered dawn, I tried to come up with a way to cut short this excursion. The only thing I came up with was to act like those obnoxious parents that used to watch my teammates in little league when i was a kid. But I didn’t have any hard alcohol with me, so I wasn’t sure if I could do it authentically. I didn’t want to cause confusion. I just wanted to get kicked off the playing field.

We were introduced around to some of the parents. They were warm and friendly and happy to see one another. Even the league appeared to be institutionally structured around parental involvement beyond sideline booster-ism. They took turns supplying fruit, coaching and acting as referees. After the games, they talked about what the kids did right, regardless of the score, and they recognized MVPs from both teams, awarded on merit, with a touch of democracy. Everyone would probably get one eventually. This is not to suggest they sacrificed the nature of the game to sportsmanship or a liberal’s idea of what’s fair. It’s just that it allowed the children to contend, without the uglier side of competitiveness always in your face, which is how I remember little league to be.

Needless to say, I was genuinely surprised. I was actually pleased to be there. But this was deceptive. They had lulled me into a false sense of warmth for human society

You see, the field was separated by a rise into two parts, with the younger children playing in the lower fields. When it came time for the older kids to play, we all moved. But as we moved, we saw a woman and her son ahead of us on the ridge line. She stooped over the boy, pulled down his pants, and right there in front of more than 100 people—including women and children—the boy proceeded to urinate. The ironic thing about it was they were 20 feet away from a toilet. Nobody seemed to mind. And if that all weren’t bad enough, when the boy was done pissing, his mother gave his penis a couple of shakes to get rid of the little drips that are often left behind under such circumstances.

The whole thing was quite distasteful. And patently unfair. What do you think would happen if it were me up there with my pants down, with Jacquie giving my penis “a little shake”? We’d never hear the end of it. We’d probably even be the lead story on the nightly news. But this mom is allowed to hose down the field with her son’s urine? I’m sorry, but double-standards sour me on people. When I saw that lady again a little while later, I couldn’t help thinking to myself, “shit, I’m glad we’re not the sole survivors of a zombie holocaust”.

This came to mind because Jacquie and I had just finished watching the second season of The Walking Dead, largely because the writers hadn’t quite worn out its novelty by the end of season one. But almost right from the start of the second season, they do everything in their power to every single character completely unlikable.

I told Jacquie that if being on the soccer field that morning resembled in a zombie apocalypse, I would have no part of it. I would definitely kill myself. Who wants to live in a world where your choices are zombies, or a group of speechifying geeks and rednecks. As Jacquie says, we’d be more likely to die from boredom than a zombie bite. The problem with season 2 is that the writers have ramrodded cookie-cutter dramatic domesticity into an apocalyptic context. But the characters’ motivation just occasionally ties together with the zombie premise. They more often than not grapple with mundane conflicts—extramarital affairs, unwanted pregnancies, inter-racial dating—in mundane ways. The characters are prone to orating moral positions, leaving aside all consideration of zombies. It’s only when the narrative requires a boost to the next plot point that the characters motivation connects with zombies.

In the end, I don’t want to condemn a good thing because of one urinating apple. All in all, these folks were nice-enough. And it was good to know my usual cynicism can be countered from time-to-time. So, to all those people who were at the soccer games that Saturday morning, I would gladly survive a Zombie holocaust with you. Just don’t piss near me.