Thursday, October 10, 2013

Damn You, Soccer Socks. Damn You Straight to Hell.

If it’s a Saturday in Autumn, you can be certain of at least one thing: at some point in the day our house will be host to a desperate, frantic, tear-filled search for a clean pair of soccer socks.

I adore soccer. Yet I have grown to truly hate soccer socks. Maybe I shouldn’t say hate. As a rule we discourage casual use of the word “hate” in our family. So, let’s just say I detest soccer socks. Better yet, I loathe soccer socks.

Again, I really like soccer. I played all while growing up, and into high school. And, I’ve always been one of those soccer snobs who thinks following international play makes me a superior person. You know the type.  

I have a favorite premier league team: the Gunners, of course. And I have a strong opinion about who is the best midfielder in the world. And it’s not Xavi, or even Ronaldo, who’s more of a striker in my eyes. As you can see, my self-proclaimed affinity for soccer borders on the obnoxious. 

So when our kids became of soccer playing age, we did like most American families and signed them up. These days we have two kids playing, and I happen to be the coach for one of their teams and the assistant coach for the other. Luckily, my kids love soccer, too.

But do they love soccer enough to just put on any pair of soccer socks and play? No.

Our younger soccer player, in particular, refuses to wear just any pair of soccer socks, of which we have quite a few. And each Saturday in Fall (and Sundays now too, with both of them playing) the same scene unfolds, usually about an hour before game time.
“Do you have your soccer socks?” I ask, to blank stares from said child. And so it begins. 

“Let’s find them!” I order, as the anxiety of being late for a game I’m coaching gets the better of my tone, and we set off in search of the missing socks. 

Behold, I have seen the enemy. 
And, it has four pink stripes
and is made of cotton.
We start by searching for my wife, who often displays encyclopedic knowledge of the whereabouts of every piece of clothing in the house, to ask if she knows where said socks may be.

“Honey!”  I’ll call, either up the stairs or down the stairs, or in the general direction of where the mother of my children is at that moment. “Have you seen her soccer socks?!”

The answer goes something like this, emanating from whichever floor my wife is on at the time:  “One pair is in the basket upstairs! There's another in her sock drawer! And a third just finished up in the washer!”

You’d think knowing the approximate whereabouts of three pairs of soccer socks at this point would make finding and putting on a pair easy. But it doesn’t.
Invariably, the pair in the drawer doesn’t fit right and they never have, I’m informed. And, it turns out there’s only one sock in the basket, all alone, a state many socks tend to find themselves at the end of the laundry cycle. It was the wrong pair anyway. Because, you can almost guarantee, that the preferred pair of socks -- the ones with the four pink stripes – are almost certainly wet and in the washing machine. 

There are, of course, many other pairs of clean soccer socks in the house, a small army of seldom used stockings amassed over several years of our finicky kids playing soccer. But none of those others ones will suffice. This particular soccer player needs the pink-striped pair.  

Doesn't she know that once you're running around, you won't notice what socks you're wearing? She should, because I tell her this every time. She refuses to believe it. Doesn't she know that some kids in the world play soccer barefoot, on fields made of dirt? And that she should just feel lucky to have any socks at all, and a ball not made of duct tape? None of these logical arguments move her off the pressing need for this particular pair of socks.  

In all my years playing soccer, I don’t remember once caring about which socks I wore. Cleats mattered. Shin-guards mattered. But socks?

Yet, as our family goes through our weekly pregame ritual, the passion about socks becomes evident. There’s often screaming. A few tears. Occasionally, there are threats of never signing them up for soccer ever again, or of making them play barefoot, depending on which parent makes the threat. 

Then somehow, almost miraculously, the damned pair of pink striped soccer socks are dry and on the feet.

And, we finally get to go play and coach and watch soccer. Which, we do adore.    

By the way, if you're  wondering who is the best midfielder in the world. Clearly, it's Cesc Fabregas.

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