September 18, 1997

Well, yesterday afternoon, the heavens opened up and it poured and poured and poured and... I leaned against the glass of the windows that run the length of our side of the building and watched the thickness of the rain and Mike Holley asked, "Do you ever call soccer games because of the rain?"

"Nope." I said, watching the veil of water sheeting off the roof to the grass.

"Yeah. I guess if you called soccer games in Seattle because of rain, you wouldn't play."

"Yup." I thought a bit and sighed, "Man, I'm gonna be so soaked."

Turned out that all the moms overruled John and forbade practice in the rain. He sounded a little rueful, but we both drove home and then got into one car to go to the game. By the time we got to Wilberton, there was clearing on the horizon, a streak of brilliant gold and blue, and as the sun set, the gold light lanced from that open pocket and actually touched down around us for a minute or three before the sun set or some clouds moved into place. It rained the entire time. We're losing the days to the shortening of the light as well as the lengthening of the dark.

Greg and Mike were there when we showed up. Erin drove up in a FleaBusters truck, and we stood around in the rain, listening to the Mariner's game while Erin huddled in front of his heater. Erin's friend Eric showed up a few minutes later, so that made six. They had about three. The ref showed up, setup the goal nets and told us we had one minute until game time. We trooped down to the field eventhough Erin was muttering about having to come back up as soon as we were down there because neither team had the pre-requisit seven. But the ref had the meeting of captains and they did the toss, and by the time they were done it turned out we had two more people that I didn't know, one man and one woman, and Yura showed up as well. Turns out the other two were from the Sunday Funnies team that a number of the Red Herrings also played on. Sunday Funnies is the usual name for a Sunday morning league for various reasons including the association with the Sunday morning paper's colorful comics.

So we had nine. Then Colin showed up and Michele as well. We could only play six men, so the guy I didn't know and Colin stayed on the sideline and we played.

The field was sloppy, puddled, mushy where it wasn't drowned. So the ball would hydroplane or stop *sploot* in the mud. The defense, on our side, had no assignments, but was free flowing, just the three of us against the world it felt like, at times. Mike, who's solid but not very fast, John and I were the back line. Eric was playing mid-field, which is usually a dangerous position to put someone that's new to the team, but since he had played with others of the team, he was really good about knowing where Greg and Michele were going to get to. He was a joy to watch, too. The unknown woman was playing right wing/halfback, and Yura was floating between mid-field and front, as usual. Just running like crazy. After the game he was talking about how the game had been quite a workout. Erin, as befits his nature, was goalie.

For the first half they were flooding my side. I was also confused as hell as to how the defense was actually working, so I went back to the default mentality of when I'm on a team that's short a few people, which is play the ball if someone else isn't already on them, and then look to cover the shortest pass. It worked. I was also just taking the ball away from them repeatedly, or covering them hard enough to make them go to the outside, cutting down their angle on the goal. Sloppy, wet work on a field that was half like a beach half under water.

It was also a challange, competitive because they often flooded a guy and a gal, and then another guy up my side, and while they wouldn't pass very frequently, they did pass enough that I had to cover all three. None of this gender bias, which made my job harder, but less frustrating on a different plane. Eventhough there was only me, there was also only the ball. A different way of thinking of it, perhaps; but if I delayed the formation enough, people would get back to help.

What really helped is that our offense managed to keep the ball mostly in their territory. Kept it up there and as a threat. That was very nice, to be able to breath for a while as they worked it up the field. It still astonishes me to be able to rest while jogging. That confuses me and confounds me, still, to be that fit. After so many years being the weakling, the last picked for a team, the asthematic, to be able to actually rest while jogging, as opposed to a full out sprint, is just astonishing to me.

During the half I asked what the score was, and Greg said, half smiling, "It's 1-0. Ours. Can't you count that high?" I laughed, "Not when I'm on defense." Turns out that he was the one that scored the goal.

Second half they flooded the other side. So I was cheating more and more into the middle to cover for the folks that were also moving to that side. Colin came in for defense for a long time, eventually Greg moved back and let Colin go up to play offense for a while. Then a guy elbowed John in the side of the head. What dismayed me was that I was so tired, I really didn't want to go all the way up the field to see if John was okay. He was getting up okay and they subbed for him, but I didn't even have the energy to walk all the way up the field to get to see him and then have to walk all the way back and play again.

We scored several more times. Greg got another one, because I know that when he came back on defense, Erin was joking with him about why he wasn't going to try and do a hat trick. I know John scored a very sweet one, as Greg, likely, crossed the ball, Yura was covered so he let it go by to John who was wide open on the opposite side. John put it in the half of the goal the goalie wasn't covering with a very simple, on the ground kick and I remembered the kick, not the person, beucase I thought Michele had done that. Yura got a penalty kick for getting tackled and brought down in the box by the same guy that elbowed John just as the goalie got control of the ball. Yura scored the penalty kick and Erin said he'd have killed the guy if he were the other goalie.

At one point, the guy that elbowed John came charging down the center of the field with the ball, so I charged him, straight, touched the ball away from him and instead of veering off at all, he landed right on my right foot, and I felt something snap. Snarling, I put my shoulder into him and went for the ball, touched it up to Eric and they made off with it and took it back up the field. I very gingerly put my foot down and felt the nail move on my longest toe, but the toe and foot didn't feel broken, so I walked on it and then ran on it as I had to do more defensive work. I took the ball away from the guy three more times, and Erin cheered me on, so I told him that he was the guy that busted my foot, grump, so I didn't like him much.

A slender, blond, fast guy on their team who complained a lot about all the calls, brought the ball up, and I tried to keep inside him. But my right calf cramped, and so I was yelling, "Help hel help. I gotta cramp..." and Greg came to him as he passed me. The blond shot, Greg touched it with one foot, and the ball curved in, and just barely hit the inside top corner of the goal.

I went off the field from the cramp and all, and Michele came back to cover for me for the last few minutes of the game. I hadn't even walked around the field to the bench when the ref blew the whistle that ended the game, and that was that.

Interesting to realize that while I play the backline, the only things I really remember are the goals that are scored against us. Not really most of our scores on them.

The rain had ended by the time the game was done, which was good, eventhough we were soaked, there wasn't more cold water coming down. Greg, before the game, had said something about the rain not being so bad, but it would be better if it had gone through a water heater, first. The hot shower proved that true... though taking the shoes and socks off the foot was something of an adventure. The nail that broke was one that had just finished shedding a busted nail a week ago, and the whole structure had been smashed into my toe, with most of the quick ripped apart, so there was blood all inside the shoe. Grump.

John was a sweety and made spagetti and meatball dinner while I lay on the couch with my toe and food propped up. The meatballs are something of a story in and of themselves, nearly a year old, from Costco, they come in a bag and are pre-cooked and flash frozen to let them keep their individual integrity. I'm impressed that a year old meatball can still be pretty savory if just a bit more dense. Food is good when one is tired and hungry.

Everything ached when I finally went to bed and it took a while to sleep. Mochas this morning made things better, all in all...

©1997 by Liralen Li

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