My dad’s baseball obsession can be traced back to when he was 5-years old and playing catch with his father in the backyard. His dad clocked his slow-reflexed son in the head with a blazing 40 mph throw. Some kids are motivated by watching big leaguers work their magic on a field of dreams. My dad was inspired by a black eye and a concussion. Go figure.
Over the years, Dad’s interests have greatly expanded beyond baseball. Let’s see, there’s football, basketball, hockey, tennis, golf…you get the picture. And once every four years, the most popular sport in the world becomes a bit more than a passing interest. Yes, the World Cup, soccer’s (or futbol’s) crown jewel holds Dad captive as if it had even the most remote bearing on his existence. And, as usual and customary, Dad is compelled to drag the family into the depths of his obsession.
And so, last Sunday he proclaimed that the World Cup championship match would be held in our backyard. Dad chalked up the pitch and fitted himself and yours truly with shin guards, long socks, shorts and jerseys. It was Dad, representing the U.S. team (yes, this was indeed a fantasy), vs. Flapjack, representing team Uruguay. I can only assume that Dad chose Uruguay as my team because one of that team’s stars, Luis Suarez, was recently banned for 4 months for biting an opposing player. As biting people is typically a dog thing, Dad apparently thought that Uruguay was a nice fit for me. Mom was designated as the referee, and the game was afoot (so to speak).
Thirty-seven seconds into the first half, Mom slapped Dad with a yellow card because she didn’t like his attitude. While this was happening, I quietly worked the ball into Dad’s goal, then did a victory lap around the field. Mom allowed the goal to stand because she “thought it was cute.” Dad was incensed. He tackled me and we rolled across the pitch. I was really into my role as a Uruguayan outcast, so I bit Dad on the shoulder. He screamed at Mom to eject me from the game, but Mom red-carded him for yelling at her. The game abruptly ended. Uruguay one, U.S. nil. Dad immediately appealed to FIFA and then sequestered himself in his room in a dazzling display of dignity and good sportsmanship.
Mom and I sat in the living room like ESPN analysts and recapped the game. She said, “Flap, what do you make of Dad’s behavior on the field today? Do you think he went a bit overboard?” To say that Dad goes a “bit” overboard is like similarly describing a Titanic victim. I said, “Well, it’s difficult to understand emotional shipwrecks. Perhaps it was something in his childhood. I hear he suffered a concussion…”