Sunday, May 21, 2017

The Pitch Of Love: A story about family, betrayal, and indoor soccer

The TV was so loud that I could only see, not hear, the phone call that changed my family forever. My dad stood still in the middle of the kitchen, clasping the phone between his chin and shoulder, but as the news sank in, his head began to move back and forth, twisting in such an over-the-top, directionless chaos, that I didn't even notice the phone drop; I blinked, and the chord was just swinging beside him, like deranged pendulum. My dad collapsed to the ground and I ran into the room, meeting him on the cold, hardwood floor. He broke the news to me fast: Hannah, I'm so sorry. You didn't make the soccer team.

My life would never be the same.


I actually did make the soccer team, just not the starting line up, but to my dad, being benched was an even greater sin than being cut. That a Hogan, a family respected for generations as supreme baseball, hockey and rugby players, would be condemned to the bench, was not only an embarrassment, but an egregious insult; an attack on our entire family too terrifying for my dad to accept. So he didn't, and, instead, declined the offer and immediately began plotting his revenge.

Invigorated by spite, my dad did something that had never been done before in the history of Peterborough sports. He formed another all star soccer team; a second, alternative squad, that was in the same league as, and would compete against, the team who had just rejected us. Like Hitler, my dad attempted a coup on the Under 13 Girls Indoor Soccer League, declaring himself the new coach in town and his daughter its captain. His bold seizure of power was poorly received by the original all star team- they were furious-and what should have been a fun loving season of soccer, a way for kids and parents to get through the long winter months, turned into a hellish nightmare of divided loyalties and tween in-fighting. Parent turned against child, child turned against parent. Friendships burned under a fire of bruised egos and Seventeen Magazines.

My team, unaffectionately referred to as the B Team, was comprised of several out of shape, flat footed, and athletically challenged thirteen year old girls. My dad, however, ignored these glaring deficiencies and began every practise with a melodramatic filibuster about being underdogs. I didn't buy into his propaganda because I had a talent for seeing through hubris, since, as a pre-teen, most of the time, I was creating it. In the beginning, I oppressed my disdain for my dad and the spectacle he called coaching, but as the season progressed, we digressed, losing every game. The harder our team fell, the more determined to win my dad became, and his competitive focus was always directly proportional to my rising levels of irritation. We began to argue. The shame of failure weighed on me. The stigma of being related to the man who instigated this civil war taunted me. I sucked, my team sucked, my dad was delusional, and I was in love with Leonardo DiCaprio. There were too many things going.



The playoffs arrived and since the universe enjoyed tormenting me, we were up against the A Team. We came out hard, but at the end of the first half, our team was down by five. According to my dad, we still had a shot, but I disagreed. Just as I had predicted, we were losing, and I wanted the game, the season, and this humiliating chapter of my life to be over. The second half began, but I was going through the motions, so I asked my dad to take me off the field- to bench me- but he refused. Hustle up, Hogan! Push, it Hogan! I don't know what bothered me more, the fact that I wasn't allowed to rest, or that my dad called me by my last name like I was his slave, or worse, his bro.

Annoyed, I did what I always do when things aren't going my way, I played dirty. I tripped, shoved, pushed, and sadistically chopped at the A Teams legs like I was a sous chef on Adderall. I cut a girl off from behind, and was given a yellow card, but despite my reckless behavior, my dad still wouldn't take me out of the game. This enraged me, so I faked a heat stroke, and the game stopped for five minutes. I pretended I couldn't breath, but my dad called my bluff, and hollered at me to keep playing. I should have channeled my anger into the soccer game, but I didn't, and instead, I snapped. In the middle of a play, I stopped running, quit chasing the ball, quite literally, I just gave up. I completely disengaged from the game, ignoring and avoiding the action, and soon my teammates instructed each other to not pass me, their captain, the ball.


When clock ran out, and we officially lost the game, I was satisfied in the way that only an unruly pre-teen can be satisfied, with a mixture of glowing contempt and stubborn resolve. In the car ride home, my dad declared that he would never coach a girls team again, he said that was too hard, that you can't push girls the same way you can push boys. I took things a step further, and banned him from ever attending any of my future soccer games. I exiled him from my athletic life forever and he never participated in the Peterborough Girls Indoor Soccer League again. I'm not sure if it's connected to me being a female, but I agree with my dad, I don't like to be pushed. After all, I am a Hogan- even if I lose, I find a way to win.

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