Oct 7, 2007

winning hands

Two dozen parents line the field. The game begins promtly. The day is clean as sheets. The night before the same two teams played; Dash's team won. With 30 seconds left he scored the winning goal on a stunning header. It was the proper end to a bad affair, which included a fight between the two opposing coaches. "What is this, Koren tactics?" says an assistant coach of the other team. He's referring to one of Dash's team mates who has been using his elbows freely. But neither side is clean. The man goes on taunting and making malicious sounds with his lips. "What are you, gay?" respond's Dash' coach who is in a particularly dour mood. The two men face off, rub chests, swear. Nevertheless, at the end of the game, the teams shake hands.

The next morning the other team seems desperate. Several of their players trash talk and foul. I am told they go to the Day School, known as a haven for rich, spoiled kids. An article in the Wall Street Journal describing the rush to get into Ivy track schools in the city discovered that intereviews at the Day School were monitored from behind two way glass.

At half time the game is tied. Early in the second half one of Dash's teammates is punched in the face. Then following one of their goals the scorer comes running down the field right in front of Dash's coach mocking him. Things decline. Once again the other coach hurls insults. He is Argentinian. Dash's coach responds. He cannot believe it, he keeps saying, how could this be? How could this man, this team be saying these things?

The game ends. At the last moment Dash's team wins. But no shaking hands this time. Players and coaches, including me, swirl through the kids, taking abuse and giving it. One parent comes up to Dash's coach and says he's a disgrace to coaching, presumably for not allowing his players to shake hands. She doesn't explain. The coach had been disgusted and feared a fight would break out. Moreover, the day before one of his former players, once a promising striker, had committed suicide.

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