You watch sports because you like competition and entertainment. You play sports for a variety of reasons, whether it’s exercise or to release some frustration.
When you reach a certain age, you realize your limitations and face the fact that you’re going to have to settle for the level you’re at. You’re not going to get any better. On top of that, it becomes harder to get out of bed every morning. And you’re not that old.
In my soccer career, I’ve plateaued as a member of a weekly recreational league. Our games are competitive enough to get angry when we lose, but not so much that we raise banners after wins. We take it seriously, but my friends and I don’t kid ourselves; we’re there to get a workout and have some fun.
Three weeks ago, in one league I’m in, a B-league, mind you, two teams took the game too far. With four minutes left, one team scored a goal that would earn you style points in an arcade video game. The losing team, now down three goals, took offense and players on both sides paired off in hockey scrum-style.
I was on the sidelines with my team, getting ready to take the field for the next game. We watched the ref break up the scuffle and it looked like the final few minutes would be played incident free.
That’s when the goalie of the winning team started yelling at two players on the losing team. After a few lines of dialogue, the goalie and the forward were running at each other and wrestling. Everybody else near the other goal saw this and started running into the middle of the field.
Suddenly it looks as if the players are trying to claim possession of a fumbled football or a rugby ball. Chaos. We take a step forward from the sideline, thinking of helping the referee out, who has his hands full.
The kid who threw the punch screamed some obscenities and beelined to the exit. It took the other team a second or two to realize what had happened but they took off after him soon enough. We heard the police were called in and had their Tasers at the ready.
We took the field and played our game without incident. The ref had just one request before we began: “Just no, fighting, OK?” Like we were even considering it.
Our next scheduled game was against the winning team in the brawl game that produced nothing but losers. One of their players, who somehow wasn’t suspended, decided to get mouthy with the ref in our game and was sent off. This, of course, after he wanted to fight one of my teammates. He didn’t go quietly and said some things on the way to the bench that might have made Al Swearengen blush.
The question is, “Why?” What compels people to go so over the top in a game that, in the end, means nothing? I still have a hard time believing that the brawl actually happened. I was involved in a softball brawl over the summer that also seems just as surreal. Immaturity surely plays a role, but no one is collecting a paycheck and it’s not like our names are going to be in the paper the next morning. Some people may just take things too seriously and blow harmless situations way out of proportion.
These incidents, I suppose, are the downsides of competition. I don’t have an answer and I’m not sure I ever will. It makes everyone involved look bad. Sometimes it makes you wonder why we bother playing at all.
But then you remember the good times of being part of a team, hanging out with your friends and making new ones. And when you look at those moments and the memories made there, you realize that despite the stupidity of others, it is worth it.