News From Home 13, Part I
2/8/2004 (updated 2/8/2004)

It is always with keen anticipation that we begin the Under 12 soccer season – as coach of Honourable Number 3 Son’s team (of all the dads, I have the best European accent), I look forward to helping our squad of 14 players blend into a cohesive, skillful, hard tackling unit over the next four months. At our first practice, I recognize a few familiar faces from previous teams, a few kids from our street, and an All-Star or two. As I stick labels on the lads, to help with name recognition, I am struck by the rather unusual name Wolfgang, as I pin it to the chest of a pleasant-looking blond kid, somewhat tall for his age. Practice gets under way, and we slowly and painfully get the rust out of our game after a long off-season. I am thinking we have the makings of a reasonable side, and we start to scrimmage a little, when a thunder of engines and a screeching of tyres makes every head turn, and play grinds to a halt, a.5s a procession of five HumVs, accompanied by four CHP motorcycle outriders, makes its way down the long, sloping approach road to our soccer field. The kids’ jaws are agape, as, respectably suited as befits his new position, our Governor steps out of the middle vehicle, and, lighting up a Romeo y Julietta, strides over to our frozen little squad. “I was just passing, so I thought I’d drop off Wolfgang’s shin-pads”, said Arnold. “Hello boys, nice to see you, it’s going to be a fantastic season, ya? Lots of fantastic players, a fantastic pitch, and”, he looks over at me in an intimidating way, “a nice coach!” He tells us to carry on as normal, but he’d like to stay and watch. They circle the Hummers, drivers and security agents and cops get on their phones and walkie-talkies, and suddenly the field seems crowded. At one point, Arnie comes over to me, and says, sotto voce, that Wolfie likes to play striker, preferably at old-fashioned centre forward. I say, quietly fuming at this point, that I’ll see what I can do. Practice is a farce from this point on; most kids being too distracted by the pomp and the hype of it all to concentrate. One thing I do learn from the practice – young Wolfie is a bit of a ball-hog. I have a few painful and sadistic extra drills for selfish players…