Haven't written anything in a while, so I'll probably be a bit rusty (especially because Blogger has changed it's interface since I was last here). But nevertheless, here goes....
Teddy is a big soccer/futbol fan. Seriously, he's a BIG futbol fan. To some extent, this is understandable. First, he's a boy, so as we've learned from observing the differences between the girl and the boy, the boy is much more interested in sports. Margaret generally couldn't care less. (She spends most of her time reading, but that's a subject for another post.) Second, his dad is a pretty serious futbol fan. In my dotage, I've decided that American football and baseball are just too time consuming and slow paced. I don't have three hours to waste watching guys run into one another and fall down (American football) or just stand around (baseball). Soccer appeals to me because it's two hours and we're done. And, as my earlier posts suggested, there are sublime moments in soccer that just can't be matched in any other sport. The result is that I've introduced him to our national team (go USA!), our local club team (Vamos DC United!), and our favorite European club team (Barca!). Ultimately, I have basically indoctrinated him into the sport from an early age.
But those points notwithstanding, Teddy has taken his love of soccer to a completely different level. This manifests itself in at least three ways.
First, the boy has his little soccer guys. These are a gift that he got at some point in the past, after having previously received football guys and baseball guys. In general, the little sports guys have proven to be one of the best gifts that he has ever received. I suspect that it's a basically bimodal toy - either the kid plays with it incessantly, or he doesn't play with it at all. Teddy falls in the first camp, especially when it comes to his soccer guys. He loves to set up the field and move around his players in a pretend game. "Dad," he'll say, "Fulham is playing Chelsea. Who are you rooting for?" "Well, Fulham of course," I'll say, "I can't stand Chel-ski." He'll then move his guys around a bit, calling the game as he hears on TV - "Fulham takes the ball from the back up to the goal and.... they score!!!! Fulham 4, Chelsea 0!!!!" And he will come back to report, "Dad, Fulham is beating Chelsea 10-3!" "Wow, that's a heckuva score in a soccer match," I'll tell him. He'll literally spend hours fiddling around with his soccer guys, setting up and calling games the entire time. The baseball and (American) football guys are there, but they don't get nearly the same use.
Second, the boy is a pretty serious little soccer player. He has always wanted to kick the ball around, but in the last year or so, he has taken his play to an entirely different level. Two developments have spurred this. First, he encountered Mr. Martin at the aftercare program at Margaret's school. Mr. Martin is a young fellow from Spain - and a Real Madrid fan - who was an assistant teacher at Margaret's school and helped coordinate the aftercare program this past year. Given that he had to entertain young kids for a few hours and is Spanish, he naturally looked to play soccer with them. The result was that every afternoon, Mr. Martin and a handful of kids played soccer in the schoolyard. When Teddy and I showed up to get Margaret, he would join the scrum. I would often stand back and watch as Mr. Martin tried to coordinate the kids in some fashion ("No hands!", "No pushing!", "Pass the ball!"), but after a year of this, all of the kids, Teddy included, were a lot better at soccer. And some of them, such as Teddy, were quite serious about the game. Teddy likes to score goals and, in the process, keeps score. He especially loved scoring goals against Mr. Martin and letting him (Mr. Martin) know when he (Teddy) did so. If Mr. Martin raised some objection to the way that Teddy was playing, Teddy was inclined to give Mr. Martin a red card. Or multiple red cards, given that Teddy could toss them out with abandon.
In addition to these schoolyard games, Teddy also played on an organized pre-K team in our local soccer league. Technically, he probably wasn't supposed to be on a team, as he wasn't actually in a pre-K class, but we figured that he would enjoy playing. Soccer at this level involves a 4x4 game with no goalie. Kids fall into three basic categories: those who have no idea what to do (the butterfly watchers), those who know what to do but can't do it, and the rare players who know what to do and can do it. Teddy clearly fell in the last category this past season. Every once in a while, we would run into a team with bigger kids who were similarly coordinated, in which case Teddy would run into problems, but most of the time, he scored tons of goals. As in the playground games, he liked to keep score and liked to talk about how much he was scoring, but as the coach (yes, that's right, I was the coach), I tried to reign in this behavior. Still, it was pretty impressive to watch him whack the ball in the net multiple times in each game. Here are some examples from our last game of the season:
The boy has more touch with the ball and a better field sense than I ever had in my years playing soccer (which isn't saying much, but still, he's only 4).
Beyond his involvement in the sport, either as an actual player or as a simulator of games, Teddy is a fan of watching the sport. He generally likes to watch any game that he can, but he is especially a fan of our local team, DC United. This largely stems from the fact that we've been going to games since he was just a little tike, but it has gotten even more serious this year because we went ahead and got season tickets to DC United. (As an aside, my general view of DC United and MLS is that it's basically like watching minor league baseball - you can have a lot of fun with the atmosphere, but the quality of play isn't really that good. That having been said, we've been lucky that DC United is currently in first place after a couple of years of really pathetic play. Vamos United!) Our tickets are on the same side of the field as the supporters section, that is, the folks who jump up and down and chant during the entire game. We're in the first row up, and a few sections over, from the main concentration of hooligans. Because we're in the first row of our section, there's a railing in front of our seats. Teddy and I stand during the game, with him putting his feet on the rail and his arm around me, to watch the game. And he really watches the game. Unlike Margaret (and Abby), who is mainly interested in the popcorn and cotton candy at the game, Teddy wants to watch. He knows most of the players (Chris Pontius, Maicon Santos, Andy Najar, Dwayne DeRosario, and so on) and can recite the outcome of recent games (we beat Houston 3-1 - or maybe it was 3-2, but Teddy would correct me if he was here).
Two specific games stand out for me. The first was the game earlier this season against the NY Red Bulls in DC at RFK Stadium. It was cold and raining. In fact, it was raining seriously hard the entire game. Teddy and I wanted to go to the game, but no one else did, so we dressed up in serious rain gear, with our jerseys on top, and went to the stadium. The crowd wasn't small, but most folks at the game stayed in the seats under the upper deck, out of the rain. Not me and Teddy. We stood in our seats in the rain, with Teddy on the railing, the entire game. Hooligans from the supporters section came by and gave him high-fives at various points during the game. And we won 4-1 in glorious fashion, with (as Teddy would tell you) Chris Pontius getting a hat trick.
The second game was a recent game in Philadelphia against the Philadelphia Union. We were heading up to Philadelphia to drop off Margaret for a trip to Grandma camp outside of Chicago. But before we left, Teddy asked, "When is the next DC United game?" Dunno, I thought, let's check the schedule. And, sure enough, they were playing the Union the Saturday that we would be up there. I checked to see it there was broader interest in the game (there was from Steve and Joe, although not sure that they knew what they were in for) and then scrambled to see if I could find some tickets. I ultimately bought four tickets from the supporters club known as the Screaming Eagles. The tickets involved some interesting conditions - don't light off any incendiary devices in the stadium, be there at 6:00 to be escorted into the stadium, park only in the visiting team lot, don't wander around the stadium, and so on. Sure enough, we were escorted into the stadium by a contingent of security guards an hour before the game. Our section was only accessible by a stairway in the back of the stadium, with the area around the stairway being fenced off from the rest of the stadium. And there were security guards every few yards surrounding our section. As Joe said, it made one think that there could be hooligan violence, even if there never really was the possibility that it would occur. (Rude chants back and forth, yes. Any serious indication of violence, no.)
Teddy was oblivious to all of this. All he wanted to do was to watch the game. While we were outplayed for much of the game, in the 78th minute, as Teddy would tell you if you asked him about the outcome, off a free kick from Boskovic, Pontius scored. It was glorious as we got to jump around, rubbing it in the face of all the Union fans.
After the game, they kept the DC United fans in our section for around 30 minutes until the rest of the stadium had emptied. Trying to keep us out of trouble, I suppose, especially as they then escorted us out of the stadium en mass to our visitor's parking lot. But in the meantime, we got to watch a bunch of little kids play on the field. Not sure if they were players' kids or employees' kids, but one little fellow kept taking the ball towards the net. It was pretty cool as our entire section, the only people left in the stadium, would cheer when he scored a goal or groan when he whacked it off the post. As I was watching the kids play on the field, I just kept thinking that if Teddy had been out there, he would've run circles around those other kids, scoring goals for DC United.