Taking a Great Big Whiz in the Cosmic Soccer Karma WellBy: Sean | March 16th, 2010
[Editor's Note: This post was originally going to be entitled "Poor Form", but that headline didn't really jump off the page, so I went with Plan B. The scatological references and humor will be kept to an absolute minimum, I assure you.]
“What goes around, comes around.” It’s a motto, it’s a cliche, it’s a mantra…it is also, apparently, a song by Justin Timberlake. I did not know that. It probably applies to a lot of aspects of life, but since this is a blog about recreational football, let’s focus our attentions on that. I’m not especially superstitious. I don’t generally go out of my way to poke Providence in the eye or unnecessarily tempt Fate but time and time again I seem to notice the…circular?…nature of life and, on a different scale, football to boot. I’ve seen it in the loud-mouth player on the opposite team who likes to trash talk for the entire first half and then mysteriously pulls up with a hamstring strain around the 60th minute. I’ve seen it in the quiet utility player who never, ever complains about playing the positions nobody else wants to all season long and then finds himself wide open on the far side of the box for a spectacular finish. I’ve seen it in the midfielder who desperately wants to keep playing but knows it is the fair thing to sub themselves off so another guy can play, so he does…and then comes back on to make a vital slide tackle late in the match. It’s the guy who kicks the ball out of play when the other team’s stopper rolls his ankle and then gets a hero run at their keeper. It’s the gal who dribbles half the length of the pitch and gets the assist instead of dragging her shot wide.
I see it enough to know that on some level it can’t be an accident. So I believe in it and I respect it. Call it what you will, but I think of it as the Cosmic Soccer Karma Well. (No disrespect to anyone of any faith who has a much deeper understanding of karma than I do. This is just my way of visualizing and–probably poorly–describing it.) I try to put a little good soccer karma in each time I play or coach or even watch. I make sure I shake the other team’s hands after a match as a gesture of goodwill and sportsmanship. I don’t belittle or taunt the opposition when I score, but I won’t lie to you: My quasi-hysterical goal celebration spasms are pure enthusiasm for the sport and the moment. I don’t scream at the girls on the U10 team I help coach to go slide tackling into anybody or to pull their shirts. And I don’t even “rub it in their face” when my local club beats our upper division rival in a preseason friendly, 1-0. Because going onto their message boards would be poor form and I know the second a result doesn’t go my way, I’m going to hear about it.
In return for these little gestures of respect for the game, I find I get a little reward back every once in a while. I get to take a little from the Cosmic Soccer Karma Well when I need it the most but suspect it the least. Maybe it is the inexplicable impulse to leap a tenth of a second before the right back mows down a swath where I just was when I know for a fact I didn’t see him going to ground. Maybe it’s taking a shot on the half-volley from damn near 30 yards out when I had no idea where the frame was, had absolutely no business shooting, and still finding the upper corner to prevent a shut-out in an undermanned defeat. Maybe it will even be the friendships that last for years after I’m unable to play anymore, all of which started because I let somebody play on my team and it just “clicked”.
So you give a little, you seem to get a little. Balance and order is maintained and the proverbial well seems to never go dry.
But then there are those instances where someone goes and takes a great big whiz in that Cosmic Soccer Karma Well and you think to yourself, “WTF?” Take, for example, last Wednesday night at my local indoor soccer arena. My thoughts on indoor soccer have previously been made known. I like it the game a lot. It’s fun, it’s great exercise for the off-season…but it’s not outdoor soccer. The men’s league I play in on Wednesday nights is a recreational (D2-ish) league, so they don’t even keep stats or tables. You show up once a week, you play for 45 minutes, you go home. I didn’t lie to you earlier in the post, so I won’t start now: My team is pretty good. Every game is not a 17-2 blow-out, but we generally score more than we concede. We try to conduct ourselves appropriately and the arena manager has commented how we get the fewest complaints of all the other squads, so I know we’re not total a-holes.
Flash back to last Wednesday night: We’re winning 7-2 with maybe ten minutes left. We had just scored and motioned to the referee that we were moving one of our key attackers (I think he was on the books at Charlton Athletic at one point) back to play keeper. With indoor soccer, it is a running clock with no timeouts. Swapping out a keeper shirt and gloves takes what, a minute? Two? Regardless, as we’re standing around waiting for our new netminder to get his gloves on, the other team kicks off, runs down the field and scores. 7-3. Our newly outfitted keeper, with typical British understatement growls, “Well done, boys, with no keeper. Stay classy then.” We proceeded to win, of course, not with the hellacious beat-down that was so richly deserved–something along the lines of 13-4 would have been appropriate, methinks–but afterwards I couldn’t help but think, Wow. That is really using Ye Olde Karma Well as a latrine. I’m pretty certain that one is going to come back and haunt you later on.
How about you, Weekend Warriors? What examples have you seen of great sportsmanship/respect/good karma/human decency on your own pitch? Seen a guy willfully tank a penalty because it was a horrible call? And perhaps more interestingly, what examples of poisoning the Karma Well have you witnessed? I’d love to hear your anecdotes and stories.