Show me how you play the game and I’ll tell you what you are.
It was another classic comment from our middle child as she strolled from her room to the refrigerator, “Oh yeah Dad, I told my teacher you’d referee our soccer game tomorrow.”
“Yep no worries,” I mumbled as I feverishly struggled with the latest Sudoko puzzle. Seconds later my brain crashed into reverse and I called out, “Hey! What did you just say?”
She re-appeared in the lounge room, with a milk moustache and a fist full of Tim Tams, “I said, that I told my teacher you’d referee at soccer tomorrow.”
“Why would you tell her that? I’ve never reffed a game of soccer in my life!”
My wife looked up from her magazine, “Well, you played it long enough.”
“True,” I agreed, thinking back on my far from stellar career as a goal keeper, “But playing’s one thing, reffings’ another.” I turned to my daughter, “And I’m sure we’ve had this conversation before about you volunteering me for things, and not letting me know until the last minute!” She shrugged her shoulders.
“Well,” I asked, “how long have you known about this?”
She thought for a moment, “Coupla weeks probably, I forgot.”
“You forgot! Well, I’m not doing it, so tell your teacher that tomorrow!”
“But dad I said you’d go, and you’re the only parent who can make it who has actually played the game.”
“You’re kidding me?”
“No, that’s why my teacher asked me if I knew anyone who actually knew how to play and sort of knew the rules and stuff.”
“Did she also ask about the poor quality of your grammar, or are we waiting for a parent who knows how to teach English to appear as well?”
She shrugged again and started nibbling on another Tim Tam.
I thought about it, how bad could it be? “Yeah, all right I’ll do it, but this is the last time you’ll get me like this,” I said sternly, “What time is the game?”
“Oh it’s not one game it’s five games, and it’s out at the Calliope school at nine o’clock.”
I goggled at her over my paper then turned to my wife wearing my ‘exasperated father’ look, she shook her head and returned to her magazine. I spent the next couple of hours on the internet cramming up on the rules of the game, at least I had just enough time for that.
So, the next morning, armed with a little plastic whistle that my youngest daughter had thoughtfully dug out from under her bed, I made my way to Calliope where I was handed a bright, shiny metal whistle which didn’t taste like a week old lollipop covered in dust.
Now I’m not the worlds’ worst referee but I did make a lot of mistakes folks. It became clear to everyone very early on in the game that I was making up the rules as I went along. But in spite of this there was no need for touch judges, or a video ref scrutinising every move made. The kids told me when the ball had gone out, and whose throw in it was, or if the ball had actually gone into the goal not over it. And everyone stopped to help on the few occasions there was an injury, which was really quite touching. It made me feel very proud of all the teams I reffed that day.
And that’s true sportsmanship. Play your best, play fair, and have fun as well, whether you win, lose or draw. The kids were out to have a good time, and I relaxed enough to enjoy the day with them. The only complaints came from one smart alecky little malcontent, who I managed to silence by threatening to remove all her Tim Tam & Milo privileges when we got home.
Will I do it again? Of course I will, for the kids, for the fun, and because next time they might let me keep that nice, shiny whistle.