A Stormy Week in the Northeast
Less than two hours before kickoff last night, I was assigned to a Boys U-14 match just a few miles from where I live. Thunderheads were building; and thinking that we might be in for a repeat of each of the past two nights, I headed out to the field a little early to try to get things started early, hoping to get the game finished before the storm arrived.
Dispensing with the usual pre-game administrative rigamarole, the coaches agreed that it might be best to start right away, about fifteen minutes early. And being a good sport, the home coach even agreed to play with only ten kids since the visiting squad showed up with one short of a full team.
The field sits at the base of a picturesque escarpment and sits at a slightly higher elevation than the terrain to the north and the west. As such, it’s possible to see ten miles or more in those directions since the view is more or less unobstructed.
As the match got underway I was doubtful that we’d be able to play the full seventy-minute game. A dark cloud loomed to the northwest and occasionally rumbled with long rolls of thunder. This looming threat, however, seemed to pass us by, moving off to our east and occasionally sending a stray bolt of lightning to the ground several miles away as the first half came to a close.
The home team was winning 2 – nil at the break and I would’ve suggested that we almost immediately start the second half to make the game official, but I didn’t think that would be fair to the visitors who were still playing with only ten and thus, had no subs.
During the intermission, the sky seemed to darken again and lightning edged its way closer and I began to worry that some of the parents might not be too happy if we were to continue. So I conferred with the coaches that maybe we ought to take a break and wait and see if the lightning would pass us by. They both agreed and we started to make our way across the pitch to where the parents were seated.
Just as we did this, an outraged soccer mom came from out of nowhere and started screaming at me that I had been endangering her child by forcing him to play for the past fifteen minutes. Having to raise my voice in order to be heard, I told her not to yell at me and that the coaches and I had already decided to let the threat pass before continuing with the second half.
She continued with her rant, informing me that she wouldn’t allow me to put her child in danger, to which I replied that she was welcome take her child home if she wanted, but that the game would likely continue in about twenty minutes or so.
Both coaches were aghast with said soccer mom’s behavior as were many of the kids who genuinely felt badly about the abuse that I was needlessly subjected to.
It should be pointed out that none of the forty or so people present sought shelter since there was no rain and no imminent danger from lighning. So for the next fifteen or twenty minutes we all stood around watching the sky to our north.
When it appeared that the thunderhead had in fact passed us by, the coaches seemed anxious to get things starting again. And not wanting to feel the wrath of any more soccer moms or dads, I sought their consensus on the matter, to which no one objected.
One dad with an Aussie accent and wearing a shirt with a rugby logo confided in me that he never felt any threat from the lightning since it was obviously “at least five miles away.” I appreciated him backing me up on what I felt was an out-of-line soccer mom.
So anyway, we got things going quickly, but in the back of my mind I’d already decided that if I saw any more lightning we’d suspend the match and call it a final since the start of the second half now made it official.
It turns out that one of the few kids to have left was the scorer of both goals, the prized possession of the woman who’d earlier reemed me a new one. As such, his team was now struggling to control the match, eventually giving back one of the goals to make it 2 – 1.
I thought to myself how timely it would be for the home team if lightning should now strike in order to ensure their victory. And sure enough, as we were all heading back to midfield to restart the match, a rogue bolt lit up the sky just a few miles to our north. It didn’t seem terribly threatening, but it was closer than what we’d seen earlier, so I threw my arms in the air and blew my whistle to call the game.
Nobody complained as they all seemed to have accepted the unfortunate situation that we were all in. The coaches probably would have continued had their been no parents around, but I wasn’t willing to deal with any more outrage like I’d endured earlier.
And thus concluded my Thursday night on the pitch on what has been an unusually stormy week here in Upstate New York.
As a postscript, it should be noted that unlike the previous two nights, the skies never did unleash their fury and it almost certainly would have been possible to finish the match without interruption.
Until next time…
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