vendredi, juin 30, 2006

Pee Wee Soccer; or: I am Not a Racist

TinyE has been playing pee wee (four and five year olds) soccer in a suburb of Saint Paul called Woodbury. It is, of course, only an intro to soccer. They learn the magic spot (the part of the foot where they should kick the ball. Man oh man, what if someone googles “magic spot” and arrives at a post about pee wee soccer?) and terminology like “pass” “trap” “dive” “tackle,” etc. They learn not to touch the ball with their hands except to throw it in from out of bounds or when they are goalie. They learn the overhead pass.

Last night was the final session and involved a match where the kids played against the parents. The kids won. I think the score was 16 to 3. TinyE scored one goal and had three stops in three chances during her time in the net. She wanted the game to come to her, and when it didn’t, she pouted a lot (unfortunately she has my competitive temperament - it took me until the age of 30 to stop pouting on the golf course).

While playing, I had a funny exchange with one of the other parents. But in order to explain the exchange, I have to tell you a few facts. Bear with me.

First, Minnesota is not the most diverse state in the union. According to the 2000 Census, 11.8 percent of Minnesotans are minorities. That compares to 19.6 percent nationally. The Twin Cities is the most diverse part of the state by far (although there are counties outside the metroplex with significant native populations, and there are an increasing number of migrant workers in Minnesota). I am an African-American. Woodbury is a suburb east of St. Paul, on the way toward Wisconsin. At one point it was “the hot” suburb (having taken the title from Maple Grove, but they have since passed it to Prior Lake) and had a reputation for being a place where the young family of means were going to set up residence. It is close to 3M’s headquarters, and there are plenty of folks there making a fine living.

Woodbury is 90% white, 2.5 percent African-American, 5.0 Asian. But, where we played Pee Wee soccer TinyE and I were the only minorities in sight. Not a representative sample, I grant you.

I have very good friends and at-least two admired colleagues who live in Woodbury. I’m totally cool with Woodbury.

My own experience there has been limited. I have been to a home there for a visit (I’m due for another one, hint, hint). I have golfed there about 5 times. I bought patio furniture there last summer. TinyE goes there for her eye appointments every other month or so. And then, of course, there has been Pee Wee Soccer.

Last set up. We played on a field with two small (kid sized) nets spaced about 40 yards apart. There were no marked boundaries, and the total field was pretty big. The kids would swing waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay out, and then circle back to try to score. They played behind the net several yards, but soccer fields are usually longer than they are wide, and last night our field was much, much wider than it was long.

So, whilst playing against our children, I chatted up another dad. Here’s our exchange (and it occurs to me that this was a long way to go for a limited pay off):

Duf: This is the widest field I’ve ever seen
White Dad: Whaaaaaaaat?

[He clearly thought I’d said something besides “widest;” I’ll admit I don’t always enunciate well. The look on his face was comical. It said “are we going to have a problem/did you say what I think you said/please don’t talk about race” all at the same time]

Duf: I don’t think I’ve ever seen a field this wiDe.
White Dad: They should have marked it.
Duf: I’m tickled that when the kids go out there, all the parents just stay here.
White Dad: I think the coaches should enforce some kind of boundaries.

White Dad was linear. White Dad lives in a world of rules and order. White Dad did not want his kid learning soccer incorrectly. White Dad is a serious man, and does not respond well to sarcasm.*

*For the record, like our family, White Dad and his family may have come to soccer in Woodbury from some other city/town/suburb. By making funny of White Dad, I mean in no way to make fun of Woodbury. If I wanted to make fun of Woodbury, I’d do it directly. For example, I’d say “you’ll never be a real city until you stop having a volunteer fire department” or I’d call it “Woodbury, Minnesota, the townhouse capital of the world!” Also, by calling him White Dad, I mean only to set up the Three’s-Company like hijinks that nearly resulted from him initially mishearing me.