Roger Marolt: Roger This
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Lacrosse is a kick in the grass. No, I’m sorry. That was soccer in the ’90s. Lacrosse is a stick in the … never mind. That doesn’t work either. Anyway, lacrosse is a lot of fun. I know, because I have actually played in a game, which only a very small percentage of people my age can say.
It was on an evening a couple of weeks ago under the lights at the fakie field in the middle of a hideous downpour. The occasion was the first contest of coaches and parents versus the Aspen High School girls’ team. They had a very respectable 6-2 record coming into the game, and would end up taking second place in the Rocky Mountain regional tournament. We, however, had never lost a game. Never mind that we hadn’t played one. It was destined to be a match for the ages, or at least we, the aged, hoped.
Our team wasn’t quite as balanced as perhaps I had imagined before the face-off. In the downpour, only three dads and a mom showed up. Fortunately, about a dozen coaches from all levels of Aspen’s newest and most popular sport were there to round out the squad. Thank God.
As we huddled in the drizzle, one of our female player/coaches twizzled (trust me, there is no other description for it) her stick back and forth, flipping the ball in and out of its basket as if it were attached there by a rubber band. “Man,” she worried aloud, “I haven’t played a game in five years.” I wasn’t brave enough to tell her that I hadn’t even heard of the game until two years ago.
During warm-ups I played catch with our goalie when I suddenly realized that I couldn’t throw the ball … or catch it, for that matter! Watching me try, the goalie was laughing so hard that I wasn’t sure he would recover in time for the game. But, apparently our coach saw something in me chasing those errant attempts into the parking lot, and decided that I was perfectly suited for playing in the attack position. Yikes!
Fortunately, I have been in situations similar to this before, so I knew exactly what to do. I would hustle around like crazy, waving my stick, staying in tight with the defenders so I would never be open for a pass, and then, after it was all over, come off the field huffing and puffing and sweating like I had just played the game of my life.
The plan worked like a charm. I chased the ball and sprinted for the pack whenever I could. I pushed off defenders (illegal), warded off the other team with wicked hip checks (also illegal), and waved my stick a lot (legal, but not very effective). I was constantly on the move, trying hard to look like I knew what I was doing. I set a few picks for my teammates in front of the goal (arguably legal) and shoved a few of the girls out of bounds when I could (totally illegal).
Like I said, my plan appeared to be about perfect, but it turned out to be shortsighted. Everything I just described occurred in roughly the first minute and a half of the game. I was gassed. I was breathing so hard that my toenails ached. The girls, knowing my age and guessing correctly my predicament, left me completely unguarded. When all was suddenly quiet, except for the invisible birds chirping in my ears, I lifted my head to assess the situation and found that I was standing right in front of the goal. I barely saw the pass rocketing toward my face. Instinct took over, and I swung defensively. I hit the damn thing right off the handle. In baseball they call that a weak ground-ball out. In lacrosse, they called it a goal! I have never been so excited in my life without showing any expression whatsoever. I was way too tired to make a fist, much less pump it.
The rest of the night was pretty uneventful, for me. I dragged my limp body around the field, trying to stay out of the players’ ways. The only strategy I was worrying about in the second half was about how I was going to get out of bed the next morning. That was proof enough to me that it was a great evening.
On the ride home, the endorphins took over as we dried out under the heat cranked up high, and all my agonies became ecstasies. I asked my daughter if I needed to apologize to her teammates for being such a spaz. She smiled and said that she had already done that. What a relief. That meant I had only to ask forgiveness of the coaches now.
So, why does a dad put himself through an ordeal like this? Well, there is a point when he realizes that his little girl is growing up and he is running out of opportunities. He understands that he has to reach out and become part of her world that is expanding and breaking free of his gravitational pull. If he wants to continue to be a part of it, he has to learn about the things that make it spin for her. If he participates with enthusiasm and an open mind, he might even end up having a great time. If he’s lucky he’ll get invited back, even if she makes him rotate out of the lineup a little more often.
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