Final game of season plays out by its own rules

November 15, 1997|By ROB KASPER

THE CHANCES are good today that on some sodden field, kids are trying to play the last game of the season as their dutiful parents shiver on the sidelines.

It doesn't matter much which sport is winding down. At this time of year the usual candidates are football, soccer and field hockey. Regardless of which sport their kids are playing, the parents on the sidelines are probably suffering from the "last game of the season syndrome."

One symptom of this syndrome is the "spousal dodge." This is a pregame condition that occurs when one parent tries to cajole the other into accompanying the kid to the final game. For the parent, this is a commitment that means spending the better part of the day pacing the sidelines, stomping your frozen feet on the ground and hollering "Go!" This is a commitment parents try to foist off on each other. During a spousal-dodge session, guilt is batted back and forth between the husband and wife faster than a tennis ball at a Wimbledon final.

At our house, the spousal dodge usually plays out something like this:

Husband: "This is last game of the season, dear, the last opportunity to watch your child excel at pummeling and being pummeled."

Wife: "I know, dear, but if I go to this game, I would break the unique bond you have formed this season with your son. This has been your time together. I wouldn't want to interfere."

The unspoken thoughts during a typical spousal dodge run something like this. Husband: "I have been trekking to these games for weeks, now it is your turn to suffer." Wife: "Tough luck, Buster, you're the one who wanted your kids to be sports heroes."

Another facet of the last game syndrome is waiting. The last game of the season is rarely played on its originally scheduled date. Myriad forces intervene to push the final game back to a more inconvenient time.

Frequently one of these forces is foul weather. Recently, for instance, heavy rains have washed out so many soccer contests that some parents are wondering which will come first, their final outdoor soccer game of the season or their Thanksgiving dinner.

The final game of the season can be delayed for unusual reasons, too. This week, for instance, the final game of our seventh-grade son's football season was postponed by a missing bus. The bus that was supposed to carry the opposing team to the game did not show up. It was the first time in my sporting experience that a game was called because of faulty transportation.

The contest was played the following day, when the temperature was about 20 degrees colder, and the wind was 100 percent more biting than on the originally scheduled afternoon. Early in the morning when I read the forecast, I started rooting for another bus no-show.

Every time the final game of the season is delayed, the chances increase that some of its players will be sick when the game is played. This is especially likely this month, when the end of the soccer, football and field hockey seasons coincides with the beginning of the flu season.

Having a sick child can put a tremendous emotional strain on a family. Especially if the sick kid is a good athlete. It has been my experience that on the day of the final game, the stereotypical mom wants to nurture her child back to health, and the stereotypical dad wants to suit the kid up.

Whether or not a somewhat-

sick but gung-ho child should play in the final game of the season is a complex question. Parents should discuss the situation with each other, with the family doctor and with the child. I have little advice to offer, except that when it comes time to go to the game, you should exit the house through one door and your kid exit through another door. That way your wife usually doesn't catch you.

Taking such evasive action can get a guy into real hot water on the home front. But sometimes -- for really big games -- you have to sneak out and take the conse-

quences. It is part of the rhythm of life. Soon the final game of this season will be history. Another season -- basketball, wrestling, hockey -- will be upon us. And before you can say "postponed by snow," it will be time for the final game of that


Pub Date: 11/15/97

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