Dear Soccer …

With apologies to Lori Lindsey

It’s not me. It’s you.

Don’t look surprised. I really don’t know how you could have thought I was in the mood to endure any more of your cruelty.

You remember a couple of weeks ago. The indoor soccer game in which one team outshot the opposition by something like 40-20 and lost 10-9. Then an outdoor scrimmage (thanks to your cousin, Nature, for the lovely fall day) in which a bunch of players suddenly figured out the joy of passing, making beautiful runs and playing as a team. Yeah — they lost 3-0. Simple goalkeeping errors.

Great. Really nice job teaching our kids that their dedication to learning will pay off. We know, we know — we’re supposed to pay more attention to the “development” of these players than winning. But could you toss these kids a bone at some point?

You certainly didn’t do it in the tournament this weekend. A bunch of big kids stomping their way through the smaller kids who thought they had signed up for soccer, not wrestling. Parents cheering on the carnage. Refs ignoring it.

You don’t reward coaches, either. We can go to every class for every certificate, and for what? So we can “develop” our players by having them play properly and then watch them lose to the coach who showed up at game time and asked how many players we’re using. (Seriously, this happened to me at All-Stars one season.)

And it’s not as if you’re rewarding older players, either. Look at the team I covered — the Washington Spirit. Caroline Miller was a humble rookie with immense talent who wasn’t content to rest on her college honors. She’s been in so many walking boots in the last 18 months that the orthopedic industry ought to be offering her an endorsement deal. Michael Jordan had Air Jordans. She should get Ground Millers. We’re not even going to talk about Colleen Williams getting injured on her return to New Jersey and then getting re-injured on trial with her home-state club.

And now Diana Matheson, the only player who responded to my postseason interview request. Really, soccer? Are you kidding me?

They deal with it all with class, grace and good humor. Not me. Because I see through you now. All these promises of rewarding our patience — the supposed joy we’ll feel when those 385-minute goal droughts end. When our local club finally puts it together. When our kids’ games are decided by brilliant plays rather than defensive mishaps.

You are just disappointing me at every level. I’ve finally retired from the brutal indoor league in which I play because I’ve seen how long it takes my aging body to heal. No, I still can’t bend my middle finger all the way. But I can gesture with it.

Then Liverpool, my son’s pick for his favorite club, signs one of his favorite players in Mario Balotelli. How’s that working out? Huh? It’s as if you want my kids to pick up lacrosse instead. Go Chesapeake Baystix or whatever.

And shall we talk about the way this sport is governed? At the youth level, parents are driving themselves crazy and spending themselves broke just to make sure their kids are on the best Elite Developmental Champions Premier Club Sandwich whatever. Then they might have a chance of playing for their high school teams.

At the international level? Can’t even think about it.

Even the people who follow soccer are getting difficult. A Twitter troll features prominently in a new book and magazine article. Even as I type, I’m sure there are people on Twitter chortling about things I didn’t say, paychecks I didn’t receive, conspiracies that don’t exist, and things that don’t matter but still drive people to slander.

I’ve had it. I can’t watch any more. I certainly can’t play any more. I can hardly write any more. I may need to switch to something more lucrative like collecting pennies off the interstate.

Coaching? Do you really think I’m going to head out there again and face a bunch of eager young kids who are just one step, one realization away from learning how to move the ball around the field, support each other and get ever closer to the beautiful experience of getting that ball to nestle in the net so sweetly …

Sigh …

OK, fine. When does the spring season start? And who’s in the first EPL game on Saturday?

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