The following was syndicated from Medium for The Fatherly Forum, a community of parents and influencers with insights about work, family, and life. If you’d like to join the Forum, drop us a line at TheForum@Fatherly.com.
This morning while watching my 6-year-old son’s soccer game (Go Blue Thunderbolts!) I checked off an item from my parenting bucket list. I witnessed a classic Asshole Soccer Dad (ASD) in his natural habitat.
This ASD was the parent of a kid from the opposing team. He was upset because the Thunderbolts all bunched up in front of the goal. He believed this was an offsides, I think. He was also angry with the coach of his son’s team. He wanted the coach to spread the players out more evenly. He felt vindicated when the other team scored a sleepy goal near the start of the game right after he yelled “Spread!” His urgent warning had not been heeded. Mind you, they don’t actually keep score in the 6-year-old league.
ASD is a tall, dark and handsome type who looks a lot like Christopher Moltisanti from Sopranos. He was wearing a backwards cap and a jersey. He appeared to have a hot wife who speaks a foreign language. He roamed the sideline like a caged lion.
He never screamed or lost his cool entirely, but he kept up a constant loud dialogue with the ref and his son’s coach throughout the game. The nastiest thing he said was “In a few years they will have PROFESSIONAL REFS at these games.” (Is that even true?)
He couldn’t help himself. He had a fever. And the only prescription was making an ass of himself at this soccer game. Even when the score was well in hand (again, they don’t keep score) he provided insights about team placement in a loud voice for everyone to hear.
The coach looked broken. Since this was the seventh game of the season with this guy on the sideline, he probably just entered the surrender stage on his path to nervous breakdown.
A guy like ASD doesn’t see passive aggressive, he just sees passive. I’m positive he heard “You are Right” rather than the intended “F–k Off.”
The more glorious character was the ref (parent volunteer) who was out of central casting. Trim build, round wire-rim glasses, chirpy voice and great attitude. I’m sure he went to Williams or Amherst and makes a lot of money doing something creative or logical.
He was assertively outraged by this classic ASD, but didn’t have the tools to rebuff. He finally said, “They are 6 Years Old, OK!” That’s the right thing to say, the thing we’d all say. And then “Those are good insights we will take back.” A guy like ASD doesn’t see passive aggressive, he just sees passive. I’m positive he heard “You are Right” rather than the intended “F–k Off.”
All of us parents were happy to be there. The 6 year olds were oblivious, so no children were being harmed. This guy was so over the top he forced himself into the pages of our parenting memoirs after just a few minutes. I, for one, wanted to make sure I was taking it all in. One mom showed up late and the dad was pissed, telling her “You almost missed all the drama.” Every once in awhile, I’d catch a look from another parent and our eyes would say the same thing — “Can you believe this?!”
I wish that soccer game had gone on another hour.
If you are not a parent, you might think that full-fledged ASDs are common. They are not. The immense cultural pressure against being an overbearing, yell-happy sports parent has created social stigma around such behavior. You might catch a mom or dad shouting something every once in awhile, but not in a shameless, methodical way like today’s ASD.
The same nervous energy and parental yearning for their children to be associated with sports triumphs exists, but is now manifest in private angst, quiet but heated sideline conversations and the occasional email chain between the aggrieved. This behavior wreaks its own emotional havoc, but it looks different than the screamer syndrome.
Should the ASD from this morning be a candidate for counseling? Absolutely. But then I propose we usher him into the lab, drop him in a vat of formaldehyde and put him on display in a cultural museum.
This man surfaced from somewhere or some era and may be the last full-fledged unapologetic Asshole Soccer Dad in the suburban substrata.
Dan Conway is a high school elected official. An optimist and cynic. Editor of The Drone. You can read more of his Medium posts here: