Family Time -- Steve Smith

It has been said that a definition of good character is doing the

right thing when no one is looking. But once in a while, a sign of good

character is doing the right thing when everyone is watching.

The scene was a soccer tournament at Costa Mesa High School on Dec.

29. It had been raining on and off, mostly on, all day and the 8 a.m.

games were played on fields that were barely playable. As the day wore

on, the fields wore out.

The afternoon series of games were scheduled to begin in a very steady

rain that had turned the fields into mud pits. As I watched our morning

game wind down, it occurred to me that the people in charge needed

something to think about.

But before I approached them, I first spoke to my daughter.

"I am about to do something that is not going to be very popular," I

said, "But I want you to know why I am doing it."

I explained the situation to her, and she understood. Then I walked

off to approach the first set of authorities.

"I'm sorry to be a stick in the mud, no pun intended," I told these

two people, "But in my opinion, this field is not safe to play on."

I don't know how to describe the reaction except to say that I could

have knocked either of them over with a feather. They looked at me as

perfectly as the proverbial deer in headlights -- positively stunned.

And they said nothing.

That was my cue.

"I've been coaching soccer or baseball, mostly baseball, for the past

six years," I said. "And we've always been told by league officials that

it's safety first, safety first. In my opinion, this field is not safe."

The deer did not blink or move, so I did. I approached the referee (or

is it an umpire?) who had been officiating the morning game and was now

looking for a dry place to wring out his clothes.

"Who do I speak to about the condition of this field?" I asked.

Without a beat, he replied, "This field is not safe to play on."

With that, I exhaled, fortified in my quest to bring sanity to the

contest. Just then, another umpire (referee?) walked by and said, "This

field is not safe." Score one for the AYSO umperees.

One of the two people I first approached then walked over to a dry

area to call some higher up who had the power to continue the tournament

or pull the plug. In a couple of minutes, the decision came back: "All

the fields are being shut down for the weekend."

My daughter had already gathered her things, and we started to leave,

getting a head start on the rest of the crowd for, as I told her, whether

the game was going to be played was irrelevant -- she was not going to be


The decision to close the fields seems to have been made before the

call on the cell phone. But I am concerned that things had already gotten

way out of hand before word trickled down. The fact is, any number of

people present that day could have called a halt to the games and

protected the kids. An umperee could have done it, a coach on any team

could have refused to play, citing unsafe conditions, or enough parents

could have mobilized and asked that the game be called.

But no one did. The umperees who confided in me had no intention of

calling time on the mud bowl, none of the coaches stepped forward, and

until I spoke not a single parent raised an eyebrow.

The little picture is the soccer tournament and the muddy field and

the game. The big picture is that there was a breakdown, a complete

collapse in the most important element of anyone in charge of our

children. That day, safety and common sense took a back seat to playing a


This is not about soccer or AYSO, so please don't write in about the

game or the organization. The lesson here is that more and more, parents

are not sufficiently intervening in their kids' lives.

Whether it's trusting movie makers or the theater owners, television

producers, magazine publishers, coaches or any of the other people or

organizations to whom or to which parents hand over the care and feeding

of our children, they simply cannot assume that others have the same

level of interest in our children that they have in their own homes.

Most parents know instinctively when something is wrong, but too many

do not act on their belief out of fear of reprisals or of being

ostracized. But parents need to ask the tough, unpopular questions and

stick their necks out when that little internal warning signal goes off

in their heads.

Here's to mud in your eye.

* STEVE SMITH is a Costa Mesa resident and freelance writer. Readers

may leave a message for him on the Daily Pilot hotline at (949) 642-6086.

Copyright © 2019, Daily Pilot
EDITION: California | U.S. & World