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Desire to win blurs passion for the game

Telemundo is fast like a race car.

He dances on top of the soccer ball, an acrobat, taunting gravity while his son warms up to play.

He comes from a place where calling soccer a religion does not convey the intensity. "It's like your baseball and your football and your basketball," the Latin parents tell me. It's fitting that, when we gathered to watch our kids on video, the setting was a family's backyard chapel.

I call him Telemundo, crazed dad of the team's star forward, in part to annoy him. He prefers the rival network, Univision.

He has this habit of sportscasting the Saturday morning games in rapid-fire Spanish, holding a water bottle like a microphone. "Arana," he'll bellow, introducing our goalie, who, I'm told, is Colombian like Telemundo.

Come back, Telemundo. We miss you.

Arana means spider, one who catches everything. The goalie is a lovely child _ quiet, meticulous, a gentleman among 10-year-olds.

Most of the kids in this neighborhood league are sweethearts.

But the parents?

Insane. All of them. Me included.

And so the news hit one morning like an equatorial earthquake:

"Spider" would not play in goal.

He'd had enough. It's a pressure-cooker position. He's a child. Who could blame him?

The coach made the right call, subbing in another player.

But on the sidelines there was dissent.

A mother protested: Minutes before the game? Does this team have no discipline?

The unspoken assumption was that they would lose.

And they did.

The debate continued afterward, at the video party, where our Salvadoran hosts ran the tape.

What about my son, who has worked so hard? a mother asked, no doubt wishing he could have enjoyed a victory.


Can you force a child to play goalie?

And who are these parents to second-guess the coach?

The children ran around, playing, while their parents argued. They keep it in perspective, these kids of ours. It's the adults who don't know when to quit.

Come back, Telemundo.

He came, with his son, to the following game. The kids took turns in goal. Again, they lost. Badly this time.

"We will not be returning," Telemundo announced when it was over. They say his wife tried to talk sense into him.

I'm loud on the sidelines, I'm first to admit. Louder than Telemundo, my children tell me. I'm not male. I don't come from a soccer-playing culture. The rush of the game consumes me, I guess.

All of us commit the sin of living through our children. Someday they will look back and how will they remember us? What will become of Telemundo's son? He will be an athlete, for sure. But might he have wanted to finish out the season?

I don't know much about Telemundo.

I try to imagine him working construction, struggling with a strange language in a land not of his birth. Perhaps, fondly, he looks back to a time when he was front and center, taunting gravity, faking out opponents before a cheering South American crowd.

Now he is like me. He comes home, exhausted, to a mountain of bills. He suffers the consequences of every childish impulse. The body slows and life is finite. It ticks away, unblinking, like the 10 weeks in a playing season.

Come back, Telemundo. It's not as bad as you think it is.

Come back, Telemundo. All will be forgiven.

And our kids need a win.