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I was watching the Vikings-Patriots game Sunday, and the announcers were talking (I mean, they’re always talking) about Viking Sheldon Richardson. Unlike most announcer blather, this ended up being an interesting story about a player who had gone through some self-imposed rough times to be where he is today. In a Minneapolis Star Tribune piece, Richardson discussed what he would say to his younger self:

So, what would 28-year-old Sheldon say to 24-year-old Sheldon if he could?

“I’d punch him in the back of the head,” Richardson said. “For real. Just wake up, kid. Life is bigger than you and your feelings. Honestly, I brought all of this on myself.”

The punch in the back of the head is just one version of how we wish we could alert/awaken our younger selves, but it spurred an odd mental connection for me.

My son Nate, my high school senior, had a great soccer career, and right now we’re enjoying him receiving some nice post-season honors. My wife, who is kind of the PR agent in our house, puts news of this kind on social media.

Of course, these posts elicit comments from friends, both online and face-to-face. Some of these so-called friends stretch way back into my history. A main theme with many of their messages, which I suppose is consistent with this kind of online discourse, is saying “congrats” to the kid while voicing surprise considering the parents’ inabilities in these areas of acclaim.

In our case, a few, ahem, well-meaning folks have been pointing out dad’s severely limited life experiences in soccer.

Now, to these old, old friends, let’s be fair to me: I’ve put in a decade and a half of soccer coaching at this point, so I am getting there in terms of my knowledge of the game. (I’ve conceded, though some things; for one, I’ll never be able to kick a ball well; every time I try, I risk grave injury.)

But the critics are correct: Growing up, I didn’t play soccer, didn’t watch soccer, and certainly didn’t cultivate an appreciation of the game, despite the fact that in the neighborhood we played everything else, from Ultimate (we called it Frisbee Football) to softball to street hockey. In fact, strangely, kids seemed to play everything but soccer!

When I reached the organized arenas of high school, it was all football and wrestling.

Life then handed me not one, not two, but three soccer players. My boys have never stepped foot on the gridiron, won’t watch the sport, and can’t even be motivated/guilted to show up on Thanksgiving morning for the annual neighborhood game (at some point it’ll just be weird that I keep showing up without them).

When I whine about it watching the game with old Dad, they ignore me and go in the other room and play FIFA.

Of course, in the scale of life regrets, this is a minor, but I was lamenting a little the other day that I never watched our high school soccer team. First off, it was populated with my friends. Second, our team was solid.

Back then, the football vs. soccer rift was alive and well. There was no way we were taking off from football practice for anything, let alone watching a soccer game. (Now, at least at our great little high school, Palmyra, the football coaches give their players time from practice to support the soccer teams, boys and girls, when they’re playing at home. That wasn’t happening in my day.) And I didn’t have enough independence of thought to stray from that oppositional routine.

But whether it was my fault or not, I wish I had gotten a head start on appreciating the game.

Since I feel human being-wise, I’m still a work in progress, I try to think of things now that I have to take on and try so some day I won’t think back and wish I knew something about them.

Opportunities lost. Soccer is a small one, considering the cost has mainly been the bemusement of old friends as to why my kids all play and had a little success. But I look at any old self, and maybe he doesn’t need a punch in the head, but I wish I could get him motivated to think outside the box of his life–and I wonder what boxes I’m in right now.

Scott Warnock is a writer and teacher who lives in South Jersey. He is a professor of English at Drexel University, where he directs the University Writing Program. Father of three and husband of one, Scott is on two local school boards and coaches all kinds of youth sports.

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One Response to “Things we coulda, shoulda done”

  1. If you don’t know what box you’re in, how can you know to stay or go?
    Is it a sin, that I say not “Whoa”?
    When i find myself in box aglow?

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