Go Ask Daddy About Soccer Laws, Conniving Flowers and Grammar Checks

photo credit: #99/366 Ouch My Arm! via photopin (license)
photo credit: #99/366 Ouch My Arm! via photopin (license)

“The referee’s discretion.” Psh.

GAD GRAPHICThose words liberate officials to make any call deemed appropriate. It means the difference between an unblown whistle and a red card. A few times in my coaching career, I had it up to here with referee’s discretion and could have suggested a place to stash it.

Once, in a tournament in Columbia, (South Carolina, not South America), Grace and other had been tossed around like burrito wrappers in my backseat with the windows down.

I slammed my cap to the grass and stomped out to get my bruised up and tearful daughter. I trudged past the oblivious man with the near-new whistle around his neck and fresh-from-the-factory yellow card in his pocket.

“You’ve got no control of this game,” I grumbled to him, close enough to make Joe Biden squirm. “Blow the whistle!”

He didn’t acknowledge me then, nor when I asked for explanations of other calls and non-calls, so I appealed to his vain side. “Sir!” I said. “I think you’re handsome. Extremely handsome.” Nothing. Not even a warning.

I felt … invisible.

And he wasn’t even all that good looking.

1. Can you kick the ball out when the keeper punts it?

"Hi Coach Daddy." :) By Johnmaxmena (talk)John Mena [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
“Hi Coach Daddy.” Love, Hopey.
By Johnmaxmena (talk)John Mena [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Referee conduct is often in ridiculous contrast to the neat and orderly laws of the game.

The laws of the game say no opposing player may impede a keeper from putting the ball back into play. Soccer also has laws against ‘unsporting behavior.’ If an attacker waits just outside the 18-yard box with the intent of blocking a punt, that’s considered unsporting behavior.

It should result in a free kick for the keeper’s team and a warning for the attacking player, and possibly a yellow card.

At the referee’s discretion, of course.

2. Why do people take drugs?


Drugs are meant to change something for a person.

This is open to interpretation much broader than referee’s discretion. I take drugs that help regulate my glucose levels, for instance. Others are taken to treat disease or ease pain.

Drugs can also change other things for people, such as provide an escape from the world. People take them for reasons they think are right, but ultimately are wrong. Pain killers used without a prescription are an example.

So too are pain killers taken with a prescription, although who knows it at the time? There’s always a risk. My doctor tells me my pills are temporary – they’re meant to get me from here to a better place in many different ways.

It’s what I do outside of the pills that will determine how quickly.

My hope is that the pills you take in a lifetime are minimal, and the reasons you need to take them just as small.

3. Are dandelions con artists?

photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/93733517@N00/2494740951">this could all blow away ...</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/">(license)</a>
photo credit: this could all blow away … via photopin (license)

Dandelions are just … persuasive. But I’d stop short of con artist status.

True, dandelions present a tempting choice for kids: A stem full of tiny parachutes, deployed with a single blow. For the kid, it’s a good 11 seconds of non-Disney entertainment; for the grownup, it’s 17 new dandelion sprouts where the seeds land. Then they grow up to make tiny parachutes of their own.

It’s like those carts of blow-up toys and cheap horns a guy pushes around at a parade. It’s total crap; but, people buy it, so he makes enough to buy more total crap. It’s the circle of life.

4. Does the GPS really talk to you like that?

You mean, like this?

No, not my Shelley.

Guys, this is Shelley. Shelley, this is the guys. Or, girls.
Guys, this is Shelley. Shelley, this is the guys. Or, girls.

She never even says “recalculating.” She just, does. When I miss a turn, she doesn’t miss a beat. “When possible, make a u-turn,” she says. I’ve said it before – I think she finds my missteps endearing. And sometimes, her satellites get all discombobulated, and she’ll take me to a Hungry Howie’s that looks like a residential neighborhood.

It’s all good, though.

No mayhem. Just harmony.

5. Isn’t the billboard that says “1 in 5 kids in the U.S. is hungry” wrong?

1_in_5_kids_b_1I said yes. Ginger, the online grammar queen, said no.

This, after I took to the phones all old-school. I found a directory of grammar hotlines. Yes, hotlines! I called the University of Arkansas Little Rock. I might have freaked out the woman who answered the phone. “I think you might have the wrong number,” she said, all spaced out for effect.

No sister. This is it. Help me with grammar. Please? Instead, she transferred me to the writing center. I imagined room full of floppy-haired English majors stuck on campus for summer semester.

Or, there by choice, to toss about ideas on grammar and solid writing. Either way, I got voicemail. Seems the writing center is closed for the summer. As if grammar ever takes a vacation.

At Consumnes River College in Sacramento (alma mater to former White Sox DH Jermaine Dye, a dude I interviewed back in 1996, his rookie season with the Braves), the writing center won’t open until Aug. 15.

Grammar expert Karen Gentrup’s phone number was out of service. (Maybe busted by the grammar police?) I even tried The U (in Miami). Voicemail.

I figured the football team might be on campus this summer sharpening their writing skills.

But, no.

I asked Julia Tomiak, fellow youth soccer coach and author of Diary of a Word Nerd. This is what she said:

Actually, I think it’s correct, because the subject of the sentence is singular: kid, specifically one kid, and the “out of five kids” is a distracting prepositional phrase. One kid out of five kids faces hunger- one kid faces hunger.

To help, I consulted this post on Grammar Girl.

So, Ginger has it. So does Julia. It’s correct. I thought you’d drop the “in 5” and try to see if “one kid(s) faces hunger” works, which it does not. Ginger doesn’t give rules or reasons for its correctness.

That’s Ginger’s discretion, I guess.

I don’t hate that as much.

endurance quote


  1. claywatkins says:

    You get checks for your grammar? Sign me up! 1 in 5 kids … that whole thing makes my brain hurt, sort of like bad officiating. Hang in there, for every not so swift red you get far more good ones. Have a wonderful weekend.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      I wish, Clayton! Although mine might not be worth the paper they’re printed on. I consider myself decently okay when it comes to grammar, but I’ve been more sure of myself buying cologne out of a car trunk in a Winn-Dixie parking lot than I was with that one.

      I guess the universe balances out with officiating – perhaps our bad match in Columbia meant a good one was called in Nairobi or Cape Town.

  2. Wow huge props and you sure did your research with the grammar police and had to think about that myself before going forth and reading the rationale here!

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      I got a little carried away on that one, J-Huld.

  3. Lyn says:

    As far as the ref is concerned, I’d find out which car is his, and let down two of his tyres 😀
    I deliberately take the wrong turn sometimes just so I can hear my GPS speak. His name is Charlie (Charles actually) and he has a gorgeous English accent. I sometimes pretend I’m being chased by spies and ask him to find me a quick and safe way out of a situation (hey, a girl has to have some fun in life). 😀

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      That behavior will get my on YouTube! I don’t hate all refs – although I can’t say some of my best friends are refs.

      Coaches and refs have a sort of mailman-dog relationship.

      A GPS can be more of a warm companion than a robot, can’t it? In a prior lifetime, I might have imagined Shelley was leading to me to an out-of-the-way barbecue joint on a late fall afternoon. Her treat.

  4. stomperdad says:

    My yard is full of dandelions and I knew the yellow flowers turned white but I’ve never seen it. Thanks for the time lapse! I can’t say much about “ref’s discretion” as I’ve been that ref using my discretion. Thankfully, only for 8-12 year olds who didn’t really understand that I was using my discretion and the parents didn’t care enough to question me.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      There has to be a culture somewhere where a dandelion-filled yard is a symbol of virility and virtue. I’ll keep looking.

      I forget that you’ve worn the “shirt.” And that you’re human, just like the rest of us, Eric. But like good deeds in the world, good refs aren’t often recounted post-game, are they? That’s too bad.

      I have a really good ref story I’ll have to tell next time, Eric. It’s feel-good.

      1. stomperdad says:

        Good point, Eli. No ever says post game “man, that ref was awesome. Those were some great calls he made.”

      2. Eli Pacheco says:

        But maybe they should. I do shake hands with them almost every time after the game.

      3. stomperdad says:

        Ditto that. I always tell them good game, just as I do the other team. I’ll offer a handshake if I’m close enough and they don’t run off like an outlaw.

      4. Eli Pacheco says:

        I’ll never run – unless there’s half-off tacos someplace close.

  5. Kathy G says:

    I’d never thought about dandelions being con artists. They’re the veggie chips of the flower world.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Nature’s full of con artists, Kathy – like the butterfly that looks like a monarch because a monarch is poisonous and this other one is apparently delicious to birds. Veggie chips and soy burgers are worse, because they aren’t veggie chips and soy burgers for their mere survival.

  6. I don’t care whether it’s “is” or “are”: the fact that there are hungry kids out there is wrong as such.

    Soccer coaches should get one “video challenge” per half time. A little less discretion, a little more facts might go a long way. Do you think refs are on drugs sometimes?

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      You’re right Tamara – looking at the billboard, we lost sight of the bigger picture. Video challenges would gum up the works time-wise, and give an advantage to teams to rest or regroup, when soccer is about adjusting on the fly. I’d be satisfied if a ref would at least turn and explain the call. Even if I don’t agree, I won’t argue, I just want to be in the loop. Or tell me why my kid getting pushed from behind and cleated while she dribbles isn’t cause for a whistle.

      I’m listening!

      I think refs do the best they can 99% of the time. I think refs sometimes won’t admit a mistake or demonstrate that they have a basic knowledge of the laws of the game.

  7. Although I’m no grammar expert, I am siding with Julia and Grammar Girl on this one. But I do claim some expertise on dandelions. And I think it’s a good thing it’s not puffballs that get kicked around soccer fields. Did you know each of the tufts is called a pappus, meaning old man/grandfather because they look like little white beards? And when all the seeds have blown off, what remains on the stem is called a monk’s head because it resembles a bald pate. If you’re looking for a wealth of useless but somehow interesting-to-me information, I suspect any good GPS would lead you directly to my brain. 🙂

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      That’s the right side, Deborah. What’s righteous is how you strung it all together the way you did. I try to peg one answer to another but sometimes its just not happening, so tip of the hat to you on that stream of consciousness!

  8. Julia Tomiak says:

    Ah, “at the referee’s discretion” – such a tricky phrase. I fully appreciate that the referee has the toughest job on the pitch, but lately, it seems like many are letting the game get way out of hand. My husband (also a coach) has been known to throw hats and clipboards as well. Recently, he advised one of his players, “Be aggressive – everyone else is.” The ref said, “Watch it, coach.” My husband replied, “I am. Are you?”
    Luckily, the ref had a good sense of humor.
    Thanks for the shout out – glad I could help. I love grammar conundrums, so hit me up any time. Hopefully, I’ll be faster the next go around. 😉
    Love the new blog design!

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Referees are just a part of life, Julia. They do have a tough job, and I know they get a lot of heat. I know they make mistakes, but I just want them to know the laws of the game, you know? And talk to me. I’ll be respectful, I promise.

      Nice comeback by your husband! I could write a post of ref stories – and actually, most of them are pretty cool.

      And thanks for the expert opinion. I felt like NPR or something. Eat your heart out, Kai Ryssdal.

      Glad you like the new look! I’ve been told by a valued source that it looks more “manly” than the old style.

  9. A.PROMPTreply says:

    Eli, I’m surprised at you not having the Darth Vader voice on your GPS! You’re getting behind! 🙂 Agree with the other commenter who said find that ref’s car and go after his tyres! Terrible!

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      No Torrie – travel time is no time for the Dark Lord of the Sith. That’s Shelley time.

      I don’t know … I’d feel bad taking it to the tyres (or, tires here). Setting a bad example and all. I didn’t hide my emotions a bit in Columbia, but the kids weren’t happy with it either.

  10. ksbeth says:

    i’ve changed my siri/gps to an australian male voice and he seems to be much more tolerant of my unplanned detours.love the quote at the end, and fyi – when you blow the dandelion seeds around, each one of them is a new baby fairy. just thought you might like to know a bit of the science of it all.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      That’s how Shelley is – patient and tolerant, almost like my failure to follow instructions is … endearing. Does yours have a name? (Officially she’s Michelle, but, you know.)

      I think I heard that fairy bit on Science Friday once. Probably, right?

  11. I sure love the quote at the end of the post. Really brings a thoughtful perspective.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Thanks Joanne. I try to borrow others’ words to wrap up what I’ve tried to say!

  12. Hi CD: We’ve been ghosts as of late, working on our next book in our series but we’re back in the blogosphere making our way back to our fav blogs. Loved this post. Dandelions are annoying as heck. And I thought you’re analogy was spot on. My daughter hears me gripe about them all the time. So she recently pointed me to a site that shows all the benefits of Dandelion greens. (vitamins, the amazing dishes you can make with them. Guess who’s coming to dinner? Some tasty Dandelions!! lol 😉 I watch this show all the time (Caught on Camera) which usually makes me laugh after a hard day at work. This one had me up out of my seat screaming at the T.V. It was of a father who attacked a ref for not penalizing a player for hurting another player who happened to be his son; a really bad call!!! People are tired of ref’s who have no business in that position. This video I’m leaving is (to me) one of the worst examples of bad ref’ing. (not a word but I’m going with it. lol) I’ve been into MMA for a while. Thought you would enjoy this CD. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TS6ArBlo8wo

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      That video was tough to watch, and I’m not even an MMA fan or appreciator. To see one fighter essentially lose a fight because of poor officiating …

      Let me clarify one thing.

      Poor officiating to me doesn’t mean missing an occasional call, even a big one. That’s the human element and I can live with that.

      Poor officiating to me is not understanding the rules. I have to turn up at the pitch knowing what is legal and illegal. I expect my players and opposition to know it, I wish for my parents to know it, and I trust the officials to know it, not only for fairness, but for safety.

      The losing fighter in that bout took a horrible beating that shouldn’t have occurred. Incredible.

      Pass the dandelion salsa, would you?

  13. kismaslife says:

    Con-artist dandelions. LOVE IT! When my kids were small, I would bribe them with candy to pick them before they turned into the little clouds of evil that spread like a virus they can be.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Aren’t they, though? She’d just asked the definition of a con artist, and dandelions were here first thought.

      Heck, I’d still pick them for candy.

  14. tamaralikecamera says:

    I wish this for all: “My hope is that the pills you take in a lifetime are minimal, and the reasons you need to take them just as small”
    But mostly me because I don’t really know how to swallow pills so I just keep hoping I’ll never have to… but… I probably will someday! (and yes, they give me “the pink bubblegum stuff” for occasional use)

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Unlike Huey Lewis, I *don’t* want a new drug. What do you do for a headache? Here in the south, you can take BC powder.

      1. tamaralikecamera says:

        I don’t get headaches, but in the rare occasion that I do I can just use peppermint oil on it. And if that doesn’t work, children’s chewable Motrin, baby.

  15. Rorybore says:

    I only take drugs – OTC to be clear! – during one very specific time of the month. And I take a lot some months. I need them so that I will like people at that time.
    you’re welcome world! 🙂

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      – The more you know, the more you grow.

  16. Ann Koplow says:

    Eli! I think you’re handsome and a great writer.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Well, good gravy Ann. There’s no good answer to that but to say thank you.

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