The Soccer Teacher and Following Rules

As you are doubtless well aware, chssidishe children are kept far away from sports. You may not know this but the reason for that is – or at least the reason given to us in my circles – because if we were allowed to play sports, we would naturally want to follow sports which entails using a radio which wasn’t encouraged, or a television which was illegal, following sports could of course have led to committing one of the cardinal sins; attending a game at a STADIUM!! So all in all it was deemed safer and easier to simply demonize all sports, make fun of sports, tell us that goyim are ridiculous for wasting their time on sports, that they’re a bunch of monkeys who throw balls around a park and chase each other around like animals.

In my elementary school we were allowed to play – in addition to the monkey bar, the slide, the swings and the sand box – machanayim, tag, hide-and-seek which is another form of tag, cops and robbers which is another ‘nother form of tag, scatter which is another name for machanayim, and soccer. So I guess we weren’t terribly deprived of choices, they just weren’t our choices. At one point my parents unfortunately bought into this mishigas a little too wholeheartedly; one of my brothers and I used to play basketball at a neighbors house and one day my mother starts hinting that we shouldn’t play basketball with them, do something else, find a different game to play but don’t play basketball. We fought over that a good bit and got nowhere because there was nothing behind her desire for us not to play basketball except a mistaken belief that the community ban on sports was the same as, say, hilchos Shabbos, but whereas Shabbos also doesn’t make any kind of sense at least it’s traced back to god, the ban on sports couldn’t be traced back further than the Viener dayan in Williamsburg in the ’50s, and when someone doesn’t have a reason for what they say but simply stick to dogma you’ll never get anywhere with them. Which we didn’t, the ban stuck.

One of the many English teachers we had in 6th grade was a BT from Canada who had lived in England as well and had been an amateur soccer player (I don’t know what that is, I’m only repeating what he said). He was a very nice fellow but obviously not up to the job of imparting any of his knowledge of English to us, which is, of course, not his fault because that wasn’t what he was hired to do. He was hired to babysit us so that the school could fulfill their legal requirements of having an English curriculum. I hope you know that English includes: English, math, civics, geography and history through 4th grade level.
So this chap comes along and sees us playing our own unique version of soccer which only resembled that worthy game in that we had two goals on opposing sides of the playground, and he took it upon himself to set us straight and help us play a better game.
“No, you don’t just kick each other to death, you pass the ball to each other”
“You have two defense and one goalie”
“Stop using your hands”
“Don’t run across the whole field with the ball, pass it to your teammate”
After a week or two of this, the games were running along much smoother than before, we all had less bruises and we were generally happier people when one day, the menahel comes into the classroom during the morning (Hebrew) and says, de teacher lernt aink ous tzi shpieln mit di rules, zurgts aink nish vegen di rules, shpieltz vi’zoi etz viltz de rules zennen far de goyim. (The teacher is teaching you how to play with the rules, don’t worry about the rules, play however you want to, the rules are for the goyim).
That made me quite mad; the rules are for the goyim? I fumed to myself and to my family that night, the rules are there to make the game work, they make the game into a game, what was going on before wasn’t soccer it was a kick fest. And so on in that vein but it was in vain, the menahel had spoken and now the good kids were sure to ruin for anyone who wanted to play by the rules.
What I didn’t realize at the time was that the menahel couldn’t care less about soccer and whether we played that game with the rules, he was teaching us a valuable lesson for life, soccer was only a convenient metaphor for taxes.

Because I was a star student I was chosen for extra homework to drive this lesson home. One day as I’m walking around my neighborhood minding my own business the school’s bus driver/administrator/handyman pulls up alongside me in his car and calls me over; “Shragi, chasmeh mir du inter mit day numen, here sign this paper with this name” I ask him why? He says he just needs a different handwriting than the other signature on the page. And that day I committed my first federal offense…..

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