ALL SEASON the parents had sat on the sidelines at the Arlington Soccer Association games, exhorting their daughters to run faster and kick harder, groaning over goal tries that went wide.
Sunday afternoon at Williamsburg Junior High the girls of several teams got even for all that nagging in the annual parent-child soccer showdown.
It was a terrible scene, played out on a dusty field under a pitiless sun. On one side was perhaps a score of parents, most of them wrinkled or flabby, trying at first to retain a little dignity and then just hoping to stave off total collapse.
On the other side were hordes of fierce and fresh-faced girls, all under 12, supported by sundry savage brothers. Scattered through the melee were several free agents who drifted on and off the field as the spirit moved them, kicking the ball wherever they pleased and making a shambles of the adults' efforts to overcome shortness of breath and limpness of leg with superior strategy.
"They don't show me no respect," one gasping father said as he lay on the ground and watched the children scamper down the field with the ball that moments before had been in his possession.
"Wait'll I get you home," a dirt-streaked mother said after her daughters had teamed up to bully her away from the ball. The girls stuck out their tongues at her and danced away.
"They're kicking me in the shins," Arlington Commonwealth Attorney William S. Burroughs complained to referee Dave Fidler, displaying the welts and cleat marks on his spindly legs. Some of the dings had been applied by his daughter, Alice, who is a lovely little creature until you get in her way.
"Play on," Fidler said. During the season Fidler had coached the girls, and had suffered in silence while the parents had smothered him with unsolicited advice. He was enjoying himself wickedly, and managed not to notice a single foul.
The score was a standoff until late in the first half, with the children dominating the play but being frustrated when some 200-pound parent managed to get a foot on the ball and kick it all the way back upfield.Having a 6-foot-5 goalie also helped the Geritol generation. Near halftime a booming shot caromed through several girls as though they were bumpers in a pinball machine and dribbled into the goal for a 1-0 parental advantage.
During halftime the parents sprawled in agony as the children played tag. One over heated father made the mistake of chugging a beer, which evaporated instantly in his boiler room and put out his fire for the rest of the day.
It was clear to the parents that a rout was in prospect. Some of their number already had slunk away, their pride overcome by the instinct of self-preservation. Others appeared unlikely to be able to respond to the secondhalf whistle.
The problem, beyond infirmity and those swarming, tireless tiny feet, was that the rules, promulgated on the spot by the fiendish Fidler, allowed the girls' coaches to play with their teams.
One of them was Phillip Proulx, slender as a whippet and fast as a ferret; the other was Ann Loving, who is, as someone once said of the Japanese warrior, "Not so velly big, but wound up velly tight."
Proulx and Loving gave shape and direction to the girls' play. Instead of being intimidated by phalanxes of fathers standing stout as - and only slightly more mobile than - oaks, the two coaches dribbled the ball with lightning feet and flitted through the fathers like foxes through a forest.
"Look, you guys," one mother said, "if we don't beat these girls it's all over. We'll lose our authority. They won't eat their spinach, they'll never do their homework, they'll let their teeth rot right out from under those thounsand-dollar braces."
"Yeah," a father agreed. "That Proulx and Loving are killing us. We've got to stop them."
"We need an Enforcer," said another. "A Heavy to go out there and put his body on them."
All heads turned to the two fattest fathers. "Not the one in the sweatshirt, he knows how to play," somebody said. "The other one - yes, you in The Washington Post tee shirt. You go out there and lay it on them."
Hey, look," he said. "I've got this bad back and . . ."
"It is an affair of honor," one said.
"We must sacrifice for the good of the children," said another. "Also, we'll slash your tires."
The designated hitter did his duty, crash-diving into Proulx and Loving when they neared the old people's goal. For his pains he got more pains: Proulx left him with a hip pointer and Loving played his ribs like a xylophone.The two coaches were having so much fun with their punching bag they began to neglect the ball, giving Burroughs 289 point-blank shots at the girls' goal, of which two went in, making the score 3-0.
At length the Heavy stood reeling in the sun, barely able to move, uncertain which way to go, and interfering with his own goalie, past whom the girls soon whipped a shot.
The tide had clearly turned, but Fidler blew the whistle to end the game as the girls came on again.
"I was afraid somebody would go into cardiac arrest," he said.
Perhaps he was also mindful of who supplies the drinking water and orange slices during the soccer season, which resumes in the fall.
"I hope they learned their lesson," said one mother to another as they helped each other limping toward the sideline where a picnic was spread out.
"Jeez, Mom, how come you guys get so excited?" said a daughter as she skipped past them toward the fried chicken. "It's only a game."
Afterwards, while the adults played dead, the children played soccer.