Ah, yes, it's time once again for those wonderful sounds of fall: the crackle of roasting chestnuts, the rustle of fallen leaves underfoot.
Alas, it's also time for the less wonderful sounds of the same season. They go something like this:
"You idiot! You blew it again! If we don't win, it's all your fault! You're a disgrace to this team!"
Little League Syndrome is once again alive and well on our playing fields. Parents disguised as coaches work out their Vince Lombardi fantasies on defenseless kids who are simply trying their best. But "best" isn't good enough for the weekend Vinces. These brilliant molders of youth want to vanquish, not participate. They want blood, not rosy cheeks.
You would think that LLS would be on the decline, since it has been a cliche -- and been under fire -- for at least a generation. And in one sense, the decline may have taken place. You don't hear much any more about Johnny and Janey's parents screaming insults at the referee from the bleachers.
But in the world of coaching, things are apparently as poisonous as they always were. Consider this tale from Herndon, submitted by Judy Whitman.
"Over the Labor Day weekend, my daughter's soccer team participated in a tournament (these are 10-year-old girls). My daughter was hit in the stomach with the ball and had the wind knocked out of her.
"The referee stopped the game, as any normal person does when a child is hurt. However, the coach of the opposing team complained that his team had lost their advantage.
" . . . . As we begin another season of football, soccer and whatever else our kids are doing, we might do well to recall that they are kids. We are always quick to give lip service to the catch phrases of organized children's sports (have fun, improve skills, teach good sportsmanship, etc.). But what do we demonstrate to children through our reactions to winning and losing?"
You are so right, Judy, and I hope that every parent (as well as every child) will clip and save your wise remarks. I would hope the same for Weekend Vinces, but I think I'll save my breath. There's no evidence that they can see past the ends of their noses.
Sign of the times:
"A country boy from Carolina" says he has just checked the Yellow Pages, and there are more financial institutions in Northern Virginia than there are gas stations.
If you're a Forgetful Fred or a Harassed Harry, you have probably driven off from a gas station without remembering to screw the cap back on your gas tank. If you're Robert Forgetful Harassed Levey, you have done this more than once.
But no longer will any of us do it if we heed a wise tip from Harvey Geller of Greenbelt.
Harvey suggests that as soon as you pull up to Ye Olde Self-Serve, take the keys out of the ignition and hold them in your hot little fist. As soon as you have unscrewed the gas cap, put the keys on top of the trunk. Then put the cap on top of the keys.
"This way," says Harvey, "if you get back into the car without putting the gas cap on, you do not have the keys to start the car."
Gales of abashed apologies to David Splitt and Martha Corson Splitt, who got done dirty by the same Robert Forgetful Harassed Levey we encountered about two inches ago.
David and Martha are acting as "point persons" for the 25th reunion of the class of 1962 from Annandale High School, which is scheduled for Oct. 10. So why did Levey report a few days ago that they were "pointperson-ing" for Mount Vernon '62? Because he is a lummox who got flummoxed, that's why.
This would be embarrassing enough if it had been done to any class. It's especially embarrassing because the Splitts and Levey are from the same prehistoric era.
I, too, graduated from high school in 1962, and I always give a silent bow to that class whenever I publicize one of "our" reunions. Perhaps better typing and less bowing might be indicated, eh?
The only saving grace (and it isn't much of one) is that Annandale and Mount Vernon were not (and are not) bitter football rivals. They play only occasionally. If I had accidentally interchanged Annandale with, say, West Springfield, the brickbats might still be arriving, air mail, in the general direction of my head.
To the Splitts: Thank you for receiving all those Mount Vernon phone calls with such good grace. I won't confuse the two schools again for at least 25 more years.
To the class of '62 from Annandale: Call David or Martha at 628-3223 or 362-3355 if you'd like to attend the Oct. 10 reunion.
To the class of '62 from Mount Vernon: I assume you soulmates are reuniting sometime soon, too. But I have no information about plans. If someone from the class will get in touch with me at 334-7276, I promise to publish full details. And I promise not to file them under A-for-Annandale.