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Sports for Fun?

The tall, skinny kid with the child-size shinguards that leave him almost completely unprotected had taken one step on to the field when the coach, who was only sort of a coach, grabbed his shoulder.

"Who are you going in for?" She asked.

The skinny kid looked at her as if she was nuts.

"Just pick a name," the coach said.

"Robbie!" Shouted the kid, as he entered the game. Nobody came out. Maybe there was nobody named Robbie in the game, or maybe Robbie knew that nobody was keeping track.

On the far side of the field, another player took a dive. He stayed down.

"Hurt?" shouted the coach.

The player raised himself up on one elbow and thought about it for a beat. "No," he said. "I was just lying down."

These are the high school kids in my town who really like playing soccer but who didn't make the varsity soccer team. Or didn't care to tryout. Or might have tried out if they didn't have after school jobs. Or it they hadn't forgotten. Or something.

They play on Sunday afternoon for fun. They shout encouragement to each other. They laugh at each other without malice. Some of them are fast and sure of themselves. Some of them are ridiculous. They seem perfectly happy to be running around together. Playing time is not an issue. They play until they need to stop to catch their breath. Sometimes they rest on the field. Sometimes they come out. Sometimes somebody else goes in. Robbie still hasn't left the game, if he was ever in it.

"How much time is left?"

The question comes from the girl who's just foiled an opposing attack by intercepting a pass with a nifty trap, then dribbled most of the way up the pitch, then lost the ball. Now she's leaning over with her hands on her knees, about twenty yards offsides, should her team turn it around again.

"How much time is left?"

"I started my watch late," says the ref. "about ten minutes, I guess. Play on."

The girl shrugs and runs on to the looping pass headed vaguely her way.

There is no offsides call. Nobody minds. Everybody's curious about what will happen next in this happy anomaly in the land of sports taken too seriously too early...this game played simply for the sake of playing the game.

This program aired on October 29, 2003. The audio for this program is not available.

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