MAN OF THE HOUSE

Fall's soccer ritual kicks in

Then there are the games. Ours resemble bar fights between teams of tiny choreographers, lots of slapping and kicking and crying. We won our first brawl and split the second. The cops were called, bond was set, we bailed them out. The whole team is now on double-secret probation. One more arrest and we're taking away their scholarships.

"There's a lot of talent out here," one of the dads tells me after the first game.

"Where?" I say.

I think maybe he was talking about the wives. The soccer moms. Our moms are so tough they eat hockey moms for breakfast.

Seriously, we have terrific moms, especially considering that they're getting about four hours of sleep a night now that school has started. One of them, draped in infants and diaper bags and fatigue, showed up at the last practice with Froot Loops stuck to her fanny. I was going to point this out, but I didn't want to embarrass her in front of the other frazzled moms, who can turn on you in an instant. Grrrrrrrr.

Then there are the dads, who stand along the sidelines in their Georgetown and Princeton T-shirts, undermining my authority at every turn. When I scolded the players one day for their newfound habit of spontaneously bearhugging each other during practice, my own assistant said, "Yeah, quit acting like you're 5."

I just assumed he was talking to me.

By the way, while waiting for the opening day parade, we adopted the team motto, "Yes, we are!" We like it because it is irrefutable, slightly droll and doesn't set the bar too high. The last thing we need is for some overly excited parent to stroke out along the sideline. Me, in particular.

"Yes, we are!" I shout as we show up for our third contest of the year.

It's a good motto that aspires to nothing. At the end of the season, we hope to auction it off to a major airline.

Chris Erskine can be reached at chris.erskine@latimes .com. For more columns, see latimes.com/erskine.

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