Confession: I’m 100% Scorpio-American. My birthstone is sulfuric acid. My patron saint is Jack Daniel’s.

So, who am I to give advice? What do I know of a conventional contented life? What do I know of music, movies, art — though I feel I have a pretty good grasp of the common American sit-com.

I live my life like a sit-com, in 22-minute increments, something going haywire about 5 minutes in. I always try to follow the standard sit-com formula, a weirdly Shakespearean progression where:

  1. I have a problem
  2. I try to fix the problem
  3. Instead, I make the problem worse.
  4. Oddly, and drawing on some deeply hidden skill set, I finally fix the problem.

King Lear, right? The tragic hero. Since second grade, this is how I’ve lived my life. Trust me, it’s no way to operate.

By the way, my late buddy Rhymer, a terrific screenwriter, came up with that comic progression for sit-coms. To this day, it’s a lock. Try it.

Admittedly, I’m an odd fit for LA. I crave old houses with stairs that creak, surrounded by freshwater lakes where you can slide a canoe off the bank in search of the mighty bluegill, once dubbed the greatest American game fish because, you know, everyone always catches one.

I mean, you could hook one in a mud puddle. To a bluegill, everything is bait. Spit. Old Band-Aids. Bits of plum.

I grew up in Chicago, where I learned English by listening to marble-mouthed mayors and coaches who said dem and doze instead of them and those. I learned about grit and perseverance from watching da Cubs and da Bears.

Is it any wonder that, to this day, I have very little of either?

Now I’m an LA guy. Oops. No lakes. No canoes. Lots of shopping centers and crosswalks. I rather like it out here, actually.

Every sunrise, a glorious walk. Lately, I’ve been taking White Fang to a nearby soccer field, where she sniffs the stinky scents left by the kids who play there on weekends and thinks — momentarily at least — how good they might taste on toast.

Wolves, huh? No wonder they get a bad rap. They never change their cognitive behavior. They struggle with impulse control.

In short, wolves defy evolution. In that way, they are very much like me.

Ideally, though, I would like to start an AYSO league expressly for dogs, with uniforms, lots of running around and post-game dog treats.

White Fang likes when I describe AYSO and its near-Marxist approach to youth soccer – how everybody plays, everybody gets a trophy no matter what, blah-blah-blah. To me at least, AYSO is the only real example of pure Marxism ever succeeding on a global level, but it certainly does.

And the dogs would love it!

We’d organize the soccer league by breed. The dachshunds, being German and low on the ball, would have an edge, but don’t rule out the French and their poodles. Very smart, the poodles.

Each team would have a Team Mom. Banners. Uniforms.

Eventually, if it took off, we’d enter a World Cup team, and take part in an endless global tournament that almost nobody understands. Big money in those. Sponsorships. Name, image and likeness deals.

It’s a changing sports landscape. Jump aboard.

Seriously, I miss AYSO. I mean, when I was coaching it, I didn’t like it all that much – rushing home for practices, the long seasons … my socks were always a little wet.

I was even a ref, so that on a scorching Southern California afternoon I could go out on the “the pitch” and be screamed at in 15 different languages.

OFFSIDE, REF! OFFSIDE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

LA is such a melting pot. Love it. Not every butterfly should look the same. Just note that, at any given point, on any given SoCal freeway, there are motorists who learned to drive in 50 different nations, all cruising along together at 3 mph, happy.

Los Angeles defies every law of physics, every conventional wisdom. Which is why I love it. Plus the food.

Anyway, I do miss AYSO. I always have to remember that at this time of year as I complain about staging these elaborate and exhausting tailgate parties with my buddies Miller, Bittner, Jeff, Gary, Liz, Verge, etc.

In those cases, I apply the same principles I picked up in AYSO: Everybody plays, everybody gets a trophy.

And I know, after retiring from AYSO, that sometimes you don’t appreciate things till they’re over. Hence, I continue these Rose Bowl tailgates, even though they wipe me out.

Life exhausts us. It’s one way to know we’re alive.

Great, isn’t it?

OK, maybe sometimes.

Stay tuned for info on a holiday G & T bash, at a bar near you. Meanwhile, check out my website for books and quirky gifts, like gin glasses and t-shirts: ChrisErskineLA.com. Thanks!

12 thoughts on “I Miss AYSO

  1. I wonder if Catty Cakes will one day participate in AYSO? If so, I am sure she will do it with style, as she seems to do everything. And her grandpa will be right there on the sidelines, taking copious pics and cheering her on. 👏

  2. Sometimes it’s over before it begins. My sweet nephew refused to chase the soccer ball. He’d run a bit then drop down and pick up a forget-me-not, or ladybug, and spend some serious time with it on the field. I’d scream at my sister, “Get him! Rescue him!” Meanwhile my brother-in-law thought the situation was somehow salvageable. “Come on, buddy! You can do it! Up, up, up, let’s go!” It wasn’t. He was always airlifted out by the arms of some concerned parent. Not everyone has a killer instinct. Years later, he opted out of corporate slavery and is now a successful entrepreneur. Sweet soul. His wife was a local soccer star. I’ve seen her play. Seen her play 7 months pregnant too. You don’t want any part of her. Killer instinct. Life writes the script and we’re just here to marvel at it all. Enjoy the tailgate. Let the others exhaust themselves. Just show up and stare at a blade of grass. They’ll all think you’re on to something. Pax.

  3. We missed AYSO also……..and now we attend the games as grandparents. No responsibilities, no snacks, no arch for the kids to run through. They still have team moms, and uniforms, but the banners, if they have one at all, aren’t always home made – some are made on the computer or Cricut machines. Always a joy but much easier!

  4. You’re right about bluegills. I was 12 and we were vacationing on a lake in northern Illinois. A few adults were fishing; I took a fish bowl, put bread in it into the water, when the bluegill went for the bread, I raised the bowl, caught 17(!) in a short time while the adults still were fishless. 😂

  5. I love this article. Like the author, I also grew up in Chicago and know about Bluegills. I coached AYSO for 11 years and served on the board for 9 of those years. I really loved and miss those years! My younger daughter played for 12 years and coached GU5 and GU6 for all 4 years of high school. Perhaps she will coach the next generation and that would be wonderful even if it is Marxist.

    Never thought of AYSO as Marxist but it is the only level of Marxism that has ever succeeded on ANY level – don’t even think about global. Finally Marxism has contributed something positive to the world.

  6. You’ve not truly experienced AYSO until you have a daughter play in Seattle. Oh, how the season begins …balmy September days, dads at the sidelines making all the fuss they do and moms sitting in the lawn chairs covertly sipping the chardonnay (or maybe margaritas) from the heavy duty thermos. By November, every soccer field in western Washington has a GIANT divot the size of the Grand Canyon right in front of the net appropriately with enough water to look like Lake Mead. Parents wearing tundra level soaked jackets & ducks (know what those are?), and mud covered children needing to be hosed off before getting in the car. I think some were never heard from again. Fun times!

  7. ….These alien worlds. I know nothing of the universe of team coaching. I have passively attended a few youth sporting events, but found more sports in the stands around me than on the field, where many young players often grimly pursued the understood objectives, while others did so with the joyous release of both physical and psychic energy. The main pleasure for most seemed to be simply belonging, a powerful lure for us all, but especially for the young. I liked to do sports, but shunned the visceral press of contact, loving more isolate baseball and swimming for the feelings noted above, and competitively did well enough to get the ego rewards in a team milieu. Even then, I was conscious of the dark side of parental over-investment. You seem to have transcended this.

    Spoiler alert: I did have a WSI certification at age 17, and for several summers taught swimming to small groups of children 5–10 years of age when I was a beach lifeguard in Illinois on Lake Michigan , as part of Red Cross municipal program. A veritable child teaching children, I was able to get inside them, and they almost all did well. We understood each other, and I learned a great deal. So I guess I do have a little insight into teaching, if not coaching, though very little. As I said, of team coaching, that is, indeed, another world. Or is it?

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