John F. Russell: Forget about the score
July 11, 2010
Steamboat Springs — The other night I sat through one of those youth soccer games at Heritage Park, and I couldn't help but scratch my head as the game unfolded.
They don't count the goals, the coach keeps yelling something about passing the ball, and people along the sidelines cheer for both teams no matter which team is winning. Of course, nobody has a clue which team is winning because nobody is keeping the score.
The trick is to cheer for the team with the best post-game snacks just in case there are any extras.
Can you imagine what would happen if the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox decided to play a game where they didn't keep score?
There would be riots in Times Square, they would stop drinking Irish beer in Boston, and the Earth would stop spinning for several hours while scientists reviewed the laws of physics in an attempt to figure out what just happened.
OK, so maybe it wouldn't happen that way, but I'm sure it would be really bad.
The final score consumes sports fans in the United States. It's the first thing we ask about, and truth is that it's the only thing we really care about.
But all you have to do is sit through one of those pint-sized soccer games to realize that the best parts of sports have very little to do with the final score.
It's about that little player, T-shirt hanging at her knees, with an ear-to-ear grin as she runs toward the opposing goal — pure joy. It's about how each child treats the other players on the field and how they treat the players on the other team.
It's about watching a child improve throughout the course of the game or season.
It's too bad these traits are not valued more in the world of sports. If they were, maybe today's stars would be better role models and a little easier to look up to.
But children learn at an early age that the score does matter, and so does winning.
As a sports fan, it's hard to understand the importance of a game where they don't keep score — it's almost more than my competitive spirit can handle.
But the concept is easier for an 8-year-old, and I can understand that.
Someday soon, the coaches will start keeping score, the parents will stop cheering for both teams, and the idea of passing the ball will give way to that golden opportunity to score the game-winning goal.
But until then, soccer is a game where children can run around, where children can kick the ball down the field, and if everything falls into place, they can even score a goal. Of course, nobody will be there to count it.
This is where young athletes are introduced to the best aspects of the game. The young athletes learn about sportsmanship, they learn about teamwork, and, of course, they learn about the post-game snacks.