A boy named Jose

The wide world of multiple-kid sports opened its all consuming doors to us this year.

After a vaguely pyramid-scheme-ish dalliance with karate and its monthly payments and timed progression of colored belts, we convinced the Gort to pass on the kata and give indoor soccer a try.

And the Hen, having declared his intent to join the NBA right out of high school – oh is my father not quite six feet tall, I hadn’t noticed – launched his basketball career right here in Calgary.

Thus we hopped aboard the practice-game-conditioning train a deux, turning most Saturdays into a basketball-soccer-Costco triune along with the rest of middle-aged North America. I mean, nothing says ‘This is 40 (or 50!)’ quite like huddling on metal bleachers with a Tim Horton’s cup in hand while yelling at cheering on a posse of uniformed young people.

(I, of course, do not have a Tim Horton’s cup in my hand, because eight years of Canadian living has not been sufficient to convince me of its merits.)

Perhaps you are wondering ‘don’t you have a third child? Why are you only talking about sports for two children? I mean my kids are in two sports – each!’

To which I reply: yes, the kid with the chocolate eyes that could convince even the most hardened individual that lying and stealing are adorable pastimes, is still kicking around here somewhere. He was not given the option of extracurricular activities other than lunch-time choir at his school because three kids! two parents with weird hours! scheduling nightmare!

He can launch his NBA career when the Gort starts to drive. Or he’s good enough to play on the Hen’s team. Until then he will have to watch NBA League and learn through osmosis.

But back to Saturdays. And the bleachers.

Due to opposing soccer-basketball schedules and volunteer commitments, I had not been a regular fixture at the boys’ games until January came along. Then the calendrical stars aligned and I found myself sitting on the sidelines, with a less than enthused Percy, eager to cheer my boys’ teams on to victory. Because I have this innate inability to watch a game without words coming out of my mouth in a loud manner.

As with the Tim Horton’s cups, it is yet another thing that sets me apart from most Canadian parents – an observation I first made in outdoor soccer, when I realized I was one of the only parents ‘cheering’ for the huddle of moving uniforms. Everyone else sat, silently watching, tapping on their phones, talking to their neighbors. And then there was me, convinced I could alter the game’s outcome by exhorting the players to kick, shoot, whatever.

I also am not content to just yell, anonymously, to whoever has the ball – I value knowing the players’ names; being able to personalize my exhortations. This, of course, is easier to achieve when you attend all the games. You get a sense of which parents belong to which player and, if the parent occasionally cheers for their own child, you learn the names of the kids. In lieu of all this hearsay and sideline detective work, one could, of course, consult TeamSnap for a list of the players’ names and go from there.

However, three-kids-in-two-schools, two-kids-in-two-sports Nicola has decided to simplify things this year by not reading any [non-personal] emails. A revolutionary concept, to be sure, and one that undoubtedly has me on the parent-blacklist at school(s) but between the schools, the sports, the library and the orthodontist I get an average of 20 emails/notifications every day. 

Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Thus I showed up in school gyms and soccer centres in January and put my increasingly less keen sense of observation to work learning people’s names. The Hen’s basketball team wasn’t too bad – I already knew the names of some of the players and eventually figured out the rest – except for a trio of boys known as Michael-Seth-Will. Though they did not look particularly alike, something about them prevented me from identifying them by their correct name. Thus I spent the first half of a game cheering for ‘Will’ while sitting next to his dad. Only to deduce from another spectator that Will was, in fact, Michael.

(Something I could have avoided if Michael’s reticent dad had been cheering for his son!)

Learning the players’ names of the Gort’s soccer team proved a lot more difficult, mostly due to fluctuating attendance and it being a larger group of boys. I took my cues from the few parents cheering – somewhat despondently  – for their perpetually losing sons.

Fortunately I had help from Jose’s dad. A tall man, with a booming voice, determined to yell his son’s team to victory. Because nothing else seemed to work. ‘Go Jose!’ he called every time his son rotated into play – usually to relieve a gasping, waterlogged Gort – who has not yet figured out that drinking two liters of water during a soccer game is not conducive to running after a ball. ‘Go Brady! Go Garrett! Go Eric!’ the man cheered tirelessly, eliciting similar efforts from other parents.

‘Go Jose!’ I started cheering too. ‘Go Garrett! Go Eric!’ The interesting thing about Jose and his father is that neither appeared to be of Hispanic descent. If anything they appeared to have Middle Eastern roots. ‘It seems odd they would name their kid Jose,’ the professor and I mused aloud at one point, but who were we to say anything. We, the parents of an overly hydrated child with a Croatian name despite the fact I could not identify the Adriatic Sea on a map.

The other interesting thing I noticed in subsequent games was that other parents appeared to call Jose ‘Zay’ as in ‘Go Zay!’ This struck a nerve with my overly formal, shortened-name-hating self. As I find it difficult to call people I know well by anything other than their full first names, I could not fathom shortening Jose’s name to Zay for cheering purposes.

Naturally, I kept yelling ‘Go Jose!’

One evening while sitting at my computer doing a bit of work, an email from TeamSnap popped into my inbox and I clicked on it, since I was already adding things to the calendar. The email showed a list of players available for the upcoming practice, with Jose being conspicuously absent from the list. The list did, however, include a boy named Zain, whose name I didn’t recognize from any of the previous games.

Or did I?

With my stomach churning at the prospect of complete and total humiliation, I consulted the team roster. Just to see if anybody, anywhere on that team claimed the name Jose.


Just Zain.

Go Zay…n!


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