I went out to getmy paper this morning and found my neighbor Dalton instead.
He was slumped onmy stoop, looking as though he'd slept under a marching band. His eyes sportedfive-pound bags, his right hand was bandaged and bloody, and his face was sunklike a bad soufflé.
"My God!"I said. "What happened to you? You look like a 20-car funeral!"
"Youthlacrosse happened to me," he grumbled. "The Competitive Elite LacrosseLeague. My little Ashley made one of those 'travel teams.' Pray it neverhappens to you, dude."
He explained."See, I really never thought Ashley was all that hot at lacrosse, and she'sonly 14. But when she made this competitive team, all the parents said it was abig honor. They said it's the only way to make your high school varsity, andit's the road to a scholarship, and it looks great on your résumé.
"I'm not evensure Ashley wanted to do it. But all of her friends made it, so she just had todo it. What was I gonna do? Tell my little girl no?
"Next thingyou know, I'm writing a check for $1,500. Then it turns out, they practice orplay seven days a week on these things. And it's clear across town, so prettysoon I'm standing on the sidelines every day of the week.
"My wife can'tdo it 'cause she has to take Justin to hockey every day. Why an eight-year-oldnearsighted kid needs a 42-game schedule is beyond me. What is he, WayneGretzky? Plus there's pylon camp and forecheck camp and backward-skatinglessons with his personal coach, Hans.
"So prettysoon I got no life. Family dinners? Forget it. Every meal is in thecar--righthanded Taco Bell. I almost never see my wife awake. When I do, I haveto ask for I.D.
"Then thislunatic lacrosse coach schedules an extra 6 a.m. practice every day. It's likethe old bottle-feeding days. I'd be like, 'I got her last time. You get her.'And Denise would moan, 'I had to stay up for Midnight Madness last night. Yourturn.' Then, at night Ashley is so tired, we end up doing her dang homework!And we're gettin' C's!
"Anyway,Ashley and I started flying to all these stupid tournaments--Dallas andBaltimore and, my God, Ottawa!--and every one is billed as 'the recruitingevent of the year!' And do you know who we see at these tournaments? The samedamn girls we used to play in our neighborhood league! Essentially, we'reflying across the country to get our ass kicked by the same exact people!
"So I starttalking to these girls' parents, and it turns out they don't really want to bethere either, but their kids were saying we were going to do it, so they hadto!
"But then mywife gets to talking to some other moms at Justin's slap shot workshop, andthey say we're crazy if we don't have a 'performance-enhancement specialist'for our kids. So she signs them both up with one. Then she finds out most ofthese girls have 'recruiting consultants' who make highlight reels of kids andsend them to college coaches. I'm like, 'She's 14!' And my wife is like,'You're gonna tell our little girl no?' Then we add a rating-service guy and asports psychologist and a webmaster.
"Well, whatwith me working half time and all this crap I'm paying for and all these trips,I had to take out a second mortgage. Denise can't work because she's spendingevery waking moment in a freezing ice rink, which makes her joints stiffen up.Luckily, Hans knows some New Age massage technique that makes her feelbetter.
"So now I'mgetting no sleep, turning my stomach into a Dumpster and having less sex than adead monk. But before I can put my foot down, my boss does. He fires me! And ashe's firing me, he adds, 'By the way, the average lacrosse scholarship is$1,000, you putz!' So I punch him, and now I think my hand might be broken.
"I stomp outand go find Ashley to say, 'It's over.' And she goes, 'Whatever. I quit todayanyway. My sports psychologist says you guys push me too hard.'
"Nice. So I gohome to tell Denise, but she's not there. Three days go by. I figure she's atthe Elite Competitive Hockeypalooza in Cheyenne. Turns out she moved in withHans. Says she wants to be with someone who 'knows' her. Oh, and she reallylikes massages.
"So now I gethome and somebody changed the locks! Probably the mortgage company, since I'mway behind.
"And do youknow what I learned from all this, man? I learned that the most viciouslycompetitive sport in the world is parenting.
"Anyway, whatI wanted to ask you is--you wanna buy some lacrosse sticks?"
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"Since this loony lacrosse coach scheduled an extrapractice at 6 a.m. every day, our little Ashley is so tired at night, we do herhomework. And we're gettin' C's!"
PETER READ MILLER