^ I returned those cleats to the hot pink hell from whence they came (at least that was my intention; Frodo was looking a little peaky as he set off with the UPS box but I'm sure he'll be fine) and ordered a pair of men's Diadora turf shoes from Zappos. All hail overnight delivery.
^ Diadora allows each of a person's fifty-two foot bones to occupy its own space. This is in contrast to Adidas who doesn't understand why toes can't just double or triple up, like when the cousins sleep over at Christmas. I think Adidas cleats are intended to be multipurpose: you can wear them to gain extra traction on the field, or you can use them to shiv someone while serving time in soccer prison.
^ Although I love the idea of outdoor nighttime winter soccer I don't think anyone in Minnesota does that. We'd all be staggering around in the dark, clawing our way through drifts of snow, shouting "I think I might be open" and "It's possible you should center it" and "Wildfire?" to no avail. Without a rope tied around the ref to guide us back to the midfield, we'd be lost.
And speaking of losing... no. I'll get to that.
So in answer to your question, we play indoors on artificial turf. On an enormous - and I do mean enormous - field. Very fancy.
^ The first thing I saw when I got to the sports center (centre for you Canadians - miss you. love you) last Friday was a sea of striped jerseys which eventually coalesced into a group of men wearing actual soccer uniforms. Speaking of fancy. My team had been instructed to bring one purple and one white shirt - presumably from our personal collections of purple and white shirts - and I was nonplussed to see these guys with their matching shorts and moisture-wicking fabrics and... good god. Was that advertising on their backs? Was I in the wrong place on the wrong night with absolutely the wrong level of soccer? Then I thought, ahhhhhhh. Some high-level men's league must play their games before co-ed. Of course.
So while I waited to see someone walk in who might possibly be on my team, I admired the deft lacing of their cleats, the confidence with which they adjusted their shin guards and the adroitness with which they were able to bounce balls from their knees to their heads to their heels and back again. I was particularly impressed by the way that one little, svelte fellow with the long ponytail...
Not all men. Men and women. The sheer matchiness of the jerseys and bulginess of their collective calves temporarily mislead me but, sure enough, the group I had originally mistaken for Stoke City was - in fact - just another coed team in my new soccer league.
Forgive me but..... fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck.
I almost fled right then. Really. I almost grabbed my ball and my water bottles and my bag full of old shirts and escaped. I would become that person who says she's going out to play soccer on Friday nights but in fact just sits in her car in a suburban parking lot, streaming Celtic radio and eating mcnuggets.
Then a couple walked over to the benches. He was wearing a shirt that was approximately the color that Grimmis might be after he spent five hundred cycles in the washing machine and she was even shorter than I am.
I approached them tentatively.
"Are you... is it possible... are you guys are on my team?" I asked.
"Are you a purple shirt?" she asked.
"Yes! Yes!" And I quickly pulled my purple shirt out of my bag as if she'd just asked to see my license and registration. "I am! Purple!"
She said, "I can't believe I'm doing this. I haven't played soccer, at all, in, like, thirteen years. We had to get a sitter so I could bring my husband along as a sub for moral support."
"Ohhhhhhhhhhh," I breathed, happily, feeling much much better. "It'll be fine. We'll be fine. This will be fun."
And, in a way, this wound up being true. But in another, equally real way, it was a total freaking lie.
Aw damn it. I've got to get to work on Thanksgiving dinner so I'll need to summarize the rest:
1. With the exception of the goalie, I am probably the oldest person on my team.
2. I was, with no exception, the absolute worst player on the field.
3. We did not play the stripey team. Yay!
Instead we played the stripey team's younger, taller robo-clones. Gurk.
4. As my very first ball came flying towards me I reviewed the options: trap the ball and then neatly pass it up the line like Fabregas; head it across like Lukaku; shoot to score from deep within my own side like Lloyd; punch the closest opponent in the back of the head and then fall down like I was the one who had been fouled, a la Diego Costa? So many possibilities. Instead I swung back my leg and... I missed it entirely. Kinda like Hazard.
5. The other women on my team all know each other from crossfit.
6. Half of the men on my team coach high school sports for a living.
7. The women on the opposing team were still in college, playing recreation to stay in shape during the winter. So each and every blessed one of them could score from almost anywhere on the field. And they did. Frequently. As an older adult woman I wanted to applaud their athleticism and their competitiveness. As the older adult woman trying to tackle them I also wanted to slap them, especially because - and I hate to say this - they were totally bitchy. When my new friend from the lobby made excessive contact trying to defend and said Sorry! the response was, "You fucking better be."
It was all I could do not to leap onto the field and grab the opponent by the ear, "If you were my daughter, young lady... ."
8. We lost 8-2. Or maybe 9-2. 11-2? Could it have been 13? Anyway. We lost. Emphatically.
9. Which lead to the following as my team took off our cleats and talked about how, in retrospect, we should have met for beer before the game -
Teammate 1: I know for me the most exciting part of any game is the goals, so that was GREAT.
Teammate 2: Well. At least it wasn't one of those heartbreaking 1-0 losses.
^ I'm not going to lie to you. The whole experience was awkward. I was even worse than I thought I could be. It was embarrassing. I did feel like a fool.
My team is sincerely nice. Some of them were legitimately funny. The other team made me feel like I should offer to recompense them for their time but they were like that to all of us and as a group we laughed it off like the bunch of losers we were. I played for almost the entire game and nothing hurt the next day. I did not taste blood afterwards. I do, truly, love football.
I think... yes. I think I consider it a victory.