Here, the two archetypal players to be found on the Parade Grounds: a grown-up practicing mad skills honed in distant lands (foreground), and a herd of private-school youngsters immersed in this sport we Americans mysteriously abandon as adults. The kids were doing their post-game low-fiving ritual, a square dance of sportspersonship. To one group, soccer is a blood sport, as in "in my blood," played with raw passion and fierce grace; to the other, a middle-class rite of passage, attended by parents armed with snacks and enthusiasm. I have never seen the two groups interact, although perhaps I just haven't noticed.
I had limped over, nursing a broken toe, to see a young lady of my acquaintance do her spunky thing as a goalie. These soccer fields, a hundred feet from our front door, have lifted my spirits through some dark days; the ever-present players and their Brownian motion draw me out of myself in a way that life in a quiet cul-de-sac could never do. Soccer is all about staying in the moment with a vengeance, whether you're a pee-wee or a Pelé, and as the sun sets and the players head for home, they all seem pretty spent and exhilarated.