Field marshaling at the Oconee Cup

My favorite keeper collecting a bouncing ball as it comes into his box.

My favorite keeper collecting a bouncing ball as it comes into his box.

My weekly humor column (which will also appear in this week’s Oconee Leader):

I’m not sure if the by-laws of the Oconee Cup require that it be held on the first really hot day of the summer or if the Old Farmer’s Almanac determines that the first really hot day of the summer must be the same day as the Oconee Cup, but it doesn’t make any difference whether the chicken or the egg came first because the Oconee Cup always coincides with the first really hot weekend of the summer.

This year’s Oconee Cup was no different.

We’ve been attending Oconee Cups for six years now, since our oldest son was a rising freshman.

For those whose lives do not revolve around high school soccer, the Oconee Cup is a pretty big tournament of 7 v. 7 soccer for high schools in Georgia. This past Saturday we had nearly 50 teams involved in the tournament.

Our middle son, Nathan, was playing with Oconee County High School in the tournament, and Jean and I both volunteered to help (Jean took two slots by volunteering as a field marshal for a couple of hours and in the concession stand and I spent a couple of hours as a field marshal).

And it was so hot. And we all got so sunburned.

It’s not a complaint, though. I love soccer. After the Oconee Cup, we came home and watched back-to-back professional games on television. I never complain about soccer – even soccer on the first hot day of the year. And the truth is that my absolute favorite kind of soccer game is the soccer game one of my sons is playing in.

To watch my sons play soccer I have melted, baked, frozen, and even been soaked to the bone, and while I haven’t always enjoyed the weather, I’ve always enjoyed the game.

Nate played in four games on Saturday, and I’d have loved to have stood in the sun and watched another four (although, at some point Nathan might not have been ready for a break).

I also had fun spending time as a field marshal.

Field marshals at soccer tournaments have incredible amounts of responsibility and authority. Typically, I don’t like to volunteer to be a field marshal because I am a firm believer that absolute power corrupts absolutely, and I don’t want to be absolutely corrupted.

But when my wife guilts me into volunteering, I generally go for field marshal duties rather than concession stand duties because I’m lousy at customer service.

We met at 1 p.m. to receive our equipment: A little blue vest that identified us as field marshals and a walkie-talkie so we could call for medical assistance if necessary.

Darrell was serving field marshal duties with me, and we’ve both been to enough soccer tournaments that we’re old hands at field marshaling.

Nevertheless, Julie gave us our equipment and our instructions: “Just walk around the fields. There is a jug of water at every field, so just make sure those have water. If they don’t, tell the rec department staff and they’ll replace the jugs. Make sure the referees aren’t having any problems with anybody. We haven’t had any problems today, and I don’t expect to have any. If someone needs medical help, the medical tent is over there.”

Now, I’ve field marshaled enough that I know my authority as a field marshal extends well beyond these rather insignificant duties outlined by Julie. For instance, Constitutionally, I believe soccer tournament field marshals fall just below Speaker of the House for succession to the presidency. But Julie probably failed to mention all these other responsibilities because she knew Darrell and I had it covered.

So for two hours I walked the fields looking for parents who were fighting or coaches who needed to be escorted out of the park for arguing with referees, but I saw none. I suppose it was too hot for tempers.

I checked the jugs of water on each field – and I cannot tell you how thrilled I was when I found two that were nearly empty. I ran from one end of Veterans Park to the other to inform the rec staffers that I had discovered two nearly empty jugs of water, and they both were in tears thanking me and congratulating me on a field marshal job well done.

I found no medical emergencies, but twice a ball from one field rolled onto the field where another game was being played, and I ran onto the field to kick the errant ball back to its proper field.

The end of my two hours of field marshal duties were nearing an end and I’d not yet had a serious situation or emergency to deal with, and I was growing a little frustrated that the only official action I’d taken as a field marshal had been to find a couple of empty jugs of water.

Just then my walkie-talkie emitted a loud, long screech. Someone had pressed and held the call button of their walkie-talkie. An eerie wind blew across Hog Mountain Road, and there seemed to be an ominous hush that fell over the fields. I had a strange sense of impending doom, and – like Spiderman sensing danger – I had a premonition that I was about to have to summon all my field marshal powers.

I held my breath as I waited to hear what message would follow the screeching emergency sound from my walkie-talkie.

“Who called?” someone else said into their walkie-talkie, and I could hear the same sense of urgency in his voice that I myself was feeling.

Still I held my breath; the walkie-talkie in my hand; my eyes scanning the fields looking for the emergency that had caused one of my fellow volunteers to press and hold the call button on their walkie-talkie. Had a player broken a leg or taken a knock to the head? Did a fan fall out from heat stroke? Were parents fighting? Was a coach on a rampage?

“This is it,” I said to myself. “This is what you’ve trained for!”

Finally someone else came over the walkie-talkie.

“Sorry, it was me. I hit it by accident,” the voice said.

The situation defused, I went back to checking water jugs.

Next on our soccer itinerary is the Habersham 7 v. 7 tournament, always held in late July and, according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, it will coincide with the hottest day of the summer.

Rob Peecher is author of Four Things My Wife Hates About Mornings, available at