I know I'm probably opening myself up to a world of criticism, but the demeanor of soccer fans I've heard recently leads me to this: chill out. Not every single bump, tackle and grab is a foul and secondly, no amount of howling on your part is going to change the referee's opinion.
I have followed the game for most of my life. I believe I have a pretty good grasp on the how the game is played and officiated. I sometimes find myself having to control my impulse to turn around and explain to fans why exactly a foul was called.
Now I realize the word "fan" is short for "fanatical" and the parents/fans of players and teams are always going to be looking out for their own. But if you're going to complain about a foul going uncalled against your team, you should also feel the same way when your team gets away with something. When you scream that a player on your team was fouled, do you feel the same way one of your players does the same thing to the other squad? Probably not. Contrary to popular belief, soccer is a contact sport. Players are constantly hand fighting, body shielding and kicking. It's part of the game.
Also contrary to popular belief, soccer officials know more about the game than most, judging from fan reaction. During the Half Moon Bay-Aragon boys' game Thursday afternoon, there was a play when an Aragon player knocked the ball away and then tripped up the Half Moon Bay player. Howls erupted from the Cougars' fans, but the simple fact of the matter is, the ball was played first, which is one of the first things referees take into account. Later, a Half Moon Bay player used a scissor move to tackle an Aragon attacker. Not a peep from anybody, when in reality that player probably should have been issued a yellow card because he was not making any kind of attempt on the ball.
Another rule a lot of people apparently don't know about is the fact that if a player goes to the ground, he is not allowed to kick the ball. Yet everyone -- regardless of the team -- is up in arms when the referee calls a foul on the player on the ground.
Dangerous play is another area of confusion. It is reasonable for a player to lift his leg waist high to play a ball. If a defender, at the same time, drops his head to that level to head the ball, the foul goes against him or her, not the player lifting his leg to kick it, because they are the ones putting themselves in a dangerous situation.
Go into most gyms in the Peninsula Athletic League you will see a banner that says something to the effect of: Let the fans cheer, let the players play, let the coaches coach and let the officials officiate. If something is egregious, then by all means, let your feelings be known. But it does no good to get worked up over every simple bump or shove. The officials, for the most part, are on top of it. If they do miss a foul -- and it does happen, referees are human too -- don't take it personal. The referee is not out to "get" your team.
It's hard to believe, but the playoffs for winter sports are all but upon us. Wrestling's regular season ended Thursday, while basketball and soccer finish up this week, meaning league playoffs and the Central Coast Section tournaments are right around the corner.
In the West Catholic Athletic League, the league's basketball playoffs begin tonight, with Serra earning the No. 2 seed and hosting No. 7 St. Francis at 7 p.m. The semifinals are Friday with the finals set for 8 p.m. Saturday at Foothill College.
The Notre Dame-Belmont girls also start its playoffs tonight, traveling to second-seeded Mitty. The semifinals are scheduled for Thursday and the championship game is 6 p.m. Saturday, also at Foothill College.
The Peninsula Athletic League basketball tournament also kicks off this week, with the top four teams from both the North and South qualifying. First-round games begin Thursday at the home of the higher seeds, while the semifinals and finals will be held at Sequoia beginning Friday with the title games Saturday.
As things stand right now, before the Tuesday regular-season finale, the following boys' teams have qualified: from the North, El Camino, Westmoor, Half Moon Bay and Terra Nova are in, while the South will send Burlingame, Aragon, Menlo-Atherton and Mills.
On the girls' side, Westmoor, South City, Half Moon Bay and Terra Nova have qualified from the North, while Woodside and Burlingame are both in from the South. The final two spots will be a battle between Menlo-Atherton, Mills and San Mateo.
The PAL wrestling tournament will also be held Saturday at Capuchino.
The biggest game today will be Woodside at Burlingame girls' basketball beginning at 6 p.m. The Wildcats have quietly flown under the radar but have a one-game lead over the Panthers. A Woodside win would give it an outright South Division title, while a Burlingame victory would result in a co-championship as the top seed out of the South for the PAL tournament, based on the head-to-head result.
In addition, Burlingame will honor its 1988 girls' state championship team at halftime.