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“Did you see me smack that girl?”

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So today I went to watch our daughter Casey play water polo.

She’s a high school sophomore, plays on the school’s frosh-soph team, has been involved with the sport pretty much since we moved out to California 4 1/2 years ago. When she started, the wife and I were thrilled by the exercise, the coaching, the togetherness, the team activities. It was this serendipitous endeavor that brought joy to our world.

Today, upon meeting Casey after her team’s 8-4 win, I was greeted by a smile, a laugh, and these words: “Did you see me smack that girl?”

Um … no.

Turns out, midway through the opening period, Casey reached back and sorta kinda inadvertently popped an opposing player across the face. Which was retribution for the opponent holding onto her arm. Which was retribution for Casey pinching her neck.

It’s crazy, the vicious aggressiveness of water polo—a sport played in dignified settings, with relatively tame parents, polite coaches … and an under-the-surface violence that surely rivals the grab-a-dude-by-the-testicles football scrum for pure sinisterness.

And yet, I fucking love it. Casey’s confidence has skyrocketed. Her physical confidence has skyrocketed. She’s not a gifted athlete, but she thinks ahead of the ball, and overcomes limitations by, well, grabbing nudging, carving. They’re all accepted parts of the game, blood and all.

I didn’t see Casey smack that girl.

But, well, I’m good with it.

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