This past Thursday, the Food and Drug Administration warned us not to eat bagged spinach. Okay.

Last weekend, I watched some of my former players play a soccer game. During the game, I overheard a conversation between a parent and a club official. They were discussing the possibility of buying uniforms from a new supplier. At one point the club official mentioned that the socks from the new supplier cost less than five bucks a pair, and that the boys could pay for their socks by having a car wash.

I looked at the two teams, which were from the same local club. Both teams (from the same club) were wearing brand-name uniforms with jerseys worth at least forty dollars each. Many players were wearing cleats worth more than a hundred bucks a pair. They had practice t-shirts. They had name-brand bags. They were playing on a well-groomed field with nice, short, green grass. There were several sets of practice goals lying around the park and a permanent restroom/concession stand. They hire professional coaches and a club coaching director. There were several pretty expensive cars in the parking lot.

Simply put, there was no shortage of money available to the players or parents, or to the club in general. And yet here was a club official talking about a car wash to raise five dollars per player. How cheap. Of course, maybe they can afford the fancy uniforms, the nice fields, the professional coaches, etc. because they have car washes and other fundraisers.

Anyhow, this led me to look up this club’s website and looked up the fees. Registration fee: over $200 per player per year. Uniform fee: over $150 per player per year. Tournament fee: around $50 per player per tournament. Coaching fee: at least $25 per player per month. Apparently the fees aren’t much different for select players at other local clubs. With fees that high, if I were a teenager today, I wouldn’t be playing select soccer.

This is not to criticize the people who are willing to spend money on helping their kids get into the best soccer programs available. But how much do all those Brazilian parents spend on their kids’ soccer development? Don’t they just ball up some socks and newspapers and make their kids play in run-down back alleys? Maybe I shouldn’t bring that up. In three years we’ll see Ronaldinho pitching Nike’s new line of broken glass bottles, milk crates, asphalt, and balled-up socks that get better bounce and truer flight than ever before.

The second year I played select soccer, our jerseys hadn’t arrived in time for our first two games. We wore white t-shirts, and used black markers to write the numbers on our backs. It was done in alphabetical order, so I wore an extremely sloppily drawn #16. I wasn’t happy, because it wasn’t my usual jersey number. We won both games.

Our fancy new uniforms came in time for the third game, which we lost. After the game, I showed the bright green jersey to my dad and asked him what he thought of it. He said, “I don’t like it. It’s a loser jersey.” There is a lesson here, but I won’t belabor it.