Saturday, November 6, 2010

Friday Night Lights: A Retrospective

It's a cold Saturday morning and we had a frost last night, the first hard one of the season. We finally turned the heat on, just two days after running the air conditioning. And of course around these parts, we could have the AC humming again in a couple of days.

Younger Son's football season -- and his football playing days -- came to an end last night. It was the first round of the playoffs and, unfortunately, we were never really in the game against a powerhouse neighboring county team at their home field. This year's playoff system had two district champs playing each other so a good team (us) got knocked out early.

Younger Son was a bit teary when Wife and I met him on the field after the game, as were most of the senior players. These young athletes, so big and seemingly mature, still have a lot of "boy" in them (thankfully) and the emotion of losing their first playoff game and having their last season end so rudely played itself out in their hearts and on their faces, as it should. God gave them those emotions and they're nothing of which to be ashamed.

Wife and I experienced our own emotions on the ride home last night. Younger Son was our only football player in the family and he started when he was in sixth grade, playing in our local city league. We've been going to his football games for seven seasons.

He and I cut a family beach vacation short a couple of days to get him home for his first ever football practice in the late summer of 2004. Earlier that summer we had gone over to the league field house and gotten his equipment -- the helmet, practice pants and jersey, and pads.

As I remember, we arrived home from the beach a couple of hours before the practice was to start. I thought that, since I had not been a football player, I had better study all of this and make sure I knew how to get all of it on him. There appeared to be pads that were inserted into slots in his pants that appeared to correspond with his thighs, knees and butt.

Only I could not figure out what went where, how the belt was to feed through the belt loops or much of anything else for that matter. Younger Son was more helpless than I. I called a neighbor boy who had just graduated from high school with Older Son, a football player, and enlisted his help. He was over in minutes, got it all assembled and we soon had Younger Son outfitted. He walked awkwardly, kind of like the little boy from the movie "Christmas Story" who was so decked out in layers of apparel to keep him warm that he can hardly walk, and when he got pushed over he fell flat and couldn't get up.

The rest, as they say, is history, and Younger Son went on to play for two years in the city league, a year in middle school and four years in high school. He has had his ups and downs along the way and there has definitely been some associated heartache, especially in the high school years. We have had conversations about whether he would continue. I never tried to persuade him one way or the other; it was always his decision. As time went on a lot of his friends on the team called it quits and, consequently, he missed some activities in which he would have liked to participate and he ended up with only a few good friends on the team.

His perseverance and dedication were total and, unfortunately, that wasn't always rewarded. As his dad, that was tough to watch at times. And I know that my speeches on character building and life lessons got tiresome. I told him more than once that, despite feelings to the contrary, it would all go very fast.

Last Friday night, our last home game where we captured the district title, was Senior Night. Before the game, Wife and I walked on the field on either side of him right after he had presented Wife with a yellow rose and both of us with a note he had written, in which he thanked us for sticking by him through all of this.

And last night it ended. After he had gotten back to the school and changed, he called me. He was fine and said he was going to come home and shower, then go meet some of his friends.

Wife and I both hugged him again when he got home. I asked him if it was a somber ride back to the school and he said not really, that most of them realized they had had a good season and there was no use dwelling on it.

He showered quickly. He came downstairs and told us goodbye. He opened the door to leave, looked back over at me and said, "It flew, didn't it?"

"What's that?" I asked.


"Yes," I said quietly. "It sure did."


Here are some shots from the season:

On the offensive line

With his bro and sis

With his proud mom and dad

The "fam"

(BELOW:) the night he was captain; number 70

With his buds


Debby said...

Oh, his 'It flew, didn't it?' comment brought tears to my eyes. It does fly, doesn't it?

Kelly said...

I'm sorry it ended so abruptly, but it sounds like it was a wonderful ride.

Thanks for sharing this with us, Bob. I was smiling at the mental image of you trying to help him get suited up the first time.

Redlefty said...

So with three kids, you had one who took to sports through high school?

Hope those odds work for me as well! So far none of them are showing any interest, and I'd love to have a chance to experience some of the things you mentioned in this post.

Congrats to your son and his team!

Bob said...

Red -- both of my older ones played soccer when they were little, my daughter played softball and my oldest played basketball and baseball, though neither of them were on school teams. David ("Younger Son") did those too but is the only one who played school sports (wrestling in middle school, football of course, and now plays "club" rugby). Don't be too concerned about what interests they might have now . . . things change. And of course you'll learn to love whatever they do (wrestling and rugby have definitely been acquired tastes!)

Hal Johnson said...

Y'all are a great looking family, Bob.

"It flew, didn't it?"

Danged sinuses.

quid said...

The end of an era... never easy.

What wonderful shots of your family.

It's special that two generations both earmarked the night as being memorable for all your lives. You both took it as seriously, and with as much emotion as he did.