Friday, July 30, 2010

Almost Game Time

Wife and I attended the football team's "12th Man Club" picnic at the high school a couple of nights ago, then a scrimmage last night, getting us back in the groove for the upcoming football season.

Fortunately, we had some rain come through Thursday afternoon and the clouds lingered during the picnic, making it a little more tolerable to be outside. Last night was hot as all get-out. Younger Son is completing his first week of two-a-days and he's exhausted, but faithfully hanging in there. I am extremely proud of him.

I am far from the best dad in the world, and my children are not perfect, but somewhere along the way all three of them caught the concept of following through on things. Wife and I always stressed to them that, once you commit to something, you should see it through for the long haul.

Now that's not to say that there are not times when one must cut losses and decide a certain activity is not a fit. For instance, Younger Son once decided he would just love the martial arts. It did not take long to see that he was mistaken. Before we went to the next level where more money and time would be committed, he (and we) decided it was time to bow out. And it was a good decision.

Like many little girls, Daughter took dance lessons when she was about five. Of course she was just the cutest little thing you ever saw in her little tights and slippers. Wife and I probably envisioned her one day being gracefully featured in "Swan Lake" on stage.

After a couple of months of dance, however, it came time to buy the recital outfits. It would have been a signficant expenditure. Wife began to take Daughter's measurements. Daughter looked at her mom quite matter-of-factly and told her, respectfully, that she could take her measurements and purchase the outfits, but she would not be participating in any dance recitals, then or ever. We got the message and the dance career came to an abrupt end.

Younger Son wrestled for two seasons in middle school. It was definitely an acquired taste from a spectator's point of view, but I became a fan and of all the sports in which I've seen my children participate, wrestling might require the most discipline. Those guys are in incredible physical condition. After two seasons, though, Younger Son decided that he would become a one-sport guy and just play football. And he has been committed since freshman year, working out virtually year-round.

Of all the sports in high school, it seems football gets the most attention. There is a certain good feeling in the air when the season turns to fall (although we're far from that yet) and you're gathering on Friday nights.

I didn't play high school football (or any other sport, for that matter) so it has been at times difficult for me to gauge how our school compares with others. I suspect, however, that we're typical.

There are parents who are there at every practice, scrimmage and game who appear that they run the show (or want to give that appearance). A lot of the dads either walk the sidelines or stand up at the top of the stands, with papers in their hands or back pockets, as if maybe they're reporting for the media. I see some of them tracking down the coaches before or after the games. I suspect that they drive some of the coaches crazy, but they probably don't cross them because they give so much time and money.

Sometimes I think a high school football team is kind of like George Orwell's Animal Farm where everyone is equal, but some are more equal than others. For the players, although the standards are high for workouts and practices, there are some who appear to be exempt from those requirements, yet still will get much playing time.

Similarly, for the parents, there's a clear class system. Although I know some of the dads who pace the sidelines or stand at the top of the stands, I'm clearly not part of this group at game time. Frankly, I don't know what I would need to say if I paced with them, or what kind of papers I'm supposed to carry with me, so I'd clearly be out of my league even if I wanted to break in.

Wife and I don't get invited for drinks at the local bar and grill after the games but we are fine to keep a low profile. Wife has cooked some wonderful meals for Younger Son and his teammates the past few years and has gotten nodding approval from some of the "higher ups." We always join the booster club and contribute what we need to (although one day I would love to know what they have done with all that money . . .).

This is the last year we'll be doing this. I can more thoroughly analyze the psychology later. For now it's almost game time.


Kelly said...

Don't know about up there, but it's supposed to be extremely hot here the next few days. Make sure he stays hydrated!!

Debby said...

I remember once, talking to a parent at a football game. I'm not a jock mom, and my take on it was, simply, as long as he played his best, well, it was all good. It's not about winning or losing. It's about the lessons learned. This father looked at me like I had suddenly begun to speak in tongues.

It was not a sad thing (for me) when my boy stayed slight and as the other boys turned into bohemoths. He ended up dropping out of football. Then he picked up wrestling. It was so intense I could scarcely stand to watch the bouts. I remember once (don't ever tell him I told you this...) that he had lost a championship bout after a mighty, mighty match. It was so good I spent most of it with my hands over my face. At the end, when the other boy was declared the winner, I saw my boy retreat to a quiet place where he struggled not to cry in his disappointment. I did not know what to do since teenage boys do not want the comfort of their mamas in a public place. The coach caught my eye and surrepticiously motioned to me that 'he had it'. He stood with Dylan, their two heads close together, as the coach gave him comforting little shoulder shakes and pats on the back. He explained to Dylan that he'd done a fine job, that he was proud of him, that every match had a winner, every match had a loser, but no matter what, every day had a tomorrow. He assured him repeatedly, "The sun will come up tomorrow." Dylan still uses those words today sometimes, and it makes me smile. That coach was beautiful. Really.