Football season has started. I love the start of the season. There is newness and an expectation of starting over, every year. We get to see what the new crop of boys will do as freshmen and how the veterans have improved. We will soon get to sit at our little field on Thursdays as well as under the grand lights of the stadium on Fridays. We are going to make a run for State and hope to see December, but one game at a time is our creed, 1-0.
I also get melancholy too. When it comes to my children, I tend to add a dramatic and romantic flair to everything they do. I view their experiences much like I do watching movies like Rudy or Remember the Titans. If I could add background music to their lives it would closely resemble those types of movie scores. After games, I would quietly stand there and watch as they walked away to the locker room or bus. It was always reminiscent of a scene out of one of those movies, for me. I would soak in that memory and I can describe to you their very last walk still. This romanticized view of the game of football is not based on my personal experiences, however. I don’t look back and recollect fondly on my time playing high school football.
It took me watching my boys to realize the mistakes of my youth. At 17, I was the complete polar opposite of a football player that my sons were. I was uncoachable, at times, and entitled. I was not tough nor did I grit anything out. When it got difficult, I looked for excuses. I was undersized and did not put in one second of extra work to improve or better myself for the team. I missed offseason and optional workouts many times. I disliked my coach for the wrong reasons and he disliked me for the right ones. The only positive traits I possessed were that I was athletic, fearless and loyal to the team. I joined football because I wanted to prove I can succeed at a sport I never played but did nothing to accomplish that goal. The positive that came out of football, for me, were the friendships I made and the very tough lesson that I will get nothing without hard work.
Why do I love this game and am so devoted to it?
I saw what the game provided my sons that I was too short sighted to allow it to provide to me. It provided them with a means to create a work ethic, exercise their toughness, understand the importance of grit and most of all, show their loyalty to something greater than themselves. These are intangibles we applaud in others and football provided my sons with the opportunity to nurture those very behaviors.
I saw my oldest play with an ankle injury throughout his senior year that should have required surgery and sidelined him. “He said they will have to cut off my foot to keep me from playing.” I would have folded like a belt. He is still in pain today.
My youngest, at 13, broke his nose at linebacker, stopping a QB sneak at the goaline. He refused to come out of the game and they failed to score, even trying to run the same play that broke his nose. He stayed in because his team needed him, he said. I would have felt sorry for myself, sitting on the sidelines.
I watched my oldest get up at 4:15 am, day after day, year after year to attend practice. He would then come home from school, hit the gym and then the books. I would have come home from school and slept.
My youngest walked away from the game, with respect for it, because he realized he could no longer give what his team asked or deserved of him. He said it was the hardest decision he ever had to make. I would never have had the guts to do what he did with that resolve. Ironically, I believe football had a part in shaping his behavior to provide him the strength to make such a bold move. I’m not happy about his decision but I respect the hell out of it.
Finally, I walked on the field with my oldest for his last home game. The pride I felt when they called his name was overwhelming. He did what I did not have the wherewithal to do at his age; to work hard for a collective goal and to see it through to success. It was years of hard work and grit. He earned it! Football provided that stage for us all, to see first hand our children fight and overcome adversity, in all its glory!
Now starts a new season and parents will relish in their son’s first or last years and experience much of the same emotions I did. I do long for those nights watching my boys and their friends play a game that gave them so much opportunity. I will always remember the overwhelming pride I felt, watching #51 and #47 walk off the field, that movie soundtrack playing in the background, as they disappeared out of sight. Hollywood could not have manufactured or scripted a greater emotion. As the years go by, the stories will become grander and the memories more romantic. I will still recognize the start of the new season, every year, and the somberness of it too but that is a gift that football has given to me, now, and I am thankful for it.
Good luck to the boys of the 2019 Cedar Park Football season. You will make us all proud, I am sure!