Friday Night Lights

OH… my boys are playing football… bad new bears? maybe!!! 

I have to confess, I didn’t see that movie. Do I need to in order to make this call? I don’t think so. My darling little boys, my youngest two… my babies; after two weeks of summertime torture received the good news. They made the team! Hard to say who was more excited, them or their parents.

They earned their spots with blood and sweat, (the tears would come later). The joy though – their father and I earned that. After all, we kept them alive for all these years. We encouraged and supported them through elementary and middle school. We feed them well and kept them strong. We sat on the hot benches watching them take a beating without intervening. Without running on the field yelling “Hey – you can’t do that to my boy”. To see them receive their official team uniforms for the 2011 squad was a proud moment indeed.

Let me clearly say – I don’t care about football as a sport at all. I don’t have a favorite team. I don’t know who is AFC or NFC. I can’t tell you any famous stats. I can’t name many positions other than quarter and running back and tacklers. I mean, I’m not a total fool when it comes to the sport – I get the quarters, the yards, the 1st downs, the out-of-bounds, the rebounds, oh wait, wrong sport… but I just simply cannot call myself a fan.

Unless… my kids are on the field, then Whoa Nelly – no mega phone necessary! Ask me where I’ll be on Friday night – I’ll be watching football my friends. I’ll be the one embarrassing my children with constant encouragement.

To see them be a part of a team. To see them standing alert on the line waiting to be called in. To see them run onto the field and line up ready for the whistle to blow – like bulls out of the gate they CHARGE!!!!! Oh, and the tears well up in my eyes. Those are my boys I exclaim with ridiculous pride. They plow through the line, ram up against the others team line, who I no longer consider children but who I now see as “the enemy”. They are in another world where all they want is to see that ball get moved to the end zone. They are so focused. Maybe more than I’ve ever really seen them. They are competing. They are awesome!

Yet, they can’t seem to catch a break. They come out to the field with such a fire, and leave with heads hung low as the scoreboard sadly proclaims tragic defeat time and again. My poor babies. Not because they are being pummeled on the field. Not because they are exhausted. Not because they are getting screamed at by their coaches. My heart breaks because they want it so bad and are working so hard for it and the win continues to elude them. Until homecoming night. Ah, Homecoming night.

The stands are nearer to full than they’ve ever been. The student body is wearing school colors and for the 1st time ever, the cheerleaders are practicing before the game. The hotdog and candy vendors are set up and the PA system is finally wired correctly and working. There is music “Here comes the boom” and energy and the team is as fired up as they were the 1st day of try outs. By the 3rd quarter I’ve lost my voice. I’m yelling “Get ’em son! What’d you come to do, Play football Mijo” I’m just yelling. Everyone is yelling. There’s a halftime show that ignites the crowd once more and the return of our boys for the second half and in the end – the bad news bears take the W! Our first win, at home, on homecoming. What better?

As the season begins to wind down it has become obvious that my children do not have a passion for this game. They did what they had to do to solidly claim a season of football, but I can’t see them playing again. There have been a couple more wins, but the fire has never returned. Was it poor coaching, an unexperienced team, a broken spirit, or was it just the way football always was?

When I was in high school, the “games” were the social event of the weekend. We’d all go to the game and the party afterwards and everyone wore their jersey’s and it was all about our schools team. The cheerleaders were the popular girls and the football players were the jocks. Not so much my friends. Our cheerleaders sometimes came to the games, sometimes not, sometimes cheered, sometimes not. Our players ran dutifully on to the field, but never pridefully. I think my boys were so fueled by their fathers and my excitement over what we remembered football to be that they were a tiny exception. They really wanted to play, at first.  With few other parents there supporting the team and with no “after party” experience and no school pride from the student body. What felt like amazing to us – felt like punishment to them.

Bad news indeed.

All said and done. The moment we first saw our children run onto that field – dressed out and fired up. This is a moment I’ll never forget. I have the same memory of my oldest boys – maybe this one is bittersweet because it’ll be the last time  for some time that we’ll  get to experience Friday night lights. Its been 20 years since it was our moment on the field. It may be 20 more before the possibility of grandsons playing.. ah the thought.

Enjoy the simple things beloved. Enjoy the moment your children feel the experience. Enjoy the look in their eyes when they tell you they made the team. Enjoy the beating of your heart when they run out onto the field. Most important. enjoy their childhood. It doesn’t last long.

And cheer loud and be embarrassing!!! This will be what they remember most the love they trust in displayed by your support!

Go Mijo Go!!!


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