Thursday, September 14
It's a Whole New Ballgame
Growing up in a college town, football was a way of life. It's what you did on Saturdays during the fall. I can remember tailgaiting right outside the stadium with some of my friends. What I didn't understand then that I do now, was their parents must've been some kind of boosters to have had that kind of placement; I guess the catered spread and open bar should've told me something, too, but when you're a kid, that kind of thing is wasted. Even if we had tickets in the stands, we'd sit on the hill and hang out with friends, pretty much oblivious to the game until halftime (I'm a girl, it was never actually about "football" for me).

As the teen years approached, it was also about Friday night highschool ball. The two highschools in our hometown were always in contention for the State title, those were definitely the glory years. The coach was an institution, silver buzz cut for as long as I can remember, deep grooves in his face from seasons spent in the sun, he knew EVERYONE'S name, whether they played ball or not. He was driven and devoted and fair, and he taught "his kids" a way of life, not just a game. The good ones are cut from the same cloth, aren't they?

I'm smiling while I write this, because I can almost feel the heat of a Saturday afternoon college game...I can smell the mixture of grass and sweat and alcohol (not from me, from others, older, who somehow didn't garner a seat in the stands, and who thought the only way to watch a game was to do so with the companions of bourbon and Coke). And, oh, those Friday nights, especially later in the season--cool and crisp and the weekly anticipation of a win, which happened more often than not.

I remember thinking I could never "like" someone who didn't like football. That statement is LUDICROUS to me now, but growing up, I guess I thought it was some kind of measure of masculinity. Anyone who didn't enjoy the game, must be a wimp. This wasn't was "caught". I guess from the passion and intensity of living in a place where winning was a way of life. Sometime after my own college won a National Championship (and then got put on probation for the rest of my college years :/), sometime after graduation, I realized I really didn't like watching football, it was the accompanying pagentry that allured me, and gradually it no longer held my interest.

Until now.

My baby is playing football. I am rather certain, he would (will) cringe reading this, especially because I called him "baby". He's in middle school now and this is his first year playing. His work ethic amazes me--he has not complained once about the heat (over 100 degree heat index every day at practice with ridiculous humidity) or how hard they're being driven. You gotta know Thomas...he'll avoid work--or anything that resembles it--with every fiber of his being. Until now. The kid is REVELING in the midst. He took a pretty rough lick at practice, and came home to show me his "badge of honor"--from the top of his shoulder to his elbow, his arm looks like a side of beef after Rocky got through with it; instead, it was the helmet of one of his best friends, nailing him at "top speed" (took him by surprise, lol, never saw it coming). Lesson learned.

I've been caught off guard by the bearish mother-emotion that is surfacing within. Savage and raw and protective. This game "looks" so different to me now. I see its brutality. I can feel the inner rage of an unjust call, yet the first game hasn't even been played! It no longer holds the romantic, nostalgic allure it once's no longer a measure of masculinity . I feel the pain of every mother whose child is at the bottom of a pile of bodies...or is it worse to be the mom whose child never sees field time?

Why do I find myself thinking golf or tennis is the way to go? Even soccer and basketball--not exactly "contact" sports--scare me now. The boys are bigger. They play to win. Whatever the cost.

Can you tell I danced for ten years? Ballet. Geez.........what a powderpuff, I am. Then, again, it was in the pre-Title IX era.

Postscript: The season is over...and it ended without a single win :/. Thomas' "big play" was recovering an on-sides kick. If "it's not whether you win or lose, it's how you play the game" is true, they played well. In spite of eight losses, they never gave up. They didn't talk smack and their enthusiasm never waned. They've learned what it is to taste loss, and I imagine they've built more character than any 12 year old is interested in.

...and they're already excited about next year :).

  Into the pensieve on Thursday, September 14, 2006
  Your thoughts, please (16)

At August 14, 2006, Blogger Heather said...

Yeah, I'm the dancer. Love sports, but have no coordination unless you turn on the music.

At August 14, 2006, Blogger Karmyn R said...

I LOVE FOOTBALL! However, I have already decided that I will not encourage my son to play - hence, we are "pushing" soccer, swimming, and baseball. (heaven help me if my son wants to play)

I met too many guys in college who had played high-school football and their knees, hips, shoulders, whatevers were messed up from the game...

Robin, you are very brave!!!!

At August 14, 2006, Blogger Susannah said...

Robin, your (long) posts usually move me, almost to tears. This one is so well-spoken and touching. Isn't it true that our childhood perceptions of things are usually way off? (Maybe that's a good thing).

I grew up with rugby, not football. What a brutal sport too. And wouldn't you know it, I was a high school cheerleader. (I admit I never learned the rules of the game!) We girls loved it for all the usual social reasons. I'm still a dancer (aerobics, jazzercise, salsa) and I LOVE it.

My son is not a team sport player, so I've not had to cross the bridge that you are now crossing with your son. (He enjoys individual sports like cycling, golf, and skiing.) I feel your mother's concern for Thomas!

Some men are gifted with (kinesthetic) gross motor skills and really do need to throw their whole body into action. Thank goodness for the working men who do all the "heavy lifting" on a daily basis! Sounds like your son is destined to enjoy sports and all things physical. Prepare to spend lots of time in the stands!

At August 14, 2006, Blogger M J said...

I don't have kids but it scares me when my dog plays rough at the off-leash park. Kinda, sorta not even the same thing I bet...

Something tells me its those cheerleaders you should watch out for. I should know, I was one.

At August 14, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I felt a few tears myself after reading that. I grew up plaing team sports my whole life. No "country Club" sports as we used to call them because I lived in BF Alabama where the only thing to do was to play Football inthe fall, basketball in the winter, and baseball in the summer. I wouldn't trade it for the world. There's something about knocking one another around in practice, sweating until you feel like you're going to die, the running until you puke. (sorry) I could go on and on about this but I'll save it for dinner soon. Thanks for at least letting Thomas try football. He may not want to continue but at least you did not prohibit him from playing. I realize this can be a hurtful sport and I too know many, including myself, that carry lifetime wounds from this game but I would do it again in a heartbeat. I'm all for soccer, I love cycling, golf etc. but there's just something about team sports that teach us more about life and others.

At August 15, 2006, Blogger Pamela said...

I'm a football fan. I know exactly whats happening on the field.

We should make up a football moms prayer just for you Robin

Keep my son safe and in one piece!
and Lord,
Keep me, (in the bleachers) in Your Peace.

There you go.. feel any better?
If not, find out what the other mother in the stands have in her thermos.

(I'm starting a collection of word verification. FodWox was my first on the list... I just got Piffcepr this time and I think it's a keeper, too)

At August 15, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My husband, football coach, will tell you that while the game can beat the kids up physically, it teaches the boys some of the greatest life lessons they'll ever learn. It requires obeying authority, working as a team, perseverance, sacrifice, giving your all for a shared goal...and he would go on and on. My prayer for T will be protection for his body, and life lessons for his heart. And for you tough skin and a big first aid kit to tenderly doctor those bumps and bruises while singing your praises about his courage!!!

At August 15, 2006, Blogger Robin said...

Heather, do you remember the OLD Brady Bunch episode where Rosie Grier guest-starred and the football players took a ballet class? Am I making that up or does anyone else remember (I think you're too young to remember, first-run episodes, anyway).

Karmyn, guess that's why he hasn't played before to me after the season about bravery :/

E-mom, I agree with your perspective on childhood perspective--amazing how differently we see things as adults. Thomas is a body-in-motion, and he's all about "cool"...the kid's got moxie :). Thanks for your ALWAYS kind & encouraging words.

Hey, E-mom and MJ...we almost have a squad! I was reluctant to include my cheerleading "status" in the original post 1) because it wasn't about me, and 2) I'm gun-shy since using the word "fetttish" in a post (misspelled on purpose so no one could google it and get this comment...:( ). Get this: I was "Most Valuable Cheerleader" my senior year!! LOL, What the heck is THAT??? I couldn't even do a handspring...but I could do a killer herkie ;).

Oh, and MJ, Thomas and yi yi :/ We don't call him "Legend" (in his own mind) for nothing...

Chas...tender boy, you are. I think you'd LOVE blogging if everything else wasn't competing for your attention. Can't you get up an hour earlier??? ;)

...there's just something about team sports that teach us more about life and others

Great thought, and I couldn't agree more; we're letting Thomas play for more than one reason...and we've already seen positive confirmation that it's a good thing (if it doesn't kill him or ME!).

Pamela, a few words from you, and I'm "all good"...thanks for the mischief (and the prayer).

Shelly, Your words confirm and affirm much of what I'm thinking. Those are some of the "reasons" I referred to above...those are "lessons" Thomas has needed to learn. "Knocking some sense into ya" can be figurative, but also quite literal. Always glad when you stop in long enough to share your thoughts:).

Pamela, my wf is "sqvuin"...made me think of "squirm" :).

At August 15, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

okay...confession is good for the soul but terrible for the reputation....I was Captain of my cheerleading squad...and I COULD do a handspring! HOORAY for the SQUAD! :)

At October 29, 2006, Blogger CyberCelt said...

I told my son he could play anything but football. Its too dangerous. Just two years ago, a high school senior was playing in the homecomming game. He got hit just right and it snaps his cervical spine. He is paralyzed from the chest down.

I grew up when they did not care much about safety and there were a serious injuries done to some friends playing football.

Soccer is cool. Golf is the rich man's sport so that might appeal to a teenage mercenary.

Good luck and God bless.

At October 29, 2006, Blogger Biker Betty said...

Love your post. As a teen I was in the marching band and did half-time shows for our home games. We travels when the team did. It was sooo much fun.

I bet your son's team will do great next year. It's funny how when they find something they love to do they find the energy to do it. My middle schooler is about as lazy as they come till he finds something interesting (which isn't school, lol).

Happy Autumn, Betty
Blogging Chick

At October 29, 2006, Blogger Malissa said...

:) I'm thinking little boy can play piano!:) ROFL!

I'm glad to hear that lots of lessons were learned even though it wasn't a winning season.

I just indulged in a lovely Packer game this afternoon;)

Fall and football are a great mix:)

At October 29, 2006, Blogger Pamela said...

well... FODWOX... I've already been here.

and got to be reminded of that wonderful word as well

At October 30, 2006, Blogger Domestic Goddess said...

It is amazing how different life looks from the perspective of parent.

here from Blogging Chicks.

At October 31, 2006, Blogger Anna Venger said...

Great story. I know what you mean. Football looks a lot more brutal when one has a son, doesn't it?

At February 05, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My comment is my post called, "Friday night lights is for REAL, people!"

I should have read this post first.

'Cause what I'm really saying is "Amen, amen, amen, sister-friend."


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Married to my college sweet-heart :)...three GREAT kids I'm not selling to the circus today...I LOVE to laugh (& smile often) to read & cook, hate to shop (unless the store is very small and doesn't leave me dazed and confused). I'm scared of flying so although I'd like to travel more, I don't.

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A Pensieve is a stone basin.... [One] can extract his or her own memories and place them in the Pensieve, especially to relieve the mind when it becomes too flooded with information. Anyone can examine the memories in the Pensieve, which also allows viewers to fully immerse themselves in the memories stored within...

A Pensieve first appears in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire...

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