I have loved football since my super cool babysitter Jeanie, the oldest of five sisters, taught me how to hold and throw a football when I was ten. But never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be the MOTHER of five football players, which is a little more emotionally complicated than watching the game on television.
I am writing this post while I wait for Dave and Mitch to finish their work out at SNAP Fitness.
On a Sunday.
The day after Dave’s team played their asses off but lost in a state playoff game on the west side of the state.
We all knew the team was going to be hard to beat. They had us in numbers and size. But our boys’ season had already lasted longer than the competition told them it would and their hearts were big, filled with confidence and pride that was put there by highly skilled coaches who LOVED THEM. So we knew it was possible to win. We drove 346 miles each way to watch these boys play and I remember walking up the bleachers to where we always sit between the thirty and forty yard line to the left of our team, mid way up and having this tearful moment of hysteria. For the win of course but more so for every single boy’s physical safety.
Football is not a rational game. Eleven fierce men on each side beating the shit out of each other over a ball. So I feel like I am perfectly justified for crying with anxiety one minute and the next screaming with absolute RAGE over game changing bad calls made by the refs. My voice is still hoarse from screaming at yesterday’s game. Though I refuse to boo. Somewhere in my past I was taught that booing is uncivilized and I don’t want people to think I’m like the Ancient Booer from ‘The Princess Bride’. No. I don’t boo. I yell things at bad refs like “You should be ASHAMED of yourself.” My husband wishes I would just boo.
Our oldest son Duncan, who is twenty five now, played on the DLine and was an explosive and dangerous player suiting up for varsity his sophomore year. His senior year he got his bell rung playing at Joe Albi Stadium. Grant hadn’t made it to the game yet and I didn’t see the hit because I had taken my eyes off him. I was chatting with my mother in-law and distracted by the younger kids, handing out crackers and juice boxes. Seeing Duncan being carried out by a couple of fellow players on each side of him, his legs kind of dangling, and wobbly, their arms under him in support aged my heart.
I was wearing a walking boot at the time but I remember moving at the speed of light down the bleachers to the entrance of the field house where they were taking him. Two stadium guards tried to tell me I could not enter the area and I remember the words “MOVE OUT OF MY WAY” erupting from my mouth in a demonic growl that made them both step aside.
It turns out you CAN run in a walking boot.
Duncan was so concussed that he couldn’t remember his dad’s name or count backwards from 10 and the ER doctor suggested that we do a cat scan just to make sure there wasn’t any bleeding on his brain, which they only do when it’s bad.
All he kept saying was “I need to get back to the team. I need to play. They need me.”
It ended well: ‘just’ a good concussion. He didn’t get to play football for a few games, which to him felt like the end of the world. But I remember how it felt to think MY world might be ending.
Since then, we always sit between the thirty and forty yard line on the left side of the players away from most of our friends. I don’t like to talk to people when my boys are playing. Most of my friends understand: when I took my eyes off Duncan he got hurt.
Dillin also played DLine. Toward the end of his senior year he wrote a paper about football, telling about how it felt to not be noticed by his coaches, about not being big enough, or fast enough. How he threw away his participation piece of paper at the football banquet because they spelled his name wrong. But then how he made a decision to hit the gym and work his ass off and MAKE himself known. The one thing I have come to know about Dillin is that when he makes a decision to do something, there is no getting in his way. He took ownership of himself and consequently had a very memorable senior year including an interception that changed the entire tone of the game, turning a losing first half into a winning second half. He made the news. And they knew his name, pronouncing it properly for all of Spokane to hear. My eyes were on him so I saw his smile from clear up in the stands.
Daniel moved around a lot: DB, safety and strong safety. Him playing those positions honestly scared the shit out of me. It became my ritual on gameday morning to look him in the eyes and tell him “Keep your body safe” and then “But win” and then “Just run really fast when you intercept the ball and don’t let them catch you” which he did numerous times on JV and then on Varsity his senior year. He was in the paper enough times to fill a shadow box I made him for Christmas. The boy played six years of tackle football without a single broken bone. This year at college, he broke his thumb in six places playing flag football with his fellow WSU football team equipment managers. I maybe should have been there. His words were “But we won 44-0 so…”
David broke the middle finger on his left hand, through the skin on his first game in the 8th grade, under a giant pile of boys (where I of course could not see him, so my super powers were diminished.) He got the most “gruesome injury” award by the brothers but was devastated to not get to play again until the last game of the year: something about growth plates and him needing his middle finger, which makes sense. He is known for using it a lot. This year, as a junior, he broke his left hand on the second day of practice. He was x-rayed, splinted and back to practice on the same day, to at least watch the plays, determined to not lose too much ground. Once the swelling went down, he was able to play like a beast man with a badass club cast, on both sides of the line for JV and some OLine for Varsity. The club cast helped me keep track of him: his angry fierceness shocking from the son I have known to be unwaveringly compassionate off the field. He knows his senior year is just around the corner. Hence the gym on Sunday, mindset already in place that it’s up to him. I recognize the hell-bent look.
Grant made Mitchel play freshman football after choosing not to play in junior high and he was made better for having played, his confidence and physicality grown and his understanding of TEAM stronger. As primarily an OLineman he helped his team to a winning season of 9 and 1 but did get to experience his first sack on the DLine, so there might be some defense in his soul. His coaches were so good in terms of skill building and passion fueling that I think he will be back next year. The game held joy for him that he did not expect to find.
My fifteenth year as a football mother is complete and like the end of every season, my warriors are tired, beat up, thinner and slightly melancholy that it’s over. My eyes have been looking up a lot in thanks and gratitude. I do not take their health and safety for granted, on or off the field. But words can’t really describe this fiery, fierce heart rush I feel when I watch my boys play, each having their own personal and unique experiences on the field. The team is a microcosm of the real world, a practice field of sorts, where it’s not all fun, where things can be hard and not always fair, where sometimes you get the shit beat out of you. But when those winning moments come, they are powerful and life changing and made exponential as a team: fuel for the future to help them play their hearts out for a different team.