A four hour drive north brought us to Camden, New York last weekend and only three games away from playing in Pop Warner’s Super Bowl at Disney’s ESPN Sports Arena during the first week of December. The Hudson Valley Knights Midgets’ team had won their division and up until this game, were undefeated.
Excited would be an understatement.
Ready. Down. Set. Hut!
Sometime not long into the first half of the game, the ball was snapped and handed off from the quarterback to my 14-year old halfback.
Three seconds later my heart was lodged in my throat.
Two seconds before the throat lodging, a massive tank wearing the other team’s jersey lunged toward my son. The crowd literally gasped. My jaw dropped and the pupils in my eyes dilated as I watched in horror and failed to breathe. It was in that second, that one second at the point of contact, that I thought to myself:
Oh, God, this is why so many parents don’t let their kids play football.
In moments such as this, for one split second, all of the decisions you’ve made as a parent become clouded in doubt. Fear rears its manipulative head and begins to churn in yours immediately eating away at your confidence. And it was in that particular moment I prayed without realizing I was praying that the equipment my precious boy was wearing was all that it was supposed to be: SAFE.
In that one second I remembered that I never checked his helmet to make sure it had the sticker showing that it meets the standards of the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment.
I meant to.
For it was in the moment that my heart lodged itself in my throat, that the giant from the other team had swooped down, seized my son’s thighs and in one-continuous-effortless-gliding-motion did his due diligence. Nearly as graceful as a male ballet dancer lifts a ballerina above his head, the opposing ogre raised 165 lbs. of my boy, gear and all, and seamlessly flipped him over his head causing him to land CRACK—SMACK, down on his back!
Only when he popped up like a spring from a board a few seconds later, did I begin to breathe again. Oh, I could tell my boy was a little shaken but he survived the throw-back and bounced back into the game almost as seamlessly as he was flipped over the other boy’s head. Luckily, Pop Warner’s equipment safety meets the highest standards.
Even though Pop Warner has clearly defined weight and age guidelines, before the second half of the game began, it was clear the other team had a physical advantage over our boys. Even the coach remarked that although it’s not unusual to come across one or two opposing players who are physically dominant on the field, our boys faced twenty and we lost to Chili (pronounced cheyeleye) which took us out of the championship. Naturally our boys walked away disappointed.
Me, I kept thinking about that moment, that one second in the game that caused my heart to lodge itself in my throat and I, walked away grateful.
That once foreign, gawd-awful, wretched, in-the-name-of-all-things-sweet-and-soft-and-pretty, what is that smell?—smell!
It. Is. Back!
It’s the one with gag-appeal that begs for the windows in the car to be rolled down, all-the-way-down, despite the rain storm beating against the windshield. It’s the smell that vanished suddenly for eight glorious months only to return with a fierce vengeance, commanding a presence as potent and foul as ever.
Unlike the lyrics of the song however, it’s not the result of a hard living; whisky drinking, pot smoking, pill popping, needle sticking, life that summons the angel of darkness carrying with him, that smell.
On the contrary, think cow manure meets bleach and laundry soap melded with freshly cut grass. Add a rain storm and mix it all together with the sweat from the body of a still growing teenage boy and you’ve got that smell!
That gross, worse than a wet, dirty dog, wonderful smell that tells me once again, it’s Football Season!
Yes, it’s that smell; that permeates every spec of fresh air living within the confines of my car after nearly 3-hours of hard-hitting, ball kicking, mud splattering practice that screams,
“My boy is back on the field!“
With all its potency, this horrible but heavenly smell brings with it the promise of good health, plenty of exercise, restful, slumber-filled nights and if history repeats itself, academic excellence!
Ooh, that smell, that wonderfully putrid smell has miraculously become a welcome and familiar waft now that dare I say, I think I missed! So, bring it on.
Bring on, that smell!
Cause, I’m taking that smell on with a smile!
Ph0to Credit #1 & 2: Google Images
Photo Credits #3,4, & 5 ©Karen Szczuka Teich & http://www.takingtheworldonwithasmile.com
Face-masks, girdles and pads, Oh My! You would think I was outfitting a girl with a list like that. The only real tip-off that I was buying equipment for a boy was the “cup” mixed in with the rest of the must-haves. And when you have to buy and wash these things, you start paying a little more attention to what they’re for, especially when they’re designed to protect.
Thank God for these manly items made to keep my boy safe from bodily harm and all of the other revelations that come with the-playing-of-football.
The Knights began their “training” this summer and not only was my boy’s name placed on a football team’s roster for the first time, a few of my prayers have been answered to boot! With over two and a half hours of grueling practice, five days a week and scrimmages on the weekends, this boy is EXHAUSTED! I give thanks to the coach, praise his name and confess: I’m happy to witness the transfer of electronic play over to this all-American, out-door, physical play. Gone are the late nights of video chatting, skype-ing and texting. They’ve been happily replaced with what my boy needs most: SLEEP!
Making the team requires lots of my driving time. It’s just too far to drop him off and come back and where-ever I go, the girl goes, making this, for the most part, a 24/7-whole-family-commitment.
It’s worth the sacrifice.
I’m getting a crash course in the Pop Warner Football culture. Sure, I was a football cheerleader in high school but honestly, all we really had to know was the boys’ names. Every once in a while we’d throw out phrases like “hold-that-line” or “Defense!” but it didn’t mean for one second I understood why I was saying that. I even went to a few Bills and Giants games in my day. I love live sports. But let’s face it, all you really have to do is follow the crowd to make it look like you have a clue.
And although, I’ve attended my share of Super Bowl parties and hosted enough Monday Night Football gatherings to know it is a big deal, truth be known, I was mostly there for the food and the company of the other women in the same boat. But now it’s my boy that’s playing in the game and although I don’t have to know what’s going on, I want to know!
Plus, I’m grateful for the little things, like the new respect for personal hygiene for instance, that prior to his “return” seemed to go completely unnoticed by the “Alien Child” that was living in my angel boy’s room for so long. Seriously, he is so dirty and smells so bad after practice, even he can’t stand it! Showers abound – daily!
I’m not worthy.
Even his usual grunting that for so long was the norm response to any type of communication directed his way, has been interrupted by a few real, pleasantries like, “Mom, can you please get me…, drive me…, feed me… and wash my…..?” It’s a blessing to hear his voice again! And although the “good word” now comes on the pages of a playbook, at least he’s studying something!
I still get the occasional …
“Mom, I told you, don’t talk to me during practice!”
But hey, I’m not expecting miracles!
I am however beginning to believe there is a God and I think SHE plays football.
Consider me converted.
Photo Credit #1-4 ©Karen Szczuka Teich & Takingtheworldonwithasmile.com
Photo Credit #5 Google Docs/TV’s Most Coveted Mom