No. 4’s football season came to a dramatic end last weekend.
You may remember me writing that my youngest son was playing spring football for a team called the Patriots. Cheering for his team was bittersweet. While I want to see him succeed at everything he does, as an Atlanta Falcons fan I detest all things “Patriot” right now.
Alas, here I was. It was Super Bowl Saturday and I’m there to cheer on the Patriots in hopes that they will defeat the Falcons for the championship trophy. It’s times like these that I know God has a wicked sense of humor.
My son was excited all week. All the players were more than ready. Both teams played very well. The game was back and forth and the score very close. In the end, the clock ticked down and the Falcons won by one point.
One #%$^&@ing point.
There are a lot of things that, as a father, you’re prepared to handle: kids getting in trouble at school, your child’s first speeding ticket, a boy breaking your daughter’s heart. These are things I expect. What never crossed my mind was the heartbreak an 8-year-old feels when his team, who has dominated all season, loses their championship game.
I guess as a fan of Georgia and Atlanta sports teams, I have just grown numb to my teams failing when it matters most. But, I forget that these kids didn’t live through the Super Bowl of 1999. They don’t remember UGA bobbling a football into the hands of an Auburn player to send the Tigers to the SEC Championship game (and, ultimately, the National Championship game). They didn’t have to listen to their wife, the Cavs fan, after they swept the Hawks in the playoffs two years in a row. Or, any of the other countless examples I could mention.
This was No. 4’s first taste of the extreme low that only sports can deliver. And there’s really nothing I could do to help. All I could do was put my arm around his shoulder, let him know I was there and let it burn. But, to make matters worse, I had to make sure he knew to be a good sport. Through teary eyes and a wash of emotions, I made sure he congratulated the other team. After all, they deserved it. They played harder than they had all season.
Unfortunately, some of the other parents didn’t feel the same way. As these games go, there were a couple of calls that were questioned by our parents and coaches. Maybe they were bad calls and maybe there weren’t. But I’ve never seen any official replay the end of a game or change the outcome because the parents and coaches complained enough.
I was disappointed to see some of the parents and coaches storming off, blaming the officials, coaches and even parents of the other team. Some refused to congratulate the other team and refused the runner-up trophy. These kids are 8 and 9 years old. They don’t need their role models acting like bigger kids than they are. They played a hell of a season and lost that game by one point. You better believe I think they deserve their runner-up trophy.
But, that’s what sports does to us. We get filled with so much emotion that it takes over and sometimes we just can’t think clearly. They’ll rip out our heart and we come back for more, only for it to happen all over again.
Just as my son started to recover from this heartbreak, I felt a little more at ease. I started to look forward to watching games with him next season and the father/son bonding that comes along with it. As the tears finally stopped, he sighed a big sigh and said “I hate the Falcons.”
Ouch! Ya cut me, kid… ya cut me deep.