No. 4 is playing spring football. Yes, spring football. This is the south, after all. When is there not some sort of football being played? “Friday Night Tykes” ain’t got nothing on us!
Anyway, No. 4 is playing football. His coach called me on Monday, February 13, to tell me which team he’d be playing for: The Patriots. Really? Last season he played for the Gators, this season the Patriots. These things only happen to me. The coach says, “Because Patriots win Superbowls and that’s just what we’re going to do. Sorry if you’re a Falcons fan.”
That’s a direct quote, a mere two weeks after the Super Bowl. I wanted to reach through the phone and… well, he was right, so there’s really nothing I could say.
Practices start and the kids are having fun. The team mom comes around asking which proud parents want to buy a Patriots shirt. My wife had to tell me to “walk it off.” The hell, you think I’m gonna wear a Patriots shirt? You must be out yo bleepity-bleep mind!
Before long, we come to the first game. They win it. Coaches are all on the “Yeah! That’s what Patriots do!” kick. I force a smile and congratulate my son.
Then comes game 2 and, wouldn’t you know it, game 2 is against the Falcons. There were so many sub-plots to this game. Of course, the obvious one is the Falcons vs. Patriots theme. Then my oldest son, No. 2, and I volunteered to be on the chain gang. Also, it was also No. 4’s first game playing center. For the football impaired: it means he “hikes” the ball to the quarterback.
As the game starts, I need a quick reminder to the direction in which play will be proceeding so I know where to take the chain. No. 2 sees this as he needs to “train me” on the game of football. That little… I know how football works! I will cut you.
As the game progresses, I secretly pump my fist a bit every time the Falcons score. Yes, I’m that petty. We’re nearing the end of the game when my son botches a snap, there was a fumble and the Falcons recovered the ball. Emotions got the best of one of his teammates and he pushed my son to the ground.
At this point, 2 things happened: One, I instantly remembered that this game was about more than my petty, childish obsession with my favorite professional football team. And two, I saw red.
Most parents know this feeling. The feeling of seeing our kid go through things that kids go through and the feeling of wanting to intervene badly, even knowing that it’s part of the process of growing up. I literally wanted to go snatch that kid up by his facemask and go all helicopter parent on him.
I didn’t, obviously, because I’m not in jail right now. But, after the play, No. 4 comes to the sideline in tears because of the incident. I’m in dad mode, encouraging him to move past the mistake. While I’m doing this, the decibel level of the crowd gets louder. The yells and screams seem to escalate rapidly. I look up to see what all the commotion is and discover that they are all screaming at me: the other parents, the officials, the other guy working the chains and my oldest son. Turns out I did need a little football lesson: After all, I was manning the chains and there was a game still going on.
Later, No. 2 explains how loudly he was yelling “DAD, DAD!” then switching to “KRIS! KRIS!” In my defense: I usually ignore kids yelling “Dad” in large crowds because 90 percent of the time it’s another kid yelling for another dad. Additionally, “Kris” (or “Chris”) is the second most common guy name in the world, so I usually ignore that, too.
The Patriots went on to lose that game. It’s the only game they’ve lost (so far) this season. The team is actually really good. I’m really proud of all the kids. Yes, even the one that pushed my son. That’s what football is about: emotion and determination. My son used that as motivation to do his job on the team better and it’s worked. If they win two more games, they’ll play for the championship. The team they’ll likely play against: The Falcons, of course.
But, there’s always the chance the team will completely collapse and lose every remaining game, including any playoff game they’re a part of. Obviously, I don’t want that to happen. However, if it does, I’ll find a way to blame Tom Brady.