“Football is like life – it requires perseverance, self-denial, hard work, sacrifice, dedication and respect for authority.” – Vince Lombardi
Fall. Sunny days and cool, crisp evenings. Football weather. The chance to reconnect with friends at the stadium. Hoodies printed up with team logos, marching bands, brats grilling, whistles blowing – Friday nights under lights across the U.S.
Memories flooding. Some folks may feel torn. Some may be ambivalent. Some, like me, find the irony a bit comical.
High school, and once again for me, it is a bit awkward. Why? Because, should I decide to go to the game, who will I cheer for?
This week’s football game is an “us versus them.” Only for me, “us” is my kids’ high school football team going up against my old high school, who is now “them.”
If I let it, it could prove to be quite a dilemma. The school that helped shape me, that educated me, that housed friendships and memories.
Days of teenage angst; feeling like I didn’t fit in. The square peg in the round hole. The one who didn’t measure up against my peers…
I haven’t been to that football field since I graduated. But since then, I have met up with some classmates I graduated with, and we have had a great time together at each gathering. Life has beat us all up, and we’ve dealt with stuff we would have never dreamed of when we graduated and parted ways some 30-plus years ago: deaths, deployments, divorces, downsizing… none of us unscathed by life.
But it makes for better friendships and deeper conversations than it did back when we were teens.
I would love to root for my old alma mater.
But I can’t. It is the past.
I am in the present.
In the here and now, I have to cheer on my new home team, which boasts of some pretty good guys. The young men who, I swear just yesterday, were about half the size they are now, goofing off and eating pizza in a classroom party I helped host.
Some of these young men have been over to shoot hoops in my driveway. A few of them were here to help with a science fair project that consisted of putting Mentos into diet soda in anticipation of pop shooting all over the sidewalk. (They weren’t disappointed.) Some of these young men were loud boys who needed to be reminded to be quiet at 2 a.m., because, yes – even in the summer – parents have to work. One of these young players has a good throwing arm in part because he and my son tossed bricks to each other to practice (until I shrieked for them to stop!) Many of the guys on the team have grown up with my son; they are some of his closest friends, and their parents are now among my some of my dearest friends.
I will cheer for my new home team because it boasts of a lot of young men I have watched grow and mature over the years.
I will cheer for my new home team because it is the team my son cheers for.
I will cheer for my new home team because my youngest daughter, a JV cheerleader, will be there, rain or shine, sleet or snow, for her home team.
I will cheer for my new home team because each week they bring the hope of a win, a reason to gather, a sense of community.
While I am not forgetting my past, I am putting it behind me where it belongs, while enjoying the present.
To my new home team, and to your young fans, I cheer for your future. I hope that the bonds you make today with your friends continue to grow deeper with time. When you part ways at graduation, I hope you stay in contact with each other. When life beats you up and you have mud on your face and you’re up against hardships that you never knew were possible, I hope that you will find yourself grounded and firm because of your home team.
When you graduate from college or trade school and have a family of your own, I hope the values you learned growing up in this town stay with you. That you welcome a yard full of kids, running, swimming, shooting hoops, squirting each other with hose. (But for Heaven’s sake, please don’t let them toss bricks!)
And after a few years, maybe even a few decades, when you meet up with your classmates, I hope you will find that your friendships are stronger and your conversations are better.
And if you find yourself in an awkward spot on a Friday night, please know that it is okay to cheer a new home team.
Even if it feels a bit odd.
The new home team will appreciate it, and the old one will understand.
Trust me on this.
© 2012 – Lynne Cobb