It’s not about the wins
Never has my phone buzzed so much. Usually my sons bat away my pesky texts.
“Yeah baby!” my older son replied from Vermont, where he is in college, to me in the stands at the big Roaring Fork-Aspen High football matchup. I’d just written him, “TD by Tanner N right off the bat.”
But I was soon to follow that with “td by aspen darn it.”
And so began a nail-biter night.
Two years ago Teddy was playing for Roaring Fork, and on the Wednesday two nights before the game, he couldn’t sleep, finally turning on the lights and watching film of the Aspen team. The night before the game, I made him a drink with grated nutmeg, supposedly a natural soporific, and we talked a few minutes while he tried to relax.
“This is the biggest game of my life,” he said.
That was when Carbondale was in the same league, 2A, with Aspen, and whoever won that game was going to the playoffs. Teddy and his friend Felipe were co-captains. Another senior friend was the quarterback; another, a gifted running back. If they lost, this was their last game in high school.
Not to mention that many of us from the lower valley, we proud Downvalley Trash, have a bit of attitude about an Aspen game anyway. Aspen High School is twice as big, with vast resources.
Yet that year their team, normally a powerhouse and with a storied coach, was said to be disordered. We had a good chance. And we were winning that game — until the last six minutes, when the Aspen machine kicked in, and they scored again and then again.
Teddy is now playing D3 football. He’s moved on, but that last game remains a heartbreaker.
“Field goal by us,” I reported by text. “10-7 now, 3 mins to halftime.”
My phone vibrated.
“Great game! Keep me posted!”
“Score same,” I wrote soon, and that his brother had caught a nice bomb.
“Td Carbondale! Tanner N!”
Then, another from me: “TD Aspen.”
“Keep the news coming.”
“17-17 – 8 mins to go.”
“Whoa great game!”
“Field goal Alex! 2 mins.”
A long two minutes.
“1:22,” I updated.
“55 to go …. 34 to go they r taking timeout,” I fumbled.
What I didn’t go into, there wasn’t time, was the field goal they tried. The snap, in the rain, was dropped. It was at the 35-yard line, so maybe chances were only fair anyway.
When I texted the word “win!” he fired back a bouquet of firecracker icons.
It was the first win against Aspen in six years. I reveled — David against Goliath. Then my husband and I saw an Aspen father, a friend, who hugged us, very graciously congratulated us, and asked us to congratulate our player son. At which point I felt downright sheepish.
I have mixed feelings about football. Lingering worries about tackles, concussions. But I also see the camaraderie, discipline and passion. See my son Roy all the more engaged in school, see him come home laughing at shared jokes. I watch kids who have gotten in trouble, in academics or elsewhere, join in: busy and committed, encouraging to teammates, positive.
One teammate told my son, “Don’t worry if you make a mistake. Everyone makes mistakes out there.”
Well, the next game, the next week, our team would have our comeuppance. We were rolled over, and, far worse, players sustained injuries, but our kids played with heart and returned with reasoned analyses.
The day after the Aspen game, a school parent had said, “I was so disappointed to find out that the game didn’t count! We’re not in the same league as Aspen anymore.”
It’s OK, I’d told her. It’s a historic rivalry. No, we’re not 2A anymore, are too small and were changed to 1A (which is, ironically, more competitive). Still, it’s nice to know we are in the same league.
I also know it’s not about the wins; to which the kids might not agree, but their actions show it.
The luminous Tuesdays With Morrie, about lessons learned from a dying man, includes a vignette of an earlier college basketball game where the crowd began chanting, “We’re number one!” Morrie, a professor, stood up and yelled, “What’s wrong with number two?” The chanting stopped and he sat down, as the author wrote, “smiling and triumphant.”
“Femaelstrom” appears on the third Friday of each month. Alison Osius lives in Carbondale, where she is a climber, skier and magazine editor. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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