It had come to this moment. My 13 year-old son, Jordan was dressed in a football uniform and ready to take the field. The only problem was, would one of the coaches call his name? It had been a long football season already. In fact, there was only one more game left to play after today.
As I sat in the stands outside my son's middle school, I scanned the sidelines on the other side to find my son. The middle school only had bleachers on one side. The visiting team was in front of the bleachers and in front of all of the moms, dads, sisters, brothers, grandparents, cousins, neighbors and whoever/whatever relations to the boys in uniform playing football this afternoon.
Finally, I saw Jordan on the other side. He was one of two very thin, tiny fellows who looked like football toys compared to the 8th graders who all seemed to be the size of mountain men and lumberjacks. Just before the kick-off, Jordan held his helmet up above his head with all of his team mates as his team was kicking the ball to their opponents. As the ball was kicked and sent spiraling into the air, the football players on the sidelines brought their helmets down and made a loud, audible wooshing sound to represent the kick-off.
What happened next were 4 great quarters of football. In fact, I was quite impressed with my son's team. You see, this was the first time I had attended a game. It wasn't for lack of wanting to see him play or the fact that the games were held at 4:30pm on Wednesdays after school. But, up until now my son had been wearing a cast. He had fractured his growth plate near his ankle during one practice and was in a cast for 4 weeks and then had to remain inactive for 2 more weeks.
In football terms, this meant that following six weeks of not being able to practice with the team, Jordan would still not be allowed to dress for a game until he had 10 days of practice in full gear, uninjured, prior to a game. What it meant to me, the mom was that I would not be attending games until my son had the possibility of being on the field for even one play.
However, today, my wait was over. Jordan had 10 practice days under his belt and was told he would take the field. The first quarter came and went as did the second, third and fourth quarters. Our team won 28 to 0. Then, as the bleachers emptied out, it was finally time to see my son take the field. That's because my son's middle school had what was called a 'fifth quarter.'
'Fifth quarter' was for football players who were not considered first string but could play the game and needed practice to improve their skills to reach first string. And this was where Jordan was placed. Today, he was playing the position of a wide receiver. What else could I ask for as a mother? The wide receiver was on the offense and was tasked with finding a way to get open so that the quarterback could throw the ball to him to run for as many yards as possible and even as far as into the end zone for a touchdown.
Needless to say, I was more than ready. Including my son's six-week absence from football, there were three weeks prior where my son practiced, in preparation for the first game that he had ended up watching from the sidelines in a cast, cheering his team mates on to victory. For all this time, I had been waiting nine weeks, including trips to and from middle school to get my son back and forth from practice. Now, four additional quarters of a football game had come and gone to get to the 'fifth quarter' to see my son play.
Jordan was on the field. And so were the coaches. As it turns out, as soon as the regular game ends, the referees leave and the coaches take over as referees, watching for possible penalties and touchdowns through this extra quarter. Jordan was one of three boys standing next to the fifth quarter coach. I watched with anticipation, waiting to see Jordan line up with his team's offense. I would continue to wait two more plays. As it turns out, after my long wait as well as Jordan's, my son was put in every third play that the offense was on the field for this 'fifth quarter!'
Are you kidding me? I mean are you seriously kidding me? I had been patient. I had been really patient, for me. And now, I had to wait every third play that the offense was on the field to see my son on the field and lining up for a play. But it gets better. Every third play that had my son in the offensive line up, Jordan stood ready to run, moved to get himself open only to have the quarterback run the ball or throw the ball to someone else. Had my son been two slow? Was he covered with the opponents blocking him? No! And no!
Was Mom seething? Was Mom so wanting to lose her cool? That would be yes and *^(&%^&&* yes! The game was over. There was only one game left and my son had been on the field maybe six to eight plays with not one opportunity to make a play as a wide receiver. All of this time, and close to $250 worth of football gear including kleets, special under shirts to keep the pads from rubbing his skin raw, a cup, a football girdle, gloves, socks, a $15 football pack that all the players got, T-shirts for the family to help support (this included a T-shirt with the school's name and a football on it, a pair of shorts and a mesh bag) my son was no closer to playing football during a game than he was so many months and dollars ago.
The game over, I waited for Jordan to change back into his street clothes so that we could head over to his 9 year-old brother's football practice. I told him that it was fun to watch his team play. I told him that I was so happy to see him dressed out and on the field. But I couldn't help but ask why he wasn't given the chance to catch even one pass thrown his way. Jordan, my 13 year old, who told me little about his now teenage life, who had an attitude about everything and thought Mom was the worst person to have within 20 feet of him, walked along side me to the car and had this to say:
"It just depends on what play the coach calls. The quarterback can't throw the ball to me if they don't call a certain play," he said. And that was it.
"So, did you have fun," I asked.
"Yeah," Jordan said.
And in a moment, with just a few words, I realized what was most important. I couldn't have loved my son more that afternoon. And I couldn't have been more proud. I was looking forward to the last game now, more than ever, whether my son played or not.