Weekly Column: Turn out the lights, the season’s over…

©Stephenie Freeman

Another flag football season has come to a close. Thank goodness. The junior flag football league that the Cheese plays for is a “learning league.” Basically, this is code for “We don’t keep score.” No one officially keeps score, but everyone is fully aware of who wins and who loses which is why we know that our team had a losing season.

There were a lot of tears this season, lots of running to the sidelines so Mama could fix his boo-boo with a kiss and reassure him that football really was fun. After one particularly physical play the Cheese ran over to the sideline with cleat marks up and down his arm. I checked for broken bones and then against my better Mama judgment told him to get back out there, after all, there’s no crying in football. At least that’s what I keep telling myself.

I think the season was harder on the parents than it was on the kids. We watched as our team lost yardage on every, single play. We asked for birth certificates for some 8-year olds on an opposing team who looked a little too large for their age. We cheered like crazy people when our boys finally got a first down. And we brought plenty of chocolate-covered donuts and juice boxes to heal the wounds after each game.

For most of the season my scrawny, underweight child played defense and inevitably was put up against the biggest, bulkiest kid on the opposing team. I never asked the coach why the smallest kid on the team was playing defense; instead spent the whole season quietly biting my tongue. I’m still having trouble tasting certain salty foods.

Our little Rudy Ruettiger played with lots of heart. He wasn’t afraid to fight back, a skill that he has perfected by having a younger brother. When the Cheese got pushed down he’d get up and push right back, usually to the shock and amazement of his larger opponent. Our kid might be small, but he doesn’t take crap from anybody, which I have a feeling will come in very handy in junior high.

The Cheese only touched the ball once this season. I knew it was coming when I saw the coach whispering in the Cheese’s ear right before he moved him into the running back position.

“Oh, no.” I told the Golfer. “Your son’s about to run the ball.”

What our son lacks in size, he more than makes up for in speed. He’s a fast little sucker, so we knew that if he was ever given the chance to run the ball, there was a possibility that he might be able to make something happen.

Something happened all right. Before the Cheese could even get around the line of scrimmage, his flag was pulled.

But what was this? He was still running! And you know what? He still had a set of flags on!

That’s right. Our son was wearing two sets of flags, sort of his own little insurance policy I guess. Most people would call that cheating, but in our “learning league” it was just plain funny. Later I downloaded the pictures of the Cheese’s big run. It looks like he was wearing a bright yellow hula skirt.

At the team party last night, the kids received their trophies and the parents cheered. We cheered that the season was over. We cheered that our kids seemed oblivious to the fact that they hadn’t won a single game. We cheered out of pride because it isn’t whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.

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