What Little Boys Don’t Know

sam and sandorSandor and Sam are both eleven and on the 5th grade football team. They are both athletic and start most games. But they are not, apparently, the “jocks” who rule the fifth grade at Fountain Lake.  According to the boys there are four or five boys who are on offense  and they think they are really special. All the girls love them, they make fun of other kids and they “act like jerks with swag”, explained Sandor.   Eleven year old with swag, I really want to see what that looks like.

My boys seemed a little depressed by the state of affairs in fifth grade until I said, “Hey, I’ve got some really good news for you.”

“What?” they both appeared in the kitchen.

“Unload the dishwasher and I’ll tell you.”

They got to work and waited for me to give them the good news.

“When you guys get into junior high and high school things are going to change. Right now football is the only game in town so the star  football players are all big and bad and get  the attention. But in a couple of years it all spreads out. There are gonna be super stars in band, in basket ball, in school plays, even in EAST lab doing crazy awesome stuff on computers. All the focus won’t be on just a hand full of jerky football players.”

They stopped unload the dishes. “Really?”

“Sure, think about it. Last night at the Mr. Fountain Lake contest all those guys on stage were really popular but only a couple of them played football. Do you remember who won?”

They both said “Eli!”

“That’s right and he’s not a jerk at all. Eli is awesome, he’s the president of student council, he started the robotic team, he’s super smart. But he’s not a jerk and he helps people, he’s not a bully.”

“Yeah, Eli is awesome,” one of them said. And they started unloading the dishes again, until somebody burped and the other one laughed and threw a a gross wet sponge. It missed it’s target but hit the cat. The boys then tried to catch the cat to apologize. They never actually caught it but did end up wrestling under a Sponge Bob blanket and I finished unloading the dishwasher.

My Kid is a BAD Sport

    The fourth grade Cobra team lost their fourth game I a row. 14 to 9.  It’s a great team but desperately needs some new offensive moves.

    During the game my son, Sandor , had some monstrous tackles, brutal, effective but clean. The game announcer even said his name four times. Sure, they butchered the pronunciation of his first name but they got Hampo right. Still the Cobras lost. 

    As Sandor walked off the field he pulled off his helmet then threw it on the ground. I was stunned. What the hell was that from a 72 pound linebacker? I caught his eye and nodded toward the helmet. He was wise enough to turn around and pick it up before stalking down the field.

    As he walked, coaches pounded him on the back and said things like, “great second half Sandor” and “good game man, you were in there.”

    Sandor, who has really good manners, ignored them. I caught up with my boy in the in zone and turned him around by the shoulder pads. “Hey, what’s the matter, you had an awesome game.”

    His eyes were red and tears rolled down his sweaty, dirty face. “We lost again, we lose all the time. We’re a bunch of losers.” He was almost yelling.

“And the other team was really mean, they were saying bad stuff about us and they laughed every time one of our guys got hurt. I just want to grab them by the facemask and punch them in the face. They are a bunch of retards.”

I was horrified.  My kid was melting down and acting like a total jerk. Kids who pull this kind of stuff make me crazy. And I think really bad things about their parents because I figure the punk attitude comes from them. I’ve always been so proud of my kids because they were good sports and kept things in perspective.  “Stop, right now, don’t say another  word. You’re about to get in huge trouble. Listen,  Buddy, you can’t turn on your own team. Those are your guys, those are your brothers, win or lose. You’re gonna be playing ball with them for the next eight years. And guys talk trash in football. You just have to ignore them. “

“But we always lose and it sucks”.

“You know what?  You might as well quit the team right now. You have to play football because you love the game and you love your team. If it’s all about winning we should go tell the coach you want to quit. Is that what you want?”

He shook his head and sniveled. “No, I love football.”

“You’re a black belt. You’re the kid who should be telling your buddies to hang in there, not feeling sorry for yourself.”

He nodded as though he understood then climbed into the back seat of the car. Did he hear or understand anything I said? I won’t know until next Saturday morning, after the pee-wee game.  One thing I do know, if we don’t come up with something new for the offense, Sandor’s attitude, sportsmanship  and heart will once again be put to the test.

Friday Night American Warriors

It’s just Wednesday but I’m already thinking about this weekend. I’m starting to twitch.The Fountain Lake Cobra football team is in the semi-finals.  They weren’t supposed to be. I want to thank them for thrilling me all season.

Friday mornings…are  awesome.On Friday mornings when I drive around the school I get to see all the senior high players in their big purple jerseys. They stand together, they swagger together. The girls bump up against them and everybody laughs.

If it’s a home game the colossal lights will be turned on in the afternoon and the field will glow as the sun sets. School busses from other towns will roll onto campus. They are strangers and they don’t wear purple. The stadium is beautiful and pristine, waiting for the Friday night warriors.

 Most of our boys are sweet guys, they hug their moms and their mom’s friends. They throw footballs at the little boys who wear jerseys on Fridays too, hoping they will some day be able to take the field when the stands are packed and the home crowd cheers and rings cowbells. Alumni in skinny jeans and hightops and camo, faded overalls and ball caps line up, shoulder to shoulder to cheer.

The Cobra players are all just teen-age boys, all on the verge of becoming men, taking care of business, getting a job done, for their school, for their fans and for a tiny Arkansas community built around the purple and gold Cobras.

No matter what happens this weekend the Cobra football team has given us  all so much this season. They have played  hard, they have come from behind and they never quit in the 4th quarter. The boys have made everyone in the community proud to say we are from Fountain Lake.

*Please write me at hampoland@gmail.com or leave a comment. That makes my day!  This story is a re-write from earlier in the season.