Friday, October 9, 2009

Football, win or lose

It's football season. For mother's of football players that means worry.

It's been said that you don't have to see a hard hit, you hear it. That horrific crack of helmets and bodies can be heard over every announcement and volume level of the crowd; and when that noise reaches the ears and hearts of mothers in the stand, they all feel life stop for a moment. Their heads turn while their minds race: Is that my son out there? Will he get up?

Even after numbers are identified and all sons but two are accounted for--every mother, in both stands, nervously waits to see if those two 'sons' will stand on their own.

My son, in the white, after making a "big hit" on someone else's son. Thankfully, both got up and both congratulated the other on a great play.

Mothers don't have to know the players who were caught in the epicenter of that awful sound. Every mother at the game still waits and worries. Maternal instinct isn’t just for our own children. It is for all children.

I learned that more deeply during a losing season. Everything is different when the scoreboard reflects a numerical defeat. Injuries hurt more. Weaknesses are noticed more. When your son comes off the field with a pain in his eyes that goes deeper than any physical injury you want to hug him and give him part of your soul just to buoy him up. You tell him how great he did but you see in his eyes that what you are saying isn’t registering. At that moment those illuminated numbers are speaking louder than any thing he is hearing.

During that losing season my son’s team found themselves ahead at the half for the first time all season. The other team they were playing had also struggled that season. I knew it wasn’t a game of two Titans battling for supremacy, or even David versus Goliath. It was a game of failure versus failure and one, I knew, would have to fail again.

Selfishly, with thoughts of my own son, I went home during halftime and hit my bedroom floor in prayer. Please, I pleaded, let my son’s team hold on to the lead and win this game. The team was so discouraged, so emotionally defeated from all their defeats that season. Let them have at least one win.

Why would you pray for that? a voice asked. Why would you pray for another mother to have to greet her defeated son after the game and see the same pain in his eyes that you have seen?

That questioning entered my heart and soul with a power that has never left. I still feel its power when I reflect on that prayer.

Today, I don’t remember who won the game. All I really remember is during that halftime I won deep, unexpected understanding from a heartfelt prayer. It has changed the way I look at football and so many other things in life. It has changed my prayers. Now, before a game, I plead that all players will be safe from injury. I plead that all players will have the opportunity to play their very best. And I especially pray that that both teams will form bonds of respect and friendship across the line and set examples of sportsmanship for their teammates and others.

I haven’t been disappointed. My son has made many new friends across the lines in the games and seasons since that prayer.

This year my son’s team is 3-2. Not playoff numbers but better than that previous losing season. Now when he steps off the field, win or lose, he’s more likely to talk about the acts of sportsmanship and good players on both sides of the line. Last week, after my son’s team experienced a tough loss against a powerhouse team that left the numbers, 54-6, shining on the scoreboard, he still came off the field with a smile on his face.

“That was a great game! No one got injured and both teams were helping each other up after every play, telling each other good job. When we lined up to shake hands after the game, one of the guys on the other team told each of us God bless.”

Obviously there are other mothers out there praying for the same things.

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