Football gives me chills. And chest tightness. And tachycardia. And tremors. And hypotension. And breathlessness. And Fatigue. But it’s all good. I promise.
Let me explain…
Yesterday, just after 1:00 PM, I kissed my husband goodbye and watched him head off to the football war room, a scenario we’ve repeated every Sunday afternoon since early August. He strolled purposely down our sidewalk, his bag full of notes on this week’s opposing team’s tendencies slung over his shoulder.As I watched him leave, my chest tightened with pride. It’s Week Two of Georgia High School playoffs. The competition is getting fiercer, so Mike and his fellow defensive coaches burned the midnight oil preparing their game plan.
It’s a mysterious process to me, the deconstruction of an offense. In my fiercely romantic brain, I imagine it’s an exposition closely akin to the annotation and explication of metaphysical poetry. I picture the guys huddled around their Hudl screens, marking up schemes with dexterity and determination, scrutinizing pistol formations and pondering triple options with the same respect and gritty fortitude that I scrutinize syntax and ponder paradox, searching for the key to decipher the cryptic code and whittle it down into chewable chunks.
I’m sure it’s a formidable feat, arduous and time-consuming; always open to interpretation; and painfully exquisite– if that’s your thing. And it is absolutely, positively my guy’s thing. For the past decade, I’ve watched him light up like a Hurricane scoreboard when he talks shop with fellow coaches. Football powwows with people in the know is one of his most intense pleasures. And I love that he’s found his niche within this fine group of coaching fellows. Perhaps I’m biased, but I truly believe they may be the most amazingly gifted and gracious crew ever to be assembled in the history of high school football.
Watching them from the stands as they interact with their players on Friday nights, tremors of excitement run up and down my spine. It starts with pregame. I love seeing the boys clustered around their position coaches, going through their drills. The bursts of whistle and muscle; the blur of footballs and footwork; the thud of shoulder pads and practice punts. Pregame gives me shivers.
And then there is the moment at the beginning of every game, just prior to kick off, when the boys and their coaches march evenly out across half the field and kneel. One-hundred-twenty-plus boys of one-hundred-fifty-plus pounds – they all take a knee and give the Lord a moment of silence and respect.
It leaves me breathless.
Then the world speeds back up again. The crowds gather; the cheerleaders chant; the bands play; the lights hum; and the stadium pulses. But just before it all goes down, just before the band plays Amazing Grace and The Star-Spangled Banner, just before the team runs through the tunnel of swirling white smoke and takes the field, just before the scoreboard sounds off and the place kicker blasts off, Mike climbs the stadium steps on his way to the box. And he always stops off to deliver a kiss to me and our boys. Seeing him approach, his chocolate eyes smiling, his caramel skin glowing, his wide, warm shoulders swaying, my heart swells and my knees go weak. I am truly a blessed woman.
Yes, Friday nights give me goosebumps. Good old-fashioned, puckered-up chicken skin. And not because I’m lucky enough to get a pre-game kiss from a tall mug of coaching caramel macchiato. (Although that helps, too.) But because boy, can our boys play some ball. And man, can our men coach ‘em up. There is nothing like a good, crisp, spiral-sliced Friday night.
And now we’ve been blessed with a second week in our playoff run. And I’m praying for another three after this. Another three-and-a-half weeks of single parenthood and lonely bedtimes. The boys and I have this routine down pat. It’s old hat. And we’re in it for the long haul.
Oh, but the playoffs have introduced one new formation in our family’s weekly playbook: Chili Night Wednesday Night.
Every Wednesday of postseason play, the coaches’ wives make chili – pots and pots and pots of chili (along with every imaginable fixin) – which we then ladle up for the players in the field house after practice.
The football field house is a far cry from a five-star restaurant. It’s a dusty, moldy, and well-seasoned (pun intended) athletic facility (and even that sounds too fancy for what it actually is). But there, amidst the battered tables and scheme-riddled white boards, the buzzing fluorescent tubes and the lingering locker room funk, we wait on a team of amazing young men who have willingly harnessed themselves to the merciless gridiron grind – who sacrifice their bodies and their egos for the good of the team. Teenagers who are stronger and more dependable and more faithful than I ever would have been at their age. Young men who are winning – not just at football, but at life.
And one of the reasons these players are winning is the cadre of coaches in their corner.These men are their mentors, their overseers, their champions. They invest time, energy and love. These boys become their boys. And because of the dedication of their coaches, these boys soon become the community’s boys, too. Everyone’s boys. The boys of fall. Because in Georgia, football is legendary.
So here’s hoping and praying for another four weeks of Sunday War Rooms, Chili Night Wednesday Nights, Friday Night Lights and everything in between. I’m ready for the run. My heart can take it. My body is addicted to the thrilling, physiological effects of really good football. And it’s all good.