On Thursday, I traveled about an hour and a half from where I live to watch a freshman football game. I didn't drive all that way to watch one of my boys play, because (sniff) they're all grown up now and have moved beyond their high school football glory days. I didn't drive all that way to check out the colorful fall foliage, either, because it wasn't one of those sunny, crisp, clean, "football weather" autumn days for which this part of the country is famous--in fact, it was an extremely gloomy, rainy day, the kind of day that makes you want to curl up in a blanket on the couch and hibernate. So why did I go? I went because I wanted to see my second oldest son--a first year high school Algebra teacher and assistant freshman football coach--in action.
I didn't get to see a very good game. My son's boys finally had to go up against a superior team that day, after trouncing every other opponent they'd faced, and they didn't have the gas to get the job done. They lost 26-0, and let's put it this way: it wasn't at all pretty. But it was still worth the trip for me. It was great to see my boy (I've been missing all of my boys so much lately!) and to meet the other young man he's been coaching with all season.
I brought homemade cookies for the team--I guess because I've become this pitiable empty nester who misses baking for her own boys. The head coach was funny about it, though. When the kids got on the bus, he boomed (according to my son): "Listen up! Coach Pearl's mom made some cookies to give to the poor; but she saw your pathetic game today, and how terrible you did, and she feels sorry for you! So she decided to give them to you instead!"
Those boys weren't fooled a bit by the tough guy act. One of them smiled right away and said, "She made us cookies?"
Over the years, I've learned that football coaches can be as tough as nails, but if they really care about their boys, that comes through. When his players weren't working hard enough in practice, our sons' high school football coach used to mercilessly chide them, "My five-year-old granddaughter can hit harder than you can!" Or he'd yell, "You guys couldn't even beat the Sisters of the Poor!" (That was one of his favorite lines. I don't even think he was a Catholic, but he seemed to know a lot about that order of nuns and the quality of their football program.) Should we women be offended that this "old school"-style coach always seemed to equate his boys' poor performance with playing like girls?
Personally, I'm not offended. I've found that there is something about that mano-a-mano understanding between boys and their football coaches that is very sweet and uncomplicated, very simple...because after all, men are such simple creatures. And I hope they're not offended by me saying that--because in some ways, I think we complicated women could learn a thing or two from them.