Today is a glorious day, the culmination of 9 months of intensive conditioning, weight training and game plays. A day when 30 young men in their prime stream onto the field to represent their school in the first game of the season. And my son is one of them.
Right there is the problem. He is one of them, but I have absolutely no idea which one. Last year, he was the last on the team, and so was given the leftover uniform, which included the greyest, saggiest pair of football pants that I have ever clapped eyes on. He also very rarely made it onto the field, so the rear of his jersey with his number in foot high characters standing rooted to the sideline, made it rather easier. This year, thanks to his dedication, hard work and complete lack of interest in the coach’s tantrums, he has stood his ground and made it into the line-up. It’s a nightmare.
Life would be rather easier if I understood the game. I am an excellent armchair referee of rugby, I understand the finer points of the offside rule in soccer (football, for the rest of the world) and I can keep up with canoe polo, but (American) football? Not a chance.
For one thing, the whole team doesn’t stay on the field for the whole game. Someone kicks the ball, everyone tries to catch it and inevitably fails (15 year old adolescent males are not renowned for their co-ordination), and then the whole team runs off the field in a dejected fashion to be replaced by a group of identically dressed boys, whose only distinguishing characteristic is their slightly larger size. They then maul at the opposing boys, regardless of location of the ball, until someone on our team happens upon it, picks it up, and is immediately whisked off the field with his mates to be replaced by a less mangled lot. And so it goes on.
I have, however, developed a number of strategies to keep my interest. We are given a roster of players and their numbers at the start of the game, and I use this as my personal ‘I spy’ card. Given that the program tends to be hastily put together by admin volunteers with better things to do, there are inevitably bloopers, so it’s a rare day when I get to cross everyone off. This somewhat idle pursuit had reaped unexpected rewards – I’m usually looking away from the action where the slower moving (and therefore easily identifiable) numbers are, and it’s a gold mine. Like the time I spotted that one of the opposing players was, in fact, female. A strongly built, rather aggressive female, it has to be said, but a female non the less.