Yep, that’s right, it’s over, my high school football career is over. At first I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe my career was going to end so abruptly as a 39-34 loss to the dreaded, and often hatedloathed, T-A-F-T. I’m told it’s a four letter word in certain circles. But back on topic. As I watched the last seconds tick off the clock, I was in denial. I was in denial as I walked that long line to shake the enemies’ hands. I was in denial as I knelt down on one knee to hear Head Coach Croson tell us that we played our hearts out and that we just came up short. He told us he was proud of us. And he told us Happy Thanksgiving.
But I began to grieve as I realized that this must surreal of moments was in fact real. That no, this was no horrible nightmare; and no, I was not goign to wake up. And then, dear readers, do you know what I did? I wept. I wept in sorrow. I wept because a stage in my life was over. I wept because what I have worked so hard on these past three years is gone, and I’ll never get it back. I wept like a man. And sometimes, when you put all of your heart and soul into something, it leads to very strong opinions and powerful emotions; and sometimes it is just necessary to cry.
But as I headed back to the bus I realized something. I realized that football has given so much, that there was nothing for me to be sad about. I am stronger and more fit than I ever was before I started playing. I’m tougher and I truly understand the meaning of hard work. I have more friends than I have ever had. And my teammates are not just my friends, no they’re something more; they’re my brothers. There is nothing I wouldn’t do for them and there is nothing they wouldn’t do for me. We share a sacred bond that none of us will forget and that very few others will understand. And as I got on that bus, I stood up as straight as I could and I told them that. I told them that I loved them, and that they were some of the best friends I ever had. And on that quiet bus ride back to Birmingham we told bared our souls to eachother and remembered the good times.
A little later on, after I had hugged all my teammates with that manly hug reserved only for men who have been through a lot together and shaken the hands of all my coaches, I walked out of the locker room into the cool night air. And as I did, I thought of the good times and all the wonderful memories I have. I remembered dancing to the Temptations and other oldies music in the weight room before a game; I remembered all the dirty jokes we used to tell eachother during practice; and I remembered that feeling of satisfaction after putting in a good day’s work with my friends. And as I walked out of that locker room that I knew so well, I puffed out my chest a little, stood up a little straighter, and I cried. This time I cried out of joy. And as the tears fell down my face, I let out one big giant “PATRIOTS!” and listened to it echo across the athletic field.
I guess you can’t win them all, but it sure would be nice to have won this one. I guess that’s just how the Play-Offs go sometimes. At least I still have some great memories though. Once a Patriot. Always a Patriot.
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