What self-respecting football would even think about hitting the gridiron without a decent night’s sleep? Or without a name, for that matter?
It was this pigskin’s lucky day when my husband walked into the sporting good shop looking for a junior sized football for our son, Jacob. In a few, short hours it’s life was changed forever. It went from spending yet another long, lonely day on a dusty store shelf to being held and stroked and coddled and tossed from one admiring hand to another.
It wasn’t left alone for an instant, from the moment it was triumphantly carried through the front door until it was finally time for all football players (and balls) to go to bed. Even there, cuddled together under the covers, Jacob studied his new friend carefully — and really, what green-blooded Saskatchewan Roughrider fan could resist a face like that? So green and white and S-like — before declaring that his new football would hereafter answer to the name of “Liam.”
Football. That’s Jacob’s passion. For about a year now, he’s let it be know that, in addition to all the other things he plans to do in his life, he’s going to be a football player. He’s going to play for the Saskatchewan Roughriders. And he’s going to live with his aunt and uncle in Regina and get them tickets to the games. (That’s a relatively recent development in light of the great time he had on the kneeboard behind his uncle’s boat this summer.)
When Jacob gets an idea in his head, it does nothing but burrow deeper until it colors every other thought that passes through his mind and, more often than not, preempts every other conversation that might be trying to happen. He is nothing if not persistent and that single-pointed focus has served him well.
We have a huge bulletin board in our kitchen littered with the usual family stuff — a calendar, school schedules, business cards, receipts, reminders. I moved all of those papers to the middle to allow for an empty border all around the edge for our family to put up pictures of the things we would like to create in our life. Jacob is the only one in our family who really took this idea seriously. Even yours truly got distracted after pinning up one meazly magazine photo.
Jacob, however, has put up and taken down numerous pictures. Taken down because, once something has materialized, there’s no need to have a picture of it on the bulletin board anymore, is there? So far that boy, through the power of his passionate mind, has manifested a bigger bicycle, a snowboard, a motorbike and a football team.
Yes, a football team.
I had never heard of a football team for eleven year olds. Not in a town our size. There’s a soccer league. And baseball. And hockey. But not football. And certainly not the kind of football where they wear enormous shoulder pads and actually tackle each other. I told Jacob he would just have to wait until he was in High School to play “real” football, but once again I had underestimated the power of my son’s single-pointed focus.
Come to think of it, he didn’t even use the bulletin board for his football passion. He just ate, drank, slept (and slept with his) football. And . . . wouldn’t you know it . . . last spring we were told about a football team for ten to twelve year olds in the next town, only twenty minutes up the road. All summer I struggled with whether or not to tell him about it. After all, he’s my baby! I hated the thought of all those potential hits to the head. The cracked ribs. The broken bones. But when we got word a few weeks ago that the practices had started up, I lay down my protective Mommy-cloak and let passion prevail.
Sooooo . . . at eleven years of age, my son has gone from sitting on the sidelines, admiring Fantuz and Dressler, to replicating their moves on the football field. Now he’s the one carrying the ball tucked under his arm, effortlessly dodging all attackers (on the practice field, anyway). He’s the one who made a great interception the other day (again, on the practice field). He hasn’t had much of a chance to touch the ball during a game yet. Although he’s the one one who kicked the field goals for several two point conversions in his first football game.
He’s not the one that’s tackling everything that moves (and his mother is secretly relieved — there are some HUGE twelve year olds out there!) But tackling hasn’t been high on the list of movies playing in his head while he and Liam tear up the back yard. Give him time, and a touch of teenage testosterone, and the tackling (and gravity-defying interceptions and legendary touchdowns) will happen, too.