Tuesday, September 3, 2013

9/3/13 The upcoming first Non-QBMom Game, a few thoughts from the sidelines

In a few days, I'll be heading for Texas to sit in the stands and watch my son play football.

It's been three years since I've done this. Until recently, I'd have said it could have been ten years and still enough time wouldn't have passed for me to want to return.

But a few weeks ago, some rather seismic shifts occurred. 

You see, for the first time, ever, I will be sitting in the stands watching my son play football and not watching him at quarterback. 

For Nick, this has been a really tricky change. It's all tied up in his identity and goals and dreams for himself. He's sorting those out in his time, which is to say, very quickly and with far more grace than anyone else who has faced what he has endured. 

For his mom, though, it's been a complete and total relief. 

How can I explain to you the weight that comes with being a quarterback's mom?

As Bob is fond of repeating, "Every time the QB throws the ball, only three things can happen. And two of them are bad." 

You will, from the time he takes his first snap, be on the sidelines as the opposing team's parents will be hooting and clapping every time your son isn't on the money with a throw, or  if there's a problem with the hand-off, or if he gets laid out in a brutal hit or, worse, a sack.

And you will, from the time he takes his first snap, be on the sidelines with other moms and dads who shout at and about your son, when their sons are on the same team as him, criticizing everything, granted, but especially the quarterback.

Every single thing is publicly scrutinized when you're the quarterback: your ability to read the defense, to break a tackle, avoid the sack, make the fake, make the throw, complete the sneak, make the run, get the yardage when the play goes south.

For all the glory that comes with being in the spotlight position, provided in that exact moment you happen to be winning, the pressure on a QB is always brutal, and 95% mental, all the time, every moment he's on the field and most of the time he's on the sidelines. Having catcalls and being shouted at constantly, by both your coaches and the spectators, is daunting for anyone, much less a kid. 

But Nick stood in there and took it, year after year. 

I sat in the stands, year after year, feeling those shouts and digs and catcalls wearing away at my soul.

I am not a typical football mom. I don't fit in with football moms. I've tried. And failed. And met some very nice ladies along the way, certainly. But never anyone with the same temperament as me, so I've always felt like a liability in this football culture in a lot of ways, the bookish mom who would ordinarily never watch a football game if her son weren't playing. I'm not a person who "cheers" or shouts or chants or hollers, neither encouragement nor disparagement. Shouting irritates me. 

There's been backlash at SU over the restarting of the football program, mostly by those liberal arts types who find the game violent and gladiatorial. Guess what. I'm one of those liberal arts types. 

But I'm also a mom who loves her kid and knows how much he wants to play this game, the one he loves so much it's all he ever wants to do. And how awesome is that -- to know what you love and pursue it from the time you are 9? 

So when the news came down that Nick had a choice: stay at QB but possibly not be in the starting rotation, or move to defense and learn an entirely new spot, I knew how hard that choice was on him. I'm also incredibly proud that he moved without complaint, and in three weeks has picked up a position well enough to be in the starting rotation on game day this Saturday. 

And yes, to reiterate: I'm so.freakin.relieved. 

It'll have to be someone else's son who gets booed and shouted at in the spotlight over and over. And yeah, it'll be someone else's son who gets interviewed about a spectacular win, or a spectacular loss. My kid will get on the field and stop the score, every chance he gets, with little attention except maybe for a great play. (I'm pretty sure I've never heard anyone shouting "The Defensive End sucks!" ) I still won't understand all the formations, despite Nick's best effort to educate me, but I'll know wherever number 7 stands is the place I want to watch. 

And, maybe, just maybe, if number 7 sacks the quarterback, I won't be able to stop myself from standing up and cheering, in spite of myself. 


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