Friday Night Lights
By Sheryl McAlister
I watched a little boy’s long ago dream become reality Friday night. It was a beautiful thing.
I wrote several years back — in a post titled A Dream & A Promise — about a conversation I had with my oldest nephew. He implored me to support his dream of playing football. The earnest request came because I had spent the majority of the previous years lobbying against it, citing the compelling statistics about the devastating effects of head injuries in the sport.
Nevertheless, he asked me to support him on his journey to play, regardless of my personal opinions to the contrary. I made him that promise.
I anticipated the opening of this year’s football season with a giddiness I hadn’t experienced since covering the sport as a writer or editor for seven years. And that was nearly 30 years ago.
High school football and the phrase symbolic with its seasonal traditions were immortalized in the book, the movie and the television series. The TV series’ Coach Eric Taylor and his wife, Tami, played by Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton, depicted the lifestyle of a high school coach and his family in a way that resonated with viewers. The obsession with the sport took care of itself.
So there we were in the stands Friday night – parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles – watching this kid make his varsity football debut. He started. Played both sides of the ball and did a good job. Played most of the game. Made a few mistakes. Has a lot to learn. Was yelled at by a coach. Received a helmet slap by a few others. Celebrated teammates who did something extraordinary. Was first in line to congratulate the other team on a game well played.
He worked hard to get here. Weight lifted. Played multiple sports over the summer and strengthened lots of different muscles. Tried to learn to eat right. Well, mostly. He’s a good boy, and is playing for some good men. He has a lot to learn about this game, but the grownups around him seem to recognize his potential. They are giving him the chance he has worked so long and hard to earn.
I am grateful for his coaches who understand that, although this is an exciting time in his young life, everything he does is under the dark cloud of cancer that is his Dad’s daily battle. While focus and discipline might be difficult at times to muster, my nephew has managed to do so with grace and courage.
I am proud of him and wish him a season filled with promise and dreams fulfilled.
Clear eyes. Full hearts.
Copyright 2019 Sheryl McAlister©
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