More Than a Game

Throughout his family’s battle against cancer, faith over fear has been their mantra. Football has been the medicine.

More Than a Game

By Sheryl McAlister

The Carolina Panthers played their last home game of the season Sunday. And as usual, some little boy ended up in tears in our section of the stadium.

It’s an area of the stadium where Panthers’ quarterback Cam Newton routinely handed out touchdown balls. During his tenure with the Panthers – which is currently in question – he freely passed out footballs after the Panthers scored. The kids would push and shove for a coveted spot. Most of them wearing a Panthers’ jersey. Hands outstretched. Waiting. Hoping. Dreaming of an official NFL ball.

There weren’t any footballs on this day, because there weren’t many touchdowns. Newton was nowhere in sight. But a little boy was leaning over the rail near our seats trying his best to receive a gift from Sir Purr – the Panthers’ mascot. Some other kid got the prize. This kid left in tears. His Mom did her best to console him.

The scene took me back a few years. My nephew, who had followed Newton at Auburn University, had developed what he thought was a fool-proof strategy to get a ball. On this particular Sunday, he did just that. Until at the last minute, some smaller kid took a dive over the whole group and snatched it from his hands.

The jumbotron showed the two boys trying to wrestle the ball from each other before the cameras quickly moved away from the scene. The other kid’s parent didn’t intervene so neither did I. My nephew finally gave in since the kid was smaller than he was.

As expected, he walked back to his seat in tears. Dejected. He was about 8, I think.

I hugged him and let him release all the frustrations and grief he felt. “But Cam gave it to me,” he said. “He handed it to me …. And that kid took it out of my hands.”

As ridiculous as all this may sound to most people, this was a big deal to him. So I didn’t laugh or tell him it didn’t matter. That other people were watching didn’t bother me in the least. It took my nephew just a few minutes to collect himself and say that we needed to leave. (We didn’t.) And that he couldn’t possibly stay any longer because this was the worst day of his life.

I remember saying to him then: “We aren’t going to leave. We’re going to stay and watch the rest of the game.” I empathized that while it was okay to feel extremely disappointed, I promised this was not to be the worst day of his life – even if he felt that way at the time.

You see, football is its own religion in these parts. And football continues to play a big role in my nephew’s life. But in the many years since then, his football experience has taught him much about life. Including perspective.

For his past two football seasons, his Dad has been battling an aggressive form of cancer. And this past season, my nephew’s high school team honored his Dad as an honorary captain before the start of a playoff game. My nephew had the opportunity to escort his Dad, who was in a wheelchair, to mid-field before the start of the game.

As high school kids are wont to do, he posted on Instagram a few days later. Not about his fine performance that evening. He posted a photo of the moment when, with his family behind him, he shared the captain honors with his Dad. The caption read something like: It’s more than a game.

Perspective … is a powerful thing.

Throughout his family’s battle, faith over fear has been their mantra. Football has been the medicine. And a young boy is growing too quickly into a young man, with all the burdens and blessings that kind of battle brings with it.

So to the kid who was crying about not getting the prize or a coveted football, you’ll be okay. Unfortunately, though, this won’t be the worst day of your life.

Not by a long shot.

#####

Copyright © 2019 Sheryl McAlister

Related stories: The Cancer Cars. Friday Night Lights.

Photo courtesy of A.C. Flora High School.

View All

13 Comments

  1. Oh my word, Sheryl – another home run of an article! Or should that be a Touchdown? And you are so right – not by a longshot will that be the worst day of someone’s life…..

    Reply

    1. Kathy Williams Fant January 2, 2020 at 4:58 pm

      What a touching piece of writing Sheryl!! We continue to pray for Jonathon and his family!

      Reply

  2. Wonderful article…

    On Mon, Dec 30, 2019, 2:04 PM OldBroad & NewTrix wrote:

    > Sheryl McAlister posted: “More Than a Game By Sheryl McAlister The > Carolina Panthers played their last home game of the season Sunday. And > typically, some little boy winds up in tears in our section of the stadium. > It’s an area of the stadium where Panthers’ quarterback Cam Newto” >

    Reply

  3. Well said!

    Reply

  4. Such a beautifully written article whose truth is powerful and heartbreaking.
    Vickie

    Reply

  5. Inspirational! Praying for this family every day.

    Love, Polly☺💙

    On Mon, Dec 30, 2019 at 2:04 PM OldBroad & NewTrix wrote:

    > Sheryl McAlister posted: “More Than a Game By Sheryl McAlister The > Carolina Panthers played their last home game of the season Sunday. And > typically, some little boy winds up in tears in our section of the stadium. > It’s an area of the stadium where Panthers’ quarterback Cam Newto” >

    Reply

  6. Another home run my dear cousin. You need to write a book.
    Love you,
    Sharon McAlister Neal

    Reply

  7. Love this article, Sherri.

    Reply

  8. Love this.❤

    Reply

  9. Sheryl.
    This is so true and beautiful..your words are so honest and brings tears to my eyes…sometimes it takes awhile to figure out what really is important in life. I think you captured it beautifully..

    Well done..

    Reply

  10. You say it so well Shay Shay!! Love him and y’all so much❤️

    Reply

  11. Margie Tillotson January 3, 2020 at 1:10 pm

    Very profound…..

    On Mon, Dec 30, 2019 at 2:04 PM OldBroad & NewTrix wrote:

    > Sheryl McAlister posted: “More Than a Game By Sheryl McAlister The > Carolina Panthers played their last home game of the season Sunday. And > typically, some little boy winds up in tears in our section of the stadium. > It’s an area of the stadium where Panthers’ quarterback Cam Newto” >

    Reply

  12. What beautiful, heart-felt words- what a gift you have. You all continue to be in my prayers.

    Reply

Leave a Reply to Barbara little Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s