When they were 10 years old, my twins begged me to sign them up for flag football. At the time, I didn’t know much about the game. Dad and I watched boxing and wrestling when I was growing up. We watched matches on TV and sometimes went to see big names at the Olympic Auditorium in downtown Los Angeles. Mom was a baseball fan. The only time we ate TV dinners was when the Dodgers were playing and she was too busy to cook.
I attended an all-girls high school so there was no football there. At the University of San Francisco, men’s basketball was a powerhouse boasting legendary alums like Bill Russell and Bill Cartwright but there hadn’t been a football team there in 15 years when I arrived.
To sum it up, my football savvy was practically nil when my sons came home from school pleading to let them join a flag football league. I signed them up and took them to practices. During the first game their classmate Nathan Pietsch was knocked out cold and got a concussion. Those kids were hitting and tackling, not just reaching for the flag.
I immediately exercised my mother power and pulled them off the team, citing how dangerous the game was. Looking back I have to laugh because Matt and Collin painfully and shamefully sat out football until they got to middle school, but my youngest son got to play in first grade. By then I’d mellowed out some!
Football played a big part in my sons’ lives and thus it played a big part in mine. Daily doubles, after school practice, Friday night games – our schedules revolved around football. In high school Collin was quarterback and when he got sacked, I felt my own ribs ache. One game night he fell to his knees on the field and I was certain he was injured. The coach insisted he was fine. Collin played the entire game and the next day had surgery on his crushed thumb.
Matt was a safety and the kicker. In their senior year he kicked the winning field goal in the final seconds of the game against their cross-town rivals. I screamed, “That’s my boy!” until I was hoarse.
And my youngest son Dana scored a school-record seven touchdowns in one game when he was the running back for South Middle School – the same school Collin coaches football for now.
Dana didn’t play football in high school. Instead he played trumpet. As a member of the marching band, he played at every home game in high school. Then in 2000 he went to the University of Oregon and I got to see him play in Autzen Stadium. The U of O band accompanied the football team to the Holiday Bowl in San Diego that year and two years later they performed at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Ariz., where Joey Harrington threw for 350 yards and four touchdowns in the Fiesta Bowl. The Ducks won both of those bowl games and my son had the time of his life.
Monday night a group of fans gathered in editor Richard’s living room to watch the BCS Championship game. This very same mom who wouldn’t allow her kids to play flag football, hooped, hollered and hissed. I rooted for the Ducks in the same way I cheered for my own boys. When it was over, I wanted to hug Casey Matthews, the linebacker who had a hand in every Oregon defensive play. And I wanted to call Auburn player Nick Fairley’s mom and tell her he deserved a spanking for being such a bad sport. Instead I sent text messages to my sons thanking them for introducing me to football so many years ago. It’s something we’ll always share, win or lose.