Yesterday was Ivan’s first day of freshman football practice. When I picked him up afterwards, my six-foot-five-inch, two-hundred-sixty-five-pound fourteen-year old, my sweet boy, all dirty and sweaty, grumbled to me that he did not want to play football anymore and he didn’t want to talk about it. He was mad. “Ok, well, that’s fine if you don’t want to play, but what happened to make you want to quit?” He basically said that he hates being yelled at by people who don’t know what they’re talking about, and he hates having to do extra drills just because one or two dumbasses didn’t put their helmets down properly, and he said that every week he has cried at practice. Hmmmm. Today was his first official practice with the team, but he spent the last two weeks of summer attending football camp and I assumed he liked it. It was his idea.
He’s never been much of an athlete, but because of his huge size, all his life people have told him that he’d make a good football player. No matter that the kid wouldn’t hurt a flea and would rather sit and play a video game than do most any other thing. His dad is no athlete either, he’s the anti-athlete; a fat, balding, pot-smoking hermit. But he loves Ivan and Ivan loves him. They are like two peas in a pod. John is no Ward Cleaver, but he is a there for Ivan, twenty-four-seven, and that is a beautiful thing.
Ivan wanted to go to football camp and wanted to play high school football. Until yesterday. So, at first, when he told me he was quitting, I was disappointed, but glad, too, that he wasn’t gonna play. Ok, now he definately won’t get hurt playing football. So I spent the evening rearranging my thinking about it, mentally rearranging our schedule now that he wouldn’t be going to practice every day after school, wondering how I was gonna break it to my facebook friends, and thinking about other ways he could be active and get more exercise. He did say he wanted to do that. He wants to lift weights and he wants to try wrestling. His other complaint was that football left no time for anything else, and that is certainly true, with daily practice after school from four to six and games nearly every Saturday.
I told Ivan I thought he should stick with it for a while, and that that’s just how most football coaches are, that they’re trying to instill teamwork and toughness and sportsmanship and trying to get the team in shape and that, yeah, it’s gonna hurt and be hard, especially in the first couple weeks. Ivan sensed my dark mood. The mood wasn’t the result of his telling me he wanted to quit football. I’d been feeling down and on the verge of tears all day because it was that time of the month and because I’d had a hard day at school, which began with my having almost been hit by a car while pedaling my bicycle to school. He tried to cheer me up by telling me he had written four whole pages, by hand (not typed) single spaced, in English class, which is quite an accomplishment for a dyslexic-learning-disabled kid who’s biggest challenge in school is writing. I was really glad to hear him speak proudly of this accomplishment.
I was over the football thing and had had a satisfying night of sleep when I picked up Ivan this morning to take him to school. “I’ve decided I’m going to go to football practice today” he announced. “Wow, what made you change your mind? “My dad”. “How did he do that?”, I asked. He just said “you’re playing football”, and then Ivan said something to the effect of “my dad can be very convincing”. Go figure.