Linda Palmer Reminds Us That It’s Fall Y’all
My husband Jimmy and I became boyfriend and girlfriend when we were in the ninth grade. We dated for seven years before we became man and wife. We’ve now been married forty-nine years. From the beginning, he participated in school athletics--football, basketball, and track. Baseball was a constant, as well. I dated him through his “Pony League” (young teen) and his American Legion (older teen) years. I was married to him when he played college and then independent baseball, as well as when he was hired as a teacher who coached football on the side pro bono. One of those 24/7 for-the-experience great-on-the-resume jobs that blossomed into a twenty-eight year career as Head Junior High football coach.
My backside has been intimate with bleachers all over Arkansas. I went to home games. I went to away games. I saw wins and losses. I laughed a lot and maybe cried a little, too. I held newborn Julie. Later I held newborn JJ and corralled five-year-old Julie, who wanted to join the cheerleaders. I’ve been known to glare at strangers who complained about the coaching. I swallowed my heart when my husband, who is not a little man, tripped running onto the field and almost splattered the downed player he was trying to check on.
My son JJ played baseball and football and ran track. My daughter Julie played basketball and softball and ran track, as well. I watched everything and remember a night when I sat on a lawn chair placed strategically between two fields because both had games at seven. I went where the teams went and one whole season filmed my son’s football games so his dad, who had a game of his own, wouldn’t miss a play.
Now Jimmy and I have grandchildren. One girl. Four boys. And what do all of them love? Sports! Lauryn cheered and played softball. Clayton, Jack, Sam, and Jude play football, basketball, and baseball. We’re up to our necks again in mitts, shoulder pads, bats, and helmets. And if I can’t actually attend a game these days, I can watch it live on YouTube. Don’t you just love the internet? I know I do.
Do I like sports? Only when someone I love is on the field, court, or diamond. And it’s only in writing this that I realize some truths I’ve learned, not about the sports themselves, but about the side effects of being around them.
First truth: Team spirit is the best spirit there is. Winning, losing, it doesn’t matter (well, in the long run). What’s important is that a group of students and their parents shared highs and lows, making memories that will last forever.
Second truth: Freezing cold, howling wind, blazing heat, and pouring rain will never really affect the spirits of any fan or player. Not that I haven’t sat with chattering teeth in a wind frigid enough to frostbite noses and toes-es. And not that I haven’t sat in heat so blistering I had to seek shade under the bleachers. I still cheered for my player.
Third truth: Every game, meet, match, or tournament is indelibly inked on the hearts and minds of every true aficionado who is there. Just put a couple of former players together and listen to them reminisce not only about a certain game, but about a certain instant during that game. I can say with authority that athletes don’t forget the details. I can also assure you that coaches don’t either.
Do I love sports? Who cares? It’s fall y’all, and at my house, that means football.