Just before I started my senior year of high school, a week into preseason two-a-days, I came to a decision; I was going to quit playing football.
My high school girlfriend broke up with me two days before the start of the season, my head wasn’t in the game and I was playing myself out of a starting role with my distracted route running and lackadaisical approach to contact drills.
Add to that, our team was set to leave for Camp Taconic for one week of what I was sure would be the most grueling and arduous football drilling of my life.
To be fair, I had just read “The Junction Boys,” an account of Bear Bryant’s infamous preseason summer camp when he took over the Texas A&M football team and ran off most of the returning players in the process. I was certain we were in store for the same sort of brutal “character building” that is generally classified as “child endangerment” in this day and age.
The morning we were supposed to leave for Camp Taconic, I moped around the house until I decided to tell my mom the news; I was done with football.
Moms are our greatest cheerleaders. She would understand my plight, right?
Her response to me had all the subtlety of a sledgehammer and contained a few words that might not be printable here.
“Quit being a baby,” she told me, in not so many words. “Get on the bus.”
To this day, getting on that bus was the best move I’ve ever made.
Camp Taconic might not have been Junction, Texas; we might not have been playing through broken bones and heatstroke as Bear Bryant’s players had but, of all the life lessons sports are supposed to teach us, isn’t showing up when the chips are down and soldiering on despite adversity the biggest?
That’s something I didn’t learn from a coach with a whistle, I learned it from a 50-year-old woman who wasn’t about to sit there and let her son throw away something he’d worked toward for eight years because he was having a bad day.
Mothers have been a big subject in the sports world over the past few days. From MLB’s annual Mother’s Day pink bats to Kevin Durant’s tearful MVP speech in which he thanked his mother for her support over the years, to N.Y. Ranger forward Martin St. Louis—just two days after his mother’s sudden death—scoring a goal on Mother’s Day at Madison Square Garden to help his team force a Game 7 with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
There’s a reason sports figures often get choked up when talking about their mothers. It’s not just because they were the ones who brought the orange slices to the field on those hot summer days—although, mom, if you are reading this, I’m playing a double-header in Brooklyn on Saturday and some orange slices would be wonderful if you get the chance—it’s because they have a tendency to be an athlete’s fiercest fan, sharpest critic and an unending reservoir of
I hope you had a happy Mother’s Day, mom.
Thanks again for getting me on that bus.
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