A Summer Football Workout Turns to Thoughts of Life's Fragility

Teen's unexpected death puts all arguments into perspective.

The Boy (my 14-year-old, if you are new to the column) will be playing freshman football this year. So he’s been weight training and running through some drills with his buddies during the week.

The cool part as a dad is hearing about his progression in the weight room. He hates when I ask him to flex his bicep or I poke at his pectorals. But the best thing of all is that he’s really feeling good about himself and looks forward to the workouts.

I dropped him off at the high school one day recently and decided to check out a baseball game that was almost ready to begin.

I knew a few of the parents and we talked about how time had flown right by us – how it was flying way too fast for our liking.

The umpires were getting ready to take their places on the field. Coaches were checking over lineup cards. The players were chatting and flipping balls back and forth.

It was one of those hot and sunny July evenings so the first thing I noticed when the left-field sprinkler turned on was the dancing rainbow among the shooting droplets of water.

It was amusing until another, and then another sprinkler launched into action. Coaches scrambled to find the magic box that would shut it all down. They found it. They couldn’t shut it down. Someone called the sprinkler guy. He was on his way to stop the flow. Sprinklers don’t need to wait in traffic or stop at red lights, though. They just keep spreading water.

The guy seated behind the backstop sat patiently with his daughter. I was behind him. I searched my brain for a one-liner, “Well, it’ll make the game a little less boring.” That’s what I came up with.

He didn’t even look back to see who would say such a thing, “Boring! Baseball is NOT boring. There is so much strategy involved. It’s anything but boring.”

“Well, I heard a stat today that in a 9-inning game, there are only about seven minutes of action.” I love baseball – mind you. It’s never boring to me.

I’m not sure what he said next because I then began to wonder how many minutes of action there might be in a 60-minute football game. Not a heck of a lot, I’d bet.

I heard him say “strategy” again and I agreed with him as we watched the infield sprinklers rise next and release streams of water. More rainbows.

So I stood there in my own little world for a bit longer. I was thinking about basketball and hockey (for that matter, soccer and lacrosse, too) and how every second ticked off the clock was another second of some sort of action.

It would seem that the two professional sports with the least amount of actual playing time are America’s two favorite. That probably explains my habit of having an iPad and iPhone on my lap while watching. I need something to do in between plays and pitches.

I came out of my daze in time to see puddles forming all over the field. There wouldn’t be a game today. But I don’t think anyone was completely bent out of shape over it. The guy in front of me said “strategy” again before he left. He was right, of course.

The football players continued with non-football drills. I tucked myself into a far corner of the campus watching The Boy – wondering about the “flying of time” thing. Wondering how he was blessed with such thick legs and then looking down at my calves. Not so thick.

He was now tossing a huge tractor tire around the field like it was a Hula-Hoop. They all were. They danced around obstacles and ran up and down hills. If they were suffering they sure weren’t acting like it.

I’m sure they heard the whispers of the baseball field inviting them over to its rainbow-streaked water park. It had to be tempting for at least a second or two.

Summer’s meant to be soft. And for a couple hours on that evening it sure felt like it. Unfortunately, it can turn tragically hardcore before the ending keystroke of a youth sporting column.

And such is the case as I’m learning of the my hometown, who died from his injuries after being struck by a car after getting off a CT Transit bus and crossing the road.

Suddenly everything that we debate in this column no longer seems as significant. The rainbow’s sprinkler-dance no longer dazzles. And the water park on the infield looks dark and murky.

It’s not supposed to be this way. Teenagers should wake up on summer mornings and go back to sleep on summer nights. They should be playing guitars, throwing baseballs, skateboarding, and playing Xbox.

For those of us still here — it’s OK to be a little bored. It’s OK to have differences and be passionate about them. It’s OK to giggle when third base is under water. And it’s definitely OK to cry over the loss of a precious young life.

Rainbows dazzle our senses for a brief moment before slipping behind the sky. The presence of a child dazzles our souls, and although they must sometimes leave us, the glow of their existence will never fade.

chargers tickets July 14, 2012 at 04:54 AM
Absolutely love your article, very enlightening and worthwhile. It honestly assisted me a lot primarily on my tactics, moves and strategies. I have a passion to play football since I was a child, my aim is to be a professional football player one day. Thank you so much! :)
Ron Goralski July 14, 2012 at 06:35 PM
Not the occasion to be sarcastic.
Dianne Liudzius July 14, 2012 at 10:33 PM
What a WONDERFUL article Ron! As the parent of a child who was lucky enough to attend school with the sophomore who lost his life I feel honored to live in a town where even though we may have our different likes and dislikes we can all come together at the end of the day and be there for one another. I'd like to think that those rainbows you saw that night were the heaven's opening up for a wonderful 14 year old who was called home way too soon! Please give those " biceps and pectorals an extra poke" tonight!
Sree September 22, 2012 at 06:27 AM
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