Saturday, January 7, 2006

Red Andrew

Andrew and I had just returned from Wooster, Ohio.

Wooooooooooooooooooooooster...we must have said it a zillion times. Just Andrew and myself...heading up I-71, twirling our licorice sticks at passing cars…on our way to the middle school state lacrosse tournament.

We had left the previous morning...and stayed with the rest of the team at a small motel on the outskirts of town. Andrew had struggled this year with lacrosse. As with all the other sports in this yuppie-riddled town, it's tough to compete because there's so many kids to go up against; all driven by fathers and by the ghosts of their fathers. It's a club sport in middle school...meaning we pay for the "right" to have our sons and daughters play. As such, no one gets cut, but it doesn't necessarily mean that everyone gets the chance to play. There were so many kids this year, in fact, that they had to make "A" and "B" teams. Unfortunately, not every school had a "B" squad and Andrew and his other companions rarely got the opportunity to get in the game. He was quite frustrated, but I told him to stay the course. I wanted him to understand the concept of being part of a team. He fought through his tears and never complained.

Some of the parents did...calling the coach at late hours to express their concerns that little Jimmy didn't get to play. There were occasions that I was tempted to call, but I could never quite get through the idea that anything I had to say was sufficient. It was a long season, but the Dublin Rocks prevailed and finished at the top of their league...heading to Wooster as the number one seed in the state. And, as it turned out, the Dublin "B" team turned out to be good enough to qualify on its own merits.

Andrew plays "attack" position...meaning he plays offense and is in a pretty good position to score. He's just never been given much of an opportunity. As such, this will probably be his last year in organized sports, only because high school will prove much too big and the cuts will take their toll.

So, it's the last game of the season and Andrew's team is up by 5 points. Andrew had already played his "obligatory" quarter...but coach puts him back in for the last quarter. And the coach says, "Andrew, this is YOUR quarter." And every time they brought the ball down...they called Andrew's play, “RED ANDREW!” meaning the other players were to get the ball to Andrew and he was to try and score.

They called RED ANDREW five straight times that afternoon. And each time he received the ball...diving and spinning to make wonderful catches. And each time he turned, he fought his way to the net...only to see his shot skim past the corner of the goal.

The game ended with his last shot being desperately blocked by their goalkeeper. I could feel the disappointment, but when Andrew took off his helmet, I saw the biggest smile I'd ever seen. His coach ran up and gave him a big hug...and said, "Great game, Andrew!"

Dad squinted in the late afternoon sun.

Later, when the team was enjoying their post-game Gatorade...Dad walked up to the coach. "Coach, thank you...he'll never forget that." The coach turned...squinted his eyes at the same sun...and said, "Yea...I know."

Andrew and I walked off the field...and headed for home.

Woooooooooooooooooooooster…we must have said it a zillion times on our way out of town.