Friday, September 10, 2010

the aints

i think i was more excited about getting the used and dented helmet than actually what i was going to use it for. i lined up in a single file line, filled with anticipation, that wrapped around the small shed-like brick building. all boys were right around my age, no older than 12. i was asked my last name, crossed off the list, and then handed a green mesh shirt which i proudly wore around the house for the rest of the day, and most of the next. the helmets were white with a police sticker on the side of it, it looked like a badge but to me the whole outfit was a trophy itself.

pee wee football, in my mind, was close to the NFL and spending many sundays sitting next to my dad watching him cheer for the cowboys, i felt it was my turn on the 'gridiron'. there was one small problem though, literally. i was actually develop more like a cheerleader, and not so much a cowboy. i was stick like and more than once my mother worried i had some virus or parasite living in me, keeping my weight to an all time minimum.

that didn't matter to me, i was more focused on the upcoming mouthguard that i needed to purchase than on my weight, the other players, or the game itself. you see, sometimes we as humans work up our expectations so much that when the event finally arrives it (or they) could never come close to what we have seen on television or the dramatic love-inspired-final-second-90-yard-drive ending of the movie scene. i was set out to earn the uniform and the pride that ensued on opening day of pee wee football pre-season.

i sat on the sideline most of the first half but right before the whistle my number was finally called. for those who do not know football i will try my best to explain in terms even i had yet to learn while entering that grassy field at sertoma park in winter haven, florida that day. i was supposed to be on the defensive line, a position put aside for the biggest, car axel bench pressing, boys that look more like grown men with facial hair type of position. i was no such thing. not even close.

it took me a second to figure that out but it dawned on me as i looked around beside me to the left and right in a three point stance (something i had learned not by being taught but by looking around). then was the moment of truth, "down, set...."

at the word 'hike' the quarter back snapped the ball and dropped back, at that second the double-sized of me offensive player lining up across the line jumped at me with his hands raised high to block me, i lunged at him but at the last possible second i spun to the right side and with my powerful left arm i shoved him to the ground using his momentum to plant his face like a michigan farmers seed right into the ground. at the look of tenacity on my face and the fact that i was screaming a warpath chant carried down for generations from my indian heritage the quarterback scrambled away from me as fast as he could flee trying to make it around the pile of bearded boys into the open space to run down the field. but he had no such luck, because as the quarterback was running around the side another of my mustached friend was waiting for him, so he turned around, but as he did i was already in full stride, and like a F-16 fighter jet taking off i, i took off flying parallel at a high speed heading on a crash collision course for the quarterbacks hips. i landed with my shoulder pads so squarely into his body that i felt his undeveloped bones rattle around in that one-size-to-big local eatery uniform of his and he let go of the ball to protect what was left of his face as he abruptly slammed into the ground.

the ball bounced around here, then there, then here again and i dove on the ball, and because we were so close to the end zone i stood up to find that i was in fact there, in the end zone, and had just scored a touchdown. the crowd went wild, my mother wept, and my father looked around and yelled "thats my boy" to whomever would look in the direction of his more than audible tenor yell.

as the ambulance was called and what was left of the other player (don't worry he was fine) was hauled off the field i was hoisted on the other man-childs arms and carried around the field in a impromptu parade held in the honor of that victorious moment. ok thats what should of happened. or something like it. but it didn't.

what really happened was this... i lined up on the defensive line and on the word 'hike' instead of running straight ahead toward the quarterback and ball i thought it would be better to run around the pile of man-children. so at 'hike' i stepped back, ran to my left, around the pile and seeing other people on the ground i decided to jump on them to make sure that the ball handler was really down. the thing is the play was already over, the whistle had already been blown, and the players were getting up to begin the next play, and it wasn't until that point that i tackled them. the referee called a penalty, and my coach was was yelling at me so loud the people in the next field wondered what the commotion was all about. as i approached the bench the coach couldn't help but reiterate everything i had heard him scream while on the ground moments ago.

'what is wrong with you? have you ever even played football before?'

'well coach, no. i've never played football before, but i've watched it on tv!'

in life we have so many expectations. we think we know what a family trip, friendship, committed relationship, or career is going to be like because we have built up this huge story line with an amazing ending in our heads. we may have seen it on TV, or in a movie, or read it in a book, or just our wild daydreams, but reality is much different then our imagination shows it to be. even 'reality television' is scripted.

we need to become a blank canvas, or a film not yet shot, to truly enjoy what we have later in life. we should not attempt to paint a picture of the eiffel tower before we have been there, it only leads to disappointment and heartache. what we have and hold dear in our head is just that, its in our head. when we project and fantasize how we want our boyfriend/girlfriend, husband/wife to be or act before we even meet them we have already ensnared them into a jail or box that they may never want to be caged in. allow them to be who they are, and fall in love with them for them. the more expectations that you thrust on them to be who you want the more disappointment you will live with day in and day out.

my football career and that season of pee wee football was all but over even before it began, it was a tough pill to swallow, but i later found a career that didn't need or want me to be 6'7 and 285 pounds. if i had painted my canvas that day with the expectation to play professional football i would be greatly disappointed. but instead i let life be, and take me where it wanted and i am much happier for it today.

let life be, and one day you will look back on a fulfilled life, try to take control and set lofty guidelines and you are only setting yourself up for what if's and could-have-beens.