Wednesday, March 27, 2013
SLICE #27- THE QUARTERBACK'S MOM
And then I am the quarterback's mom.
It happened, actually, kind of unexpectedly.
Zay, who was on the 9 and 10 year old team, had practice that day. K, who was on the 7 and 8 year old team, did not have practice. K and I were at the park, then, watching his brother. Actually, I was watching and K was throwing a football on the grass with another player from his team. For whatever reason, K's coach stopped by the field to bring me something, probably information from the latest of the never-ending football fundraisers. The coach and I were talking, when all of a sudden, he stopped mid-sentence.
"Did you see that?" he said.
I am not sure what he is talking about.
"Does he always throw like that?"
I still don't have any idea what he is talking about. My gaze follows his finger and I realize he is referring to my son.
I shrug. "I guess. He and Zay throw the ball around the yard all the time."
Coach N cannot believe his eyes. He jogs down the field and asks my son to throw the ball a few more times.
And with that, a quarterback is born.
And so is a quarterback's mom. Which is at least as complicated as the quarterback. (For those of you who don't know much about football, the quarterback is kind of like the lead player for the team. Generally, especially with kids, the coach calls the plays from the sidelines, but it's up to the quarterback to communicate them to the rest of the players and then to lead the team as they execute them).
I soon discover that there is a lot to being the quarterback's mom. Perhaps one of the most important jobs, especially when the quarterback is young, is keeping track of all of his gear. The quarterback, for instance, has a special armband. It's about six inches wide, and has a plastic pocket on it. Every week, the coach creates plays appropriate for the team they are playing against. And then the team practices those plays all week. On Friday, the coach emails the plays to the quarterback's mom. Usually about midnight, so they will be ready in plenty of time for the 6:45 am warmups. And it is the mom's job to print them, and then cut them out so they fit perfectly into the little pocket on the wristband, so they will be ready for the next day's game.
The quarterback has other special equipment. There is the sacred towel. This is not a regular old, buy at W-Mart or JCPenny on the white sale table for $1.99 towel; instead there is specific brand of towel. It's kind of shaped like a triangle. And it has velcro on the pointy end. And costs quite a bit more than a regular towel, usually about $8.99. The quarterback uses it to keep his hands dry so that he can handle the ball accurately. On sunny warm days, the quarterback only needs one towel. Although it is always good to have a backup, because one never knows when said towel may get yanked off, and thrown in the one mud puddle on the field. And then the towel will have to be replaced (or retrieved by the aforenamed quarterback's mom, who does not have millions of dollars to keep buying new towels, and is consequently the one seen wading into said mud puddle to retrieve the towels).
On cold days or wet days, though, that's another story. On those days, the quarterback needs at least four towels. One for every quarter. Or sometimes more. And he also needs a handmuff, a tube-shaped pocket that straps around his waist. Inside of that are little hand warmers, tiny plastic packets with chemicals that magically release warmth when they are rubbed. The quarterback's mother must have an endless supply of these packets during football season, because the quarterback dispenses them freely to other members of the team who also need warm hands, so they can catch his passes. (And in case you are wondering, running backs also use those inside their special $52 pair running back gloves). All of this gear must be readied and packed in the quarterback's bag the night before each game. The bag must then be placed by the front door. Heaven help the quarterback's mom who forgets the all-important gear bag (don't ask me how I know that!).
In addition to being in charge of the quarterback's gear, the quarterback's mom is also in charge of the quarterback's diet. This is a highly specialized and ongoing project. She has to make sure his favorite breakfast foods are in the house for the morning of the game, or when he gets to high school, that he has enough money for a healthy carbohydrate-loaded lunch, and also to make a Chipotle run after school, since he will not eat again until roughly 11 p.m. that night. When he gets to high school, she also has to throw in a little extra, so that any lineman who do not have his own money will be able to eat too. She doesn't want weak, starving linemen protecting her son.
When the quarterback is young, before he gets to high school, it is the quarterback's mother's job has to make sure that the all important game day rituals are followed. No one (except the quarterback and his brother) is allowed to complain, nag, or be otherwise unpleasant on game days. The quarterback can carry his game bag, and possibly his helmet, but should never be asked to carry anything else, e.g. the team water cooler, because he might expend energy that he will need later. The music station has to be set to the quarterback's favorite hip hop station. If it's an away game, the qb's mother must mapquest the route ahead of time. She should not expect the quarterback or his running back brother to help her figure out where the field is. They are in their game heads, not to be disturbed. And once enroute, absolutely no one is allowed to talk until the car arrives at the field.
Please be aware, too, that while no one is allowed to talk, the quarterback's mom is in charge of the quarterback's attitude. She has to make sure he is "up" for game day. This process begins early in the week, as she sits on the sidelines at practice, noting good plays, so she can point those out to him periodically throughout the week. She is also allowed to give thumbs ups or encouraging smiles throughout the week. She is not allowed, at any time, to shout things like "Good job, sweetie!" or "Great throw, honey!"even if it's true.
The quarterback's mom needs to make sure the quarterback doesn't get discouraged when things are not going well. Sometimes this means patting him on the back and assuring him that he is doing fine. Other times it means hissing, in a voice not to be heard by other parents, "You get your act together, do you hear me? You are eleven years old. Put on your big boy pants and act like a quarterback." Sometimes, unfortunately, taking care of the quarterback also means protecting him from crazy parents, intervening when over zealous, game crazed adults, who should have remembered they were talking to a child, yelled at him, or blamed him for the team's errors.
Because her son is the quarterback, and allegedly the leader of the team, the quarterback's mom becomes the leader of the parents. The coach depends on her a lot. She gets to organize everything from rides to the games, to filling the water jugs, to buying and cutting oranges and hauling them around in tupperware bins for halftime, to keeping track of the number of plays each player has had. She gets to plan the team picnics and team banquets. She gets to start all of the phone chains, and turn in the roster to the umpires each week. In high school, she gets to stand up and talk at parent night. And wash the stinky uniforms every week too.
There is a lot to being the quarterback. But I think, perhaps, there is even more to being the quarterback's mom.