Thursday, September 19, 2013

Day 130 - Attending a Nephew's Sporting Event


I have never attended a nephew’s sporting event. Honestly, I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I’ve never made the time to attend a sports event in which either of my nephews or my niece was participating. Now, I realize how ridiculous that is out of hand, but the realization I have never made time be there to support them in their athletic pursuits also makes me feel somewhat ashamed. After all, my niece and my nephews are growing up quickly, and they take great pride in their individual sports. The least I could do as their uncle is be there to cheer them on every once in a while.

With those thoughts in mind, I knew my efforts to learn and grow during my “I have never...” year provided a perfect opportunity to acknowledge the fact that attending one of their games or meets is long overdue and, most importantly, to do something about it. Considering my focus for this year is exploration for self-discovery, I decided I would act on attending a niece or nephew’s sporting event not only to gain a new experience, but to focus on being a better family member. In turn, I took a look over the sports schedules for each of my niece’s and nephews’ fall sports schedules and narrowed in on a few events that would work. My research resulted in my decision to attend my Nephew, Micah’s, football game this evening in Johnson Creek.

Although the day started with a bought of intense, rainy weather, I stayed optimistic about attending Micah’s football game as the day progressed. When the weather started clearing around midday, my optimism turned to anticipation of the forthcoming event this evening. After hearing about Micah’s terrific work on the field over the past few years, I knew attending his football game for the first time would be a memorable and exciting experience. As the remainder of my workday progressed thoughts about the game occupied my mind and created an enthusiasm that carried me through the rest of the workday. I was amped for Micah’s game, and I was looking forward to tackling (pun intended) another new experience.

As I prepared to wrap up my day at the office and hit the road, my excitement for the night’s event rapidly moved to concern. In the final hour of my workday I began to hear stirring around the office about incoming storms and pending terrible weather. The chatter caused me to take a quick look at the weather radar, which showed a massive red line of storms rapidly bearing down on south-central and southeast Wisconsin. Fearful Micah’s football game would be canceled in the face of such ominous storms, I contacted my sister, Sam, to confirm the game was still scheduled to occur. She promptly confirmed it was, but made a passing statement about a hope the weather would miss Johnson Creek. Although I knew it was unlikely, I echoed her sentiment before concluding our conversation and moving back to finalize my work for the day.

Eventually, I came to a point in my work that made it suitable to leave for the day. Although I was running a few minutes late already, I figured I could make up for lost time on the trip to Johnson Creek... and then I looked outside. A massive front of swirling black clouds was sweeping over the sky just outside my office building, and just behind the front obvious pockets of heavy rain could be seen pouring over the landscape. In response, I hurried to gather my things and head to my car before the storm began. In heavy winds and light rain, I bolted to my car, hopped in the driver’s seat, and began the journey toward Johnson Creek.

Immediately after leaving my office the clouds opened into a heavy, wind-driven rain. I drove steady through the storm until my route took me east ahead of the storm front. As I drove toward Johnson Creek I periodically glanced at the evolving storm in my rearview mirror, doing my best to gauge its track and speed as it tailed me over the terrain. In time, I gained some distance over the storm, which gave me some reassurance it might hold off long enough long enough to let Micah’s game go on as scheduled. Regardless, I knew if the storm had Johnson Creek in its sights it was likely going to affect the play of the game. As a result, I put the pedal down and pushed on to the Johnson Creek School football field.

Football!

I arrived at the football field just after kickoff. As I approached the field I saw the Johnson Creek Bluejays, in their bright blue uniforms, tearing down the field for a touchdown. Within seconds of me arriving at the field Micah and his team had taken an 8-0 lead over their competition, the Randolph Rockets. I quickly tracked down my sister in the stands and took a seat as the next series began. Sam greeted me as I sat down and provided guidance on Micah’s location on the field, pointing to the number 51 jersey playing the linebacker position in the defensive backfield. As soon as I found his position on the field I let out a round of applause and gave a short, sharp holler in his direction. I watched on as Micah and his team worked through the next few plays, during which Micah was in the game and aggressive in his defense. Eventually, his efforts paid off as a hole opened up in the defensive line and a Randolph running back made a break down the field. Fearless, Micah ran toward the running back, who stood nearly a foot taller than Micah, and drove into him with full force. With his shoulder in the running back’s ribs, Micah wrapped his arms around the player’s legs and laid him out on the ground. The play resulted in excited applause from the crowd and sent me to my feet cheering, even though I was among a small crowd of people gathered to watch the game.

Go Bluejays!
As I settled back into my spot on the bleachers, I talked with Sam about the weather as we watched the plays on the field. The looming gray clouds to the west of the field made it clear weather was coming, but we remained optimistic the storm would blow north of the field and let the game play to completion. As the game moved into the second quarter of play it was obvious our optimism was all for naught. With the second quarter progressing over a few series of play, members of the crowd began filtering out of the stands at the sight of the growing gray clouds over the western tree line. Holding firm, Sam and I stayed with a small pocket of attendees as the game continued through the increasing winds and sprinkles of rain. Out on the field, Micah began waving his arms in an up and down motion between plays as swirls of leaves rushed across the field around him and rain began increasing in intensity. His sole effort was to pump up the crowd in the changing weather conditions and to keep the remaining crowd in the game. Each time he would throw his hands into the air, Sam and I would lead the crowd with cheers and applause, which fed Micah’s spirit into each coming play. It was a sight to behold, and I was happy to be a part of it; even if it meant getting a little wet.

Micah in the backfield

Minutes later the rain grew to a downpour and distant flashes of lightning appeared in the clouds. As a result, the officials moved to suspend the game in hopes the weather would pass. In turn, those in the crowd immediately stood and began working our way toward the pavilion bordering the football field. We rested there a brief moment before we started making our course toward the school gymnasium, which had been opened to house the football teams and the crowd during the storm. Through the driving rain we scurried across water logged turf and onto a stretch of parking lot, where we found an overhang on the school’s roof. Soaked to the bone, Sam and I gathered underneath the cover of the nook with some friends and family as we waited to get confirmation the gymnasium was open for shelter. As we waited, Micah emerged from a nearby door in the building and walked toward us through the rain. Upon noticing me standing next to his mother, he shot me a bright smile that lit up the whole of his face. I said “hi” and gave him a quick pat on the back as he passed us following the rest of the team toward the gym. He nodded and gave an excited “hi” in return before racing off through the rain. It was clear he was more than happy to see me there. Sure, we were standing in the middle of a torrential downpour and Micah only got to play a quarter and a half of his game, but that moment and that smile made the entire trip worth it. I was there for my nephew, and it was clear that meant the world to him.

Huddling up before the game was called...

Ultimately, Sam and I found our way to the gymnasium where we gathered with our friends and family while we waited for an announcement on the game. After being granted a brief break from a team meeting, Micah found his way over to our location. I took the opportunity to talk to him briefly, letting him know I was happy I finally attended one of his games and recapping his awesome tackle at the start of the second quarter. He enthusiastically talked about his football season and gave me a little background on the Rockets until his coach moved to address the crowd. After announcing the game was officially cancelled due to inclement weather, Micah prepared to run back to the locker room to wrap up the game. Before leaving he ran back to me and asked quickly, “Can I come back here when I’m done?” I told him I would wait for him until he returned, which brought a smile to his face as he took off toward the gymnasium door.

RAIN.

While I waited, I made conversation with some of the remaining family members that stuck around well after the gym had all but emptied. Some minutes later Micah reemerged in the gymnasium without his gear. I talked with him and the rest of the crowd for a while until we received word there was a break in the rain. With everyone ready to return home and get dry, we drew our conversations to a close, with me giving Micah a fist bump and a pat on the back for his efforts. We both agreed I needed to make a trip to another football game in the future, and I knew I would be happy to do so; rain or shine.

Micah and I... Soaking wet.

Tonight’s experience at my nephew’s football game was much shorter than I expected, but it was definitely and experience worth having. Although I didn’t get to see Micah play a full four quarters, the weather made the event memorable, and it gave me a great opportunity to talk to my nephew about his game for an extended period. Additionally, the moments that made the night will remain for a long time. The plays, the weather, and that first smile on Micah’s face are the elements that will form the strongest memories from tonight’s experience. It was great to be at one of Micah’s football games, but it was even better to be at a game as memorable as this one. Sure, it wasn’t what anyone would call a “perfect” night for a game, but I wouldn’t change a thing about it if I could.

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