I open my eyes. It feels like just a minute since I fell asleep to the sound of Dad’s game film. It’s like a lullaby. I can count on it every night. He got home pretty late last night. I don’t see Dad as much in the fall, but we usually get time to wrestle before I go to bed. I love wrestle time.
When I walk out of my room, the bright light stings my eyes. Mom asks why I’m up so early but she already knows the answer. It’s Friday. I’m too excited to sleep on Game Days. “Like father, like son,” Mom says. She gets me. I love Fridays.
I look around but I don’t see Dad. He goes in early to help some of his boys with math. I pick up some stuff and shove it in a bag for after school. Can’t forget my favorite football. I hope Hudson picks me on his team at recess. Sometimes I get can a touchdown on a QB sneak. I love playing football at recess.
I am ready for school but my mom is still in her pjs. She seems tired and looks really rushed. I know she was up late doing laundry, because she does a million loads a day (at least that’s what she says).
Most days, she’s really busy and I try to help around the house. She does everything for everybody. And she still remembers to put my favorite dessert in my lunch box. I love my mom.
We get to school and everyone’s wearing team colors. We take a spelling test and a science test, and then the teacher talks a lot about the Constitution.
I really like school but today I like football more. So I’m drawing up plays ‘cause Dad taught me how. Then I start sketching my football. It’s a little beat up but I love it because it’s got the Florida Gators logo on the side. I love the Gators.
At lunch, Dad stops by to see me. He’s in a big hurry, but he gives me a fist bump and tells me to meet up with the team after school. Sometimes I don’t see him for a couple of days, but on Game Day I spend the whole night with him. He lets me stand on the sidelines. I am one of the ball boys. I love Friday nights with Dad.
After school I head to the team meeting. All the guys yell my name when I walk in the room. One guy pulls up a seat and says, “Hey, Sloppy Joe.” He’s called me that since I was really little. He hands me a piece of garlic bread. The team mom made lasagna. I love lasagna.
We all get on the bus. Every Friday night is like a dream come true. We play catch on the field during warm ups. I watch the team run onto the field. The coin toss. The National Anthem. Then dad leads the team in a chant…
We love football,
In the heat, So sweet
In the rain, no pain
Game Day, Friday!
The crowd behind us is cheering. We are the Patriots. I love the Patriots.
The rest of the night is a blur. I watch Dad. He looks for Mom in the stands and he’s glad when he sees her.
He takes his coaching stance. And the game begins.
I watch him hug his players when they make a play. He runs all the way down the field when the team gets a touchdown.
He’s usually pretty loud and loses his voice. But Dad knows exactly what to do and what to say. He knows everything about this game. I love my dad. I want to be just like him when I grow up.
The game ends. We didn’t win. I feel like crying but I try hard not to. I hear Dad tell the players how they fought hard. How they didn’t quit. How that’s like life. Sometimes you win and sometimes you don’t but you never go out without a fight.
They lift their helmets in the air and shout, “Patriots.” Win or lose, I love being a part of this team.
When Mom and older sister walk on the field, Dad gives them a hug. I hear Mom say that he did a great job. They hug for a while.
Then he picks up my baby sister and gets tackled by my brothers. He never seems sad after losing a game. He says he has “regrets” (whatever that means) but he always just keeps going. I love Game Day.
We get home and I get in bed without changing my clothes. My eyes close easily because I’m so tired. I fall asleep again to the sound of game film.
I can hear Mom and Dad talking. Dad asks if he should have done something differently. I can’t hear Mom's answer, but whatever she said – it was the right thing. I know he could never do this without her. She holds it all together.
We are a football family. And I love football.