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Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Last Goldback: Football Season Finale

THE LAST GOLDBACK - Later today, Christian will play for the last time in the Goldbacks Youth Football League (“YFL”) uniform. So it’s my last time out as a Goldback YFL Mom. As I reflect back on the season, which started with training camp back in July, I can honestly say, it has been the absolute best experience we could ever have hoped for.

I think back to right before football, early Spring 2013, when Christian started rowing with the BDMS boys in their 4+. It was a beautiful, cold spring day, about 5:30 am, and the water was like glass. Those 5 skinny 12 yo boys were trying to carry their boat, which weighs about 180 - 200 pounds, down to the docks. Usually, Kyle Britton or someone else was around to help, but that particular morning, it was just two boats that were practicing and no one else was around. I could see Christian and another boy on his end struggling to carry it. I watched the bow go lower and lower. Holy Crud, they’re going to drop the boat! I had no choice but to throw my expensive camera in the dirt, sprint over, get in and pop the boat overhead. Probably the ultimate embarrassment, having your Mom have to help carry your boat. (Actually, blogging about it might be worse). Now, when Christian goes back for Spring Crew, you better believe my kid will be able to carry his end of the boat, and then some. As a matter of fact, I’m pretty sure he and the other DE could get that boat by themselves. For that, I have to thank the Goldbacks YFL program, and the sport of Football.

On the other hand, when Christian showed up for football training camp, and the kids had to do wind sprints up and down “The Hill,” Christian was the first one up and the first one down. For 2-plus years of rowing conditioning and wind sprints, I must say thank you, Coach Cunningham and the sport of Rowing.
Christian isn’t the only one to have made a Journey this season. To give you an idea of just how protective Mrs. Lo was, and concerned about her babies getting injured, we have to flashback to 2004. That is when I first took Christian to Bishop Dunn, at age 4, for his initial interview. I thought he was just perfect in every way. As you may have guessed, Mrs. Lo was a total “Baby Mozart Mom” back then, reading to my kids constantly, doing puzzles, drawing, painting, listening to classical music, teaching them foreign languages. I waited in the hallway for the teachers to come out and rave about my child. Imagine my surprise when they asked me how long Christian had been having trouble with his motor skills. What on earth do you mean, I asked?

“Well,” the interviewers said, “he uses scissors like they’re hedge clippers, he should have the fine motor skills to cut by now.” Scissors, I gasped! You gave my child scissors! Scissors, are dangerous, I said, he could HURT HIMSELF. I was appalled. So were the interviewers. However, they explained patiently, “actually, Mrs. LoBiondo, by age 4, kids can be trusted with Fiskar scissors to cut paper. You let him use a fork don’t you?” You could say I was protective. OK, go ahead, I’ll say it, I was overprotective. I never imagined football to be on his radar.
What can I say about injuries? Football is not a contact sport, it’s a collision sport. It started with the broken finger. We’ve been taping it every day since July. The bruised ribs. The trips to the ER and the pediatrician, daily ice, Epsom salts baths, playing with special Under Armour with rib protectors and special attachments to his pads with rib protection. The sprained hamstring, the taping, the limping. Nothing “major.” Although if you had told me all this was going to happen 9 years ago, I probably would have to be medicated for the last decade.
Then there is That Moment, for which nothing can prepare you. The only questions is: how are you going to handle it? The football parents know what I’m talking about. Every time the players all take a knee on the field, you can almost see hundreds of silent prayers going up from the Stands: “Oh please, Lord, not my baby, not my grandbaby, and prayers for whoever’s baby that is.” Then you look in your binoculars or, in my case, my 300x Zoom camera lens. That Moment when I looked through the Zoom and saw my son lying on the field, not getting up right away: the blood just seemed to drain out of my body. I felt faint. I felt white knuckled fear. Then came the shot of adrenaline. You bet your bonnet Mrs. Lo ran down, hopped that fence (it’s amazing what Mother’s Adrenaline can do), and was standing there when they helped Christian over to the players’ bench. I really startled the coaches, they weren’t expecting turn to around and see me there. “Mrs. Lo, he was just taking a rest,” said the Head Coach. He put a gentle hand on my shoulder, as he had probably done hundreds of times before and said kindly, “You go on back to the stands now, and enjoy the rest of the game. We’ve got this.”

I feel great about this game, this sport, this program. Christian has had a great season, and so have all his teammates. But it didn’t start out this way. Before the first Scrimmage, in late August, I felt like an outsider. I was so used to being an integral part of the Newburgh Rowing Club and the NFA Crew Team. Then I heard the coaches yelling at Christian in a way that made me burst into tears. No one had ever yelled at him like that before. On his very ornery-est day, Coach Kennedy sounds like the Flying Nun compared to the way Christian was getting yelled at. “You’re not doing your job, Junior!” “That one was one you and you missed it!” “Do you want to play football or not?” I ran to the parking lot to cry so I wouldn’t embarrass Christian. “What’s the matter, Miss?” said one of the coaches? You guys are so hard on Christian, I can’t take it, I bawled. The coach chortled. “Miss, we coaches love Christian, he’s doing a great job, that’s why he’s getting yelled at.” Huh? Am I in some parallel universe? “No, just remember,” said the kindly coach, “the day they stop yelling at your son is the day you need to worry.” Ohhhh.

So today at 4 pm is the Orange County Youth Football League D3 Superbowl game at Warwick High School. Newburgh is undefeated, and we are playing Marlboro, also undefeated. I would love to see Newburgh win it, so they can have an Undefeated season. It’s something to remember the rest of your life. Especially since, for my son, it’s the end of the road for the YFL program. Am I excited? Let me put it this way, the day Christian learned to use scissors, I started cheering like he had just won the Superbowl. Now he is in his program’s County Championship football game. No matter what happens, these boys are already champions, as far as I’m concerned. And while it’s the last Goldback YFL moment for us, it’s just the beginning of his Football Journey. Whether it’s high school football, flag football or just touch football in the park with friends, he will play again and thanks to this program, he will play well. And today, I am prouder than anything to say: my son plays football, my son plays for the Goldbacks YFL program, and I am a Goldback Mom. With tears of joy and gratitude, I say, loud and proud, GO GOLDBACKS!!! Have a great day, everyone  Mrs. Lo (One of my favorite pics of Christian, taken by Mrs. Thompson, edited by Mrs. Lo, a very happy moment at time, at the Subway’s dinner)

ADDENDUM:  The Goldbacks put up a mighty game, despite being outnumbered 2-1 on the Field.  They lost to the Iron Dukes 35-12.  The oldest kids and families all packed in to Mrs. Lo's house for  Homemade meatballs and camraderie afterwards.  A few days later, a followup Doctor visit and X-ray revealed Christian had been playing for the last several weeks with Fractured Ribs.  Asked if he wished he could have sat it out and not gotten fractured ribs, my son said:  "Sat it out?  No, if I could wish for one thing it would be a re-match."  #HeartofaChampion