I saw it as football the right way — no pads, no helmets, no coaches, just football.
My brother and I referred to it as “THE BIG GAME,” and we used to play it around Christmas on a strip of field that sits between a pond and a ditch running along a highway on my parent’s two acres near St. Louis, Missouri. I referred to it as our own version of the Chicago Bears Soldier Field.
The match-up involved me (when I was in my early 20s) and my older brother Jimbo taking on my Dad and brother in-law from Texas (for this story, we’ll call him “Tex”) in a game of “touch football” — a game that often morphed into something a little rougher. I saw it as the younger generation against the “old guys.” Unfortunately, the game never seemed to go the way my brother and I dreamed it would unfold.
Our “Field of Dreams” often turned into a field of nightmares. We’d somehow always manage to blow it at some point with a dropped pass or a bone-headed play that never worked. My Dad and Tex somehow managed to transform from various versions of Homer Simpson into Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski. These games seemed to always end the usual way — total humiliation for my brother and me because the old guys would find a way to win.
Still, there was this particular year when we were confident that we’d win. It was our time, we thought. This was the year!
But before we could blink, Jimbo and I were on the edge of another defeat. The game was simple — the first team to score five touchdowns won. I remember when we were tied 4–4 and Jimbo and I were on defense.
As usual, my Dad and Tex went marching down the field with what I remembered as a shelling of slant passes that we never seemed to be able to stop. I began to pray, “Please, Lord, don’t let us lose again!” I cannot confirm nor deny whether Tex was purposely pushed into the edge of the pond or not. But he did have two very wet and cold feet at one point — and wasn’t happy about it.
My brother and I fought valiantly that day, but when it all came down to it, we were a few inches off, a moment away and a bit too late. On the last play, the ball fell into my brother-in-law’s arms, and my heart sank into my stomach. We lost … again!
I collapsed to the ground hoping it was a nightmare I’d wake up from — like we lost the Super Bowl (after all, it was our Super Bowl). Wallowing in misery on the cold ground, I searched through my mind for what I could have done differently. It took a little while for sanity to kick in, but I soon remembered how much I loved our game. It was always fun and competitive. And the “old guys” earned their day in the sun.
Reflecting back, a lot has changed since that special season. Moves, job changes, my older sister and Tex are no longer together, and life moved on like it does in most families. My Dad passed away from cancer a few years later — can’t believe it’s been nearly 20 years. While I miss those old days and my Dad, I can look past the sadness or disappointment and appreciate those days for the quality family time that they were.
Cherishing the moments
A lot of times people will abandon good memories — especially around the holidays — because of how things change. I think it’s important to look back and appreciate the fun moments and be thankful for the blessings.
I still remember the time when the older generation had its day of glory against the younger guys. As I recently celebrated a milestone birthday, I’m especially thankful when I’m able to have those brief moments of glory that the Lord provides too.
EDITOR’S NOTE — This is an updated excerpt of a short story (“The Tradition”) written years ago by Shawn Hendricks.