It happened so quickly. One moment I was scanning the local Leader and a story caught my attention. It was about Tuckerton’s new mayor and before I knew it, my mind slid back 12 years and stuck on a single Sunday morning in late October. I felt my blood pressure rise and my neck muscles tighten as the images replayed:
We had guests for breakfast and my wife, Laura tripped over our son’s dirt bike boots while setting the table. Besides the hazard they posed, those muddy boots caked with layers of black slimy crud did little for the ambiance of our Sunday morning meal. “For the third time, please get these boots”, Laura called to the 13 year old.
“I SAID I WOULD!” Jon hollered at his mother. Laura turned with her infamous glare that is known to cut steel, but Jon turned his back and walked away… leaving the cruddy boots where they stood. I got up to go after him, but Laura stopped me, then took the boots and tossed them out the door. Jon had won his little gamble that I would not initiate World War 3 in the company of guests.
After breakfast, our guests departed and Laura and I busied ourselves with chores. We only had an hour or so. Back then, our time was always limited on autumn Sundays by Pop Warner Football… which was going to be part of Jon’s next childish gamble.
Jon came out of his room and saw his boots lying on the patio. “WHO THREW MY BOOTS OUTSIDE?” he hollered. “I asked you three times…” Laura began to say, but Jon interrupted her, “STUPID IDIOT!” he said.
That was it! “GET IN YOUR ROOM!” I hollered, “YOU’RE GROUNDED!” The 13 year old boy moved towards his room while yelling at me that he would not go to his room.
“AND SLAM YOUR BEDROOM DOOR!” I added. I always told the kids to slam their bedroom doors in situations like that because then they would feel compelled to disobey and close the door gently as they could… It saved on wear and tear.
Jon carefully closed his bedroom door, then he revealed the substance of his second gamble, “YOU CAN”T GROUND ME… I HAVE A POP WARNER GAME TODAY”, he hollered through the bedroom door, “THE TEAM NEEDS ME!”
“WATCH ME”, I hollered back. “Laura, call the coach and tell him we won’t be coming” I said to my wife, shifting out of holler mode to spare myself from Laura’s death ray glare. A few moments later, Laura informed me the coach had not answered but she left a message.
With an entire Sunday afternoon to myself, I set about some yard work. They weren’t pressing chores, but it would help burn off the anger energy. A little while later, my wife appeared with the phone. “It’s the coach”, she said, “I told him what happened”. I took the handset, “Hello”, I said.
“Hello, Mr. Held?”
“Yes”, I answered.
“This is Buck Evans”, the coach said, “I understand Jon has been acting up?”
“To put it mildly, Coach and Jon thinks he is so important he can get away with anything”, I said, “And now I can’t take him to the game because he’ll think he is above the law”.
There was silence on the other end for a short moment as the coach gathered his words, “I don’t get in the middle of family matters and I respect how you chose to handle this, but let me say this: If you bring Jon to the game today, trust me, he will do some running and he will do some standing and he will learn what a team is all about”. Coach Buck paused for my reply. “Buck, I just can’t let Jon think he won this thing”.
“I understand your position and it’s not an easy one, but maybe you don’t want to use football as the punishment. Football is not the problem and you may find out it’s really the solution. I’m just asking you to think about that if you would. That’s all I ask, OK?” said the coach.
Even though my mind was made up, I thanked the Coach and gave the handset back to my wife and continued my yard work. But as I worked, the coach’s words continued to resonate in my mind. When emotions receded, I knew Coach Buck made sense and soon Laura, Jon and I were on the Garden State Parkway North, making the one hour ride to an away game.
Our team’s game started late due to some delays in earlier games and Jon hustled to join his team mates. Then I noticed Jon trudging laps around the field and when the game began, Jon stood on the sidelines, watching. Through the first quarter and second quarter, Jon stood there watching his team play. After half time, Jon stood on the side lines again for an entire third quarter as well. Each play the coach sent another player in, but Jon was never one of them. And to make matters worse for Jon, the team was winning without him. Finally in the last minutes of the game, Coach Buck tapped Jon and the boy ran to the field for a couple plays and then the game was over.
There would be many more Pop Warner games for Jon after that and in the years that followed, he would go on to play in high school and college games as well. But Jon never again thought he was exempt from acceptable human behavior on game day. The boy learned about the word “team”. And looking back, football and sports in general were never the problem and did turn out to be the solution.
That old memory flooded back because the article I was reading included an interview with Tuckerton’s new Mayor, George Buck Evans. Buck spoke to the reporter about his governmental team in terms of a football team and team is the keyword which caught my eye. I can’t help thinking; if Buck Evans is as good at being Mayor as he was at being Coach, then Tuckerton Borough is in for some winning seasons.
Post by Karl Held
One Response to “Winning Seasons”
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.