Pigskin Prose: So The Season Begins.....

A Stanford mother shares her emotional journey as she experiences the transition of her football-playing progeny to an exciting and challenging new life far away from home and hearth. Surrendering a college-bound family member, at least in part, can produce a sublime blend of relish and regret. Read on to share the journey. As everyone know, at The Bootleg, "WE WAX"...sentimental, that is!

Severe Emotionality Warning: Emotional experience leads to emotional expression. The following is a submission, admittedly of highly sentimental prose, from an anonymous player parent, who like all player moms, dearly loves her son, Lord bless her! The son would probably be mortified to have her identified, but we seek to provide our largely cynical, mostly male readers with an occasional dose of schmaltz. Our buddy "MizzouCard" will love it. If you yourself are a parent, get ready to have your heartstrings tugged. If you aren't, you might want to think twice before proceeding at your own pigskin peril....

So the season begins.....

It is the first summer of our son's college football career. How will his life unfold with this team? Only the football gods know for sure. The universe creates myths that are filled with glory and tragedies as well. I suspect most parents like me just pray for the safety of all the young men on the field and of course hope for the "W". Lurking on the Stanford blogs during summer camp, we watch for word of our son's progress. Mostly because our boy, our young man has joined, abruptly, the real world of college ball: work, study, sleep with a few, every few, coveted hours of "chilling with his homies". His new homies. Not the homies who are in their familiar surroundings, enjoying the sweet summer of high school graduation, the break between the old world and the new.

There is no break for these young "boy-men", they must begin the course of their new life right away. So our boys have no energy to call home. They have no name for the feelings and thoughts they experience that are a mixture of joy, enthusiasm, awe, exhaustion and grief. Yes, grief. No fun-filled summer of post-high school hanging with the familiar and loved friends back home. These are "boy-men" whose life has been filled with hard work and glory....but that was the past, the old life. They now have to earn a new glory and it is through hard work, the likes of which they have never known (or at least harder work than my son has ever known).

When he earned his scholarship to Stanford University, so many folks coveted the opportunity that he had just won. We began calling it his "work-study opportunity" and "our scholarship" and these words began to ring very true as the summer weeks wore on. This gift, in some ways, is a bit of a Trojan horse. The good news is that the young men are chosen because hopefully they possess some of the skills with which to do battle with the metaphoric warriors that await inside the horse.

Their skills are definitely not yet honed and they must fall into rank behind the established leadership to develop their next level of abilities. And at Stanford, the mythical horse is not just a horse that contains the traditional warriors of football, but the professors who are there to make demands of them, demands that will require a set of time management skills and focus abilities that are likely several levels above the high school set that got them here. Ah, for the days when AP classes were somewhat easily mastered.

So just as all of the fans await the first game, so do the parents of this new class. As parents of a redshirt freshman, we have already adopted this army of young men as our son's new family. And by blood relationship, so are they ours. Our first college game, when the names and the faces in the program and on the field are "boy-men" who intimately will affect the manhood of our sons. We are there to cheer for the whole... knowing that the successes or failures of these 64 travelers will be our son's as well.

We sit in the bleachers, a small group of Cardinal fans in a stadium of Cougars. We discover that we now belong to our own small family of parents who know the joy of the pure scholarship and the significant sacrifice that our sons are making for this amazing opportunity. All of these "boy-men", who not so long ago hung out with their high school friends at each of their homes and not so long before were but our young sons - little boys who played in our backyards on swings and forts.

Arriving in the corner of the visiting fans' section, we discover our new extended family of parents, siblings, grandparents and aunts of the team members. All are a fast and cohesive cohort, rooting for our newly beloved team. Timing our cheers to coincide with the quiet of the Cougars, whenever the Card make a play. Screaming to play good "D" when the team seems 150 yards down the field. Discovering that the parents of another redshirt freshman are sitting behind us. Sharing a quick text with our son only to discover that he is sitting next to their son in the locker room back at the Farm. A good LOL on AT&T.

Enjoying a fourth-quarter visit from our son's best friend ,who now goes to WSU. Getting that "Mom Fix", a visceral experience-  to be able to mix it up with and hug someone who not that long ago spent long hours with our son in our home. Alumni are there, as is Andrew Luck's roommate, who flew up to be with his Coug family, but to cheer for his team and his roomie. Sharing the moment with friends who came with us.  These friends are now Stanford fans because our son is now a Card. We all for the moment abandon our own college football teams to cheer for Stanford. 

Of all of the enthusiastic fans, I was most struck by the first-quarter arrival of three bleary-eyed, somewhat disheveled college students.  With big smiles and an urgency about them, they had just arrived after a 17-hour drive from the Farm to see the game.. Not to discount parents and family, but these are the REAL fans.  This is what college ball is made of...all-night drives to root for the home team. Their team. The youthful hope and expectation of the first win of the season and wanting to be there to experience it.

So we got the "W". We packed ourselves up and began walking down the long hill to our car, parked off campus. As we walked down the hill, not 20 minutes after the game had ended, those three young Stanford students honked their horn at us as they already had packed up their station wagon and were on their way back to the Farm. And naturally, as only a mother would do, I shouted, "Go Card" and "Drive Safe!"  Their season,  all of our season, had begun.

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