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Diane Mack: It's so much more than a game

The Examiner

There, they were on the top of the stairs. I nearly tripped over them, carrying clean sheets to the second-floor bedrooms.

They were covered with duct tape and dirt. They were black with 14 holes each. They were a visual memory of ten years of his life.

Diane Mack

They were Jeremy’s football cleats from 2006. What a memory.

I have written more about football in two months than I have in the past 20 years.

I’ve always felt football to be a barbaric sport. Yes, who would want to jump onto another human body for a couple of hours? Not me.

I have also taken it personally when they say “wide receiver.” That’s because I always wanted to be a “thin receiver.” Oh well, I can dream.

Anyway, there on the top of the stairs were the size 12 football cleats that carried my son Jeremy, with his team, to a state victory. What a game!

You know, sports can keep kids involved. I have told many friends, “If they’re involved in positive things, they won't be in negative things.”

But we still need to patrol their activity. Some friends are good. Some are not so good.

I still pray for good friends for all my kids, and five are married!

Anyway, I sat down on the top of the stairs and recalled dozens of football games. I thought I was going to cry.

Most players wore black eye makeup and pads.

After the games, when they walked in the front door, oh my, it was nauseating. The uniforms could have walked to the washer by themselves. I used gallons of Clorox.

There were long nights in emergency rooms. Weeks later, there were stinky, sweaty casts with numerous signatures, including our dog Dallas.

There were some games in which I could tell that my son had cried, under his helmet. Maybe it was pain. Maybe it was happiness. I didn’t know.

But Jeremy, your mom cried, too. I didn’t want you hurt. I only wanted you safe. I wanted you protected, and that was one place where I had to step back and let you protect yourself.

Boy, the memories are spilling over.

I recall the year I ran over your helmet after a practice. It didn’t hurt the helmet, but my van never drove the same.

Remember the year when your coach wouldn’t let you play? He didn’t think you were good enough. I cried to sleep that night, as I’m sure you did.

Shame he wasn’t around when they offered you a full ride to K-State.

I recall the special gloves you needed to better grip the ball. You also wanted a tire hung, just like your brother, Adam, so you could practice throwing the ball.

Jeremy, those years as a quarterback made you a better receiver. And those years kept you busy and happy. You loved the game.

I never really liked football. But the best part was I knew where you were on those nights.

And when you came home, you were exhausted, too exhausted to get in trouble.

I need to stop daydreaming and get a grip. I also need to put the laundry away. I have too much to do today to reminisce about football.

But I can’t.

Jeremy, those duct-taped, leather-worn shoes carried you through many years of the game. Although your last Friday game in 2006, your high school finale, was the best with 15 good senior boys, 11 wonderful coaches, and a remarkable trainer. I liked that.

I’m starting to tear up again.

It’s those darn smelly cleats stinging my eyes.

No it’s not. It’s the warmth, excitement and success of an awesome autumn athletic sport which will remain in my heart forever.        

Diane Mack is coordinator of Putting Families First, Jackson County's Family Week Foundation. Email her at Director@jacksoncountyfamilyweek.org.