By Keven Graves
Watching my son play rugby this past weekend, suffering his first loss of an otherwise perfect season, was bittersweet in many ways.
Aside from the loss, which took the team out of the state playoffs, it was the culmination of many years of trekking to games all over the state to cheer on my son.
Liam will be 18 in a couple of weeks, and he walks down the aisle at graduation about a week later.
From age 4, when Liam showed promise in Tee-ball, the die was cast. While the Little League and Cal Ripken League games were held in town, what quickly followed were years of weekends planned around baseball games and tournaments.
For three or four months out of the year, our social circle centered around the other parents and grandparents in the bleachers and along the sides of the baseball diamonds.
We quickly learned to keep the car packed with all of the supplies necessary to not be miserable in the event of extreme cold or rain. We had the folding chairs, blankets for sitting on and covering up, hand warmers, gloves, hats, case of water.
Preparation is the key to comfort.
There were countless meals of chewy hamburgers, overcooked hot dogs, horrible tasting coffee and ball park popcorn.
Sometimes the boys played on perfectly manicured fields, sometimes they had to be careful not to stumble over rocks and into holes.
We were the kind of parents who told our son to play his best and not focus on position or the amount of time he got to play.
“It’s a game,” I would tell him. “The point is to have fun and be part of a team.”
Of course, there were other parents along the field who believed differently, and they made sure their voices were heard by the coaches and their children.
Liam grew eventually grew tired of baseball. Like us, he was worn down by the parental politics that hung over every practice and game like a storm cloud.
Four years ago, a rugby team formed where we were living. I told Liam I would pay him $100 to play and complete the season.
A bonafide bribe.
I told Liam that, if he didn’t like the sport after the first season, he wouldn’t have to play again.
Since that first year, Liam has practiced and played rugby more than half of the year, and the “brotherhood” embodied by the sport has appealed to his sense of loyalty and teamwork.
I attended most of Liam’s practices and rugby games, but that waned as he started driving, and even more after I accepted this job on Whidbey Island.
After Saturday’s loss, I joined other parents and supporters in forming a tunnel through which the players would pass and give high fives.
Liam came through the line first. I was proud that he had played his heart out, but I could see the disappointment in his face and body language.
I was toward the end of the line.
Liam came over to me, threw his arms around me and held me tight.
For just one more moment before venturing into the real world, he was my little boy.
I cherish that moment, as I do all of the times spent at countless sports field in the rain, wind and blistering summer heat.
Those are the moments that parents would hang on to forever if they could.