Last Saturday, I was at the French Market. It was a beautiful morning, the skies were clear and there was a chill in the air – it’s fall and the temperatures are slowly dropping. The week before had been chilly, too. I was waiting for B, my wife, to meet me and I wandered upon a vendor’s stall – a bookseller, even better a used bookseller. I skimmed the shelves looking for titles I knew, I recognized several from my youth and young adulthood, but my eyes stumbled across I am Third by Gale Sayers and my eyes locked. I picked it from the shelf, leafed through the pages, and read the side notes and endnotes. I remembered reading it when I was a freshman or sophomore in high school though I forget which year, at the time, I believed I had a future as an athlete – a football player.
The book was the basis for the television movie, Brian’s Song. I remember watching it with my dad and I remember crying at the end, I still cry when I think of it.
I read the book several years after the movie appeared on television. The book is better, much better, the book usually is.
verb ad·mire \əd-ˈmī(-ə)r\
: to feel respect or approval for (someone or something)
: to look at (something or someone) with enjoyment
Origin of ADMIRE
Middle French admirer, to marvel at, from Latin admirari, from ad- + mirari to wonder, from mirus astonishing from Merriam-Webster Dictionary @ http://m-w.com
Our family reached a milestone this past Friday, actually two.
Friday was O’s birthday. She turned 13 at 8:35 AM, but we began celebrating when she woke Friday morning.
Friday was also W’s last high school football game. It was Senior Night. He suited up and was introduced with all of the other seniors running on to the field through the tunnel after being the last senior introduced. Being last sometimes is one of the perks of having a ‘W’ for a last name. He didn’t play a single down, nor did four other seniors, which is disappointing, but in retrospect, W has made his mark in the football program in other ways.
W suited up for 21 games in his varsity career and saw the field in only two. He stood on the sideline and did what the team needed – grabbing water bottles, signaling fake signals in to confuse the other team, grabbing the game balls when possession changed, and more. He did what was needed. He did play on Saturdays with the JV team and played sparingly there, too. He started a couple of games and caught two passes, however his greatest achievement wasn’t his play, but his sacrifice for others.
A couple of weeks back W got his chance and I got both plays on film.
And, last week he got another opportunity, I captured all eight of his plays on film.
They let him play quarterback in formation called the wildcat – it’s a direct snap to the quarterback and he runs as far as he can before being tackled. The formation is usually used to catch the defense off guard, but in this case it was to reward W for his hard work.
They called it the WatCat.
After the first game, I approached the coach and thanked him for letting W have the opportunity. He told me that W had earned the chance to play and it was payback for all of his hard work. He told that despite W’s lack of football talent, he showed grit and determination and did what the team needed and put the team before himself. He said he did things that other players didn’t at practice. He said W was selfless. I choked back tears then, and I am trying to hold them back even now as I write. He told me what every parent wants to hear someone else say about their child.
So when I saw Sayer’s book, I thought of W. I bought it, it is beside me on the desk. I hope he reads it, and this post.
The book is Gale Sayer’s autobiography and it chronicles his relationship with Brian Piccolo a Chicago Bears teammate. Piccolo died in 1971 and each year the Bears award a rookie and veteran with the Brian Piccolo award.
The award is presented to the rookie and veteran who best exemplifies the courage, loyalty, teamwork, dedication and sense of humor of the late Brian Piccolo. Piccolo was a running back for the Bears from 1966 until his untimely death from embryonic cell carcinoma on June 16, 1970, at age 26.
Both Sayers’ #40 and Piccolo’s #41 jersey numbers are retired by the Bears.
W’s football career is complete. All that is left is award’s night.
W has a couple of weeks off and wrestling season begins. He’s a better wrestler than he is a football player, but he’s just as selfless in the practice room and on the mat.
I admire W.
I had a similar chance in sports when I was his age, but I decided I didn’t want to work that hard to only stand on the sidelines, it’s one of my regrets. I am proud W stuck it out, I’ve learned more from his perseverance than he knows.
It’s Sunday morning and we have a lot on our plates today. I have grading, planning, and chores. He’ll be writing his own essay later today and helping me with the leaves. I’ll give him a hand with his essay and try to coach him with his writing. It’s gonna be a great day, I know it and I can feel it. So, I’d better jump up, jump in, and seize the day. Making the Days Count, one day at a time, one sport, one season at a time, even when it’s a short season.
Who do you admire and why?