As a veteran sports mom, I have logged more than my fair share of time on the sidelines of various youth sporting events. I love to cheer for the kids — mine and anyone else’s.
Game time will generally find me clapping sedately as the action unfolds. I find that “nice hustle!” is an all-purpose term of praise that covers a variety of sporting stars — or sins.
Then we had “Joey.” Or shall I say “JOEY! JOEY! JOEY! JOEY! JOEY!” screamed at top pitch ad nauseam throughout the entire game.
“Go Joey! Get the ball JOEY! Good job JOEY! Get ‘em JOEY! You go JOEY! GO JOEY! GO JOEY! GO!!!”
Maybe I’m just jealous because Joey seemed to have his own fan club and every last one of them was bent on making sure that Joey — and people in the next county — knew they were there.
Lest you think that only repeated instruction from the sidelines kept him on track let me assure you this is not the case. Joey could play ball. In fact, I suspect he ran faster just to get away from all the screaming from the sidelines.
As fellow fans of lesser lung capacity, we could only lean over to each other from time to time and say, wryly, “I’m not sure, but I think one of those kids might be named Joey?”
It was that or resort to yelling “Joey please come poke my eardrums out so I don’t have to listen to these people screaming your name another second!”
Joey’s gallery, perhaps realizing we had all become numb to their constant stream of screaming, decided to trick it up a bit by adding helpful commentary to the game. This, I supposed, in case Joey had somehow plumb FORGOT how to play soccer since taking to the field and would be forced to rely on the screaming from his grandfather (?), uncle (?), own personal demon (?) to keep him on track.
At one point the decibel level was such that I seriously contemplated watching the game from my car.
And yet, after the final game of the season, the ringleader and obvious president of Joey’s own personal fan club, Mr. Yelled-Himself-Hoarse (but sadly not quite enough) approached the coach.
As I eye-rolled my way out of sight (but within earshot — as anyone this side of the Mason-Dixon Line undoubtedly would be) I heard him explain that he knows he gets really loud but he’s just so EXCITED.
He explained that Joey had been a really sickly baby, they weren’t always certain he was going to make it in those first days, and now that he’s whole — and healthy, he just likes the boy to know he’s there, show his support and all.
And suddenly, he’s human. Sure, he’s still quite possibly the loudest human I’ve personally met — but human nonetheless.
Instantly this man is so much less the annoying guy attempting to part me from my ear drums. So much more the gruff but loving grandpa who celebrates the miracle of “Joey” every day. You go guy. You go.
Hearing this, I thought about how we hear kids are falling through the cracks and don’t get enough support at home. We are often told that extended families have fractured and the support for the familial infrastructure simply isn’t there anymore.
Here, on a random green field we find a grandfather who screams himself hoarse at every single game not because he has to but because he’s proud. He wants to.
Pondering this, I decided there are probably worse things than being “Joey” and having your name shouted far and wide by people who care about you. Being a star — if only in your grandpa’s eyes — is surely a boon to any child. In that light doesn’t deafening a soccer mom or two seems a small price to pay?
So, go Joey! And all the other kids who play or perform in the stifling heat, rain, sleet, hail and even snow.
Who took to the field whether they love the game or joined a team and by golly they weren’t going to quit before the season ended.
Who play for their own passions — and sometimes, yes, the unrequited passion of a parent.
Cheer also for the parents and other loved ones who sometimes still cannot believe that the wobbly, helpless, fragile blessing placed in their arms — and hearts — just a few short years ago has turned into something — and someone — stronger, faster, MORE.
I cheer for each and every one of you. I just cheer QUIETLY because I don’t have the lung capacity to compete with Super Fan, even if I wanted to.
Which, as it turns out, I do.