They were beaten, something like 20 to nothing. But... it was a good game, and while they had their shorts handed to them, they also stopped about four other touchdowns from getting scored, and there were some really good football moves and plays and ... well... yeah. It sucks to lose when you work THAT hard.
Geoff has never played an organized sport. He has never LOST at anything other than Candyland. He's not a good loser, freaking out in a McEnroe-esque fashion when beaten... no matter how well he played.
He's not a good winner either. He taunts, he calls the person he's playing against a loser, he points fingers, he nyeah nyeahs them...
He's a poor sport all around.
I anticipated he'd be upset if they lost, but I didn't anticipate the display we were treated to on that particular day. I ended up on the sideline taking a knee with him away from the rest of the team after the kids shook hands in the line and the coach called for the end of game huddle. Geoff was pissed that they lost, looked like "idiots," said that his team sucked, said all kinds of crap that was just horrifying to me to hear him say... about kids who are his friends, kids who have been kind and supportive to him.
I told him that they lost but it was a good game. Did you see that tackle Nick did to stop that guy from scoring and did you know that tackle set up the next series of plays that the other team STILL didn't score off of. Nick stopped a touchdown, and your team held them back. It could have been a lot better, but it could have been a lot worse, too.
We were leaving and I apologized to one of the coaches. He didn't want to hear it from me and he basically let me have it. Geoff was on the field swearing at the other team, giving them the finger, mouthing off to his team mates... I was appalled. I didn't know he was doing this. The coach told me he expected Geoff to apologize to him and to the team at practice the next day. He also told me he wasn't going to play Geoff again if Geoff couldn't get his temper under control and get a grip.
Well... coach. I agree. But I also think you guys should be working on this with him, not just us.
I don't think the coach realized, and I certainly didn't really take into account, that Geoff's never played an organized team sport before and this was the first time he'd ever lost at something this big.
Aside from Candyland.
All the other boys on the team have played some sort of organized team sport before. Baseball, soccer, hockey, lacrosse. All of them have in the past five years learned to deal with the disappointment of being creamed by the other team, learned to deal with the ambiguousness of a tie, and learned to deal with winning with grace. All the boys on the field that day, except for my son, expressed that they were sad they lost, but said "did you see that throw Danny did? That was awesome!" or "Nick! What a tackle!" They found a little silver lining, and they know they can do better, but I know they walked away with less of a sting because they could see that some good things happened... even with the loss.
I want my son to do that in the future. Teaching him to manage his expectations and his anger... starting right that minute.
It didn't help me that night when I was watching the post-game interviews on ESPN to see Ladanian Tomlinson of the Chargers standing there crying and blaming everyone on earth for his team's loss... I was glad Geoff didn't see that. All day there we are trying to talk him into believing that one should always keep one's chin up and be a gracious winner AND loser... to see this man up there pointing fingers and crying on national TV.
That day and all week following we went over the rules of sportsmanship... that these kids are his friends, they're in it together. The other team are just boys too... this is not a war. They do not deserve foul language. They do not deserve to be insulted and gestured at profanely. How would HE feel? How would HE like it? He wouldn't, the boy tells us.
Manage your expectations. Go into the game believing you can win, but accepting when it doesn't happen just that way.
Saturday came and we were driving to the game. "What are you guys going to do today?" I asked him.
"We're probably going to lose, and that's okay."
"No. You're going to try your best to win, and if that doesn't happen... that's okay."
"Yeah. There's always next week."
Yes. There is always next week.
They played another better than them team with names on the backs of their jerseys, and Geoff got tackled bad in the last quarter. I saw him fly up in the air, arms akimbo... and the other kid landed on him. He couldn't get up, but inside me I knew he wasn't physically hurt. I think he was surprised and shocked that he got clocked the way he did, and I think his little insides were saying "just lay here like a slug." The coaches and the EMT came out while I sat in the stands saying "come ON. Just get up..."
I knew he wasn't hurt. Everyone else was worried, but I know this boy. My friends Dave and Myra from college were there at the game (they live right near where the game was). I was muttering that he was fine, that he was just shocked and surprised and probably wanted some attention.
They were laughing nervously at my cavalier stance on my injured, prone child surrounded by helpful coaching staff and medical experts.
I recall saying "If he actually IS hurt, I'm going to be embarrassed later..."
After the EMT and his coaches helped him off the field and he got a little round of applause, they gave him an ice pack and sat him on the bench. I said "I'd better go play mommy right now and make sure he's all set," and went down to the field.
"What happened? Are you alright buddy?"
"Yeah. That kid hit me like a freight train. I didn't see it coming. I didn't expect it. He landed on my knee. I'm okay though."
"Well, THAT's good. Do you want your water?" I gave him his water and sat with him for a minute. He was fine, he didn't need mommy. He watched the last couple of minutes of the game, with boys on his team coming over to pat him on the head and back and check on him, and be with him.
I have to say that I'm thoroughly impressed with the boys on his team and how kind and nice I've seen them be to him this entire experience. After his blow up a week ago, one boy was standing near us when I was talking to the coach. I think he may be the coach's son... and the coach was letting me have it about Geoff's profanity on the field. But the boy said "He's doing really well out there though, and he's really good, and he tries really hard." Again, they see the silver lining. I thanked him and wanted to cry. Thank you for noticing that he cares and loves this...
After the game, in which they lost 22-0, Geoff got up off the bench to go shake hands. The coaches told him to stay put, but he set down his ice pack and shook them off, and went out and shook hands.
"We lost, but there's always next week, and I have to get better at getting hit like that."
That's what he walked away with. Thank God.
Anyway... I'm hoping they win at least one game. They are 0-3-1 for the season so far, and it would be nice to have something other than that zero in the win column. They work so hard. And I want Geoff to see what it feels like to win.
And with this group of kids, if they actually DO win a game, they are going to celebrate like they won the super bowl... I can feel it. They'll be really happy. And they'll earn that joy. And I'm looking forward to seeing that.