A.J. and his teammates finally received their coveted flag football jerseys, just before their first regular-season game. A.J. was assigned number one, and he seemed to like it. Tucking his oversized shirt in before the game, he kept asking, “Can you see the whole number?”
I’ve written before about my ambivalence about six-year-olds playing organized football: It seems wrong somehow, but not so wrong that I didn’t sign up my son. And now it turns out A.J. is quite a good little running back. He had a 55-yard touchdown run last week, his third score in his team’s first two games. His coach has started calling him Wheels. At the risk of sounding like one of those fathers who takes his kids’ sports way too seriously, let me say this: It is an amazing thing to watch your boy racing down the sidelines toward the end zone with the ball tucked under his arm and everyone on the sidelines screaming.
Not that it’s about scoring, of course.
I’m helping coach A.J.’s team and the thing about trying to teach kindergarteners and first-graders how to play football is that they have tiny, tiny attention spans. Running through a play in practice requires lining up seven kids in their respective positions. By the time you’ve positioned the seventh kid, the first kid has long since wandered off and started picking grass or wrestling with the kid next to him. Most often heard admonition at flag-football practice: Hands to yourselves, guys! Second-most often heard: Put the grass down!
Then there’s the pre-game ritual where the boys come charging onto the field through a double line of little six-year-old cheerleaders. It’s so weird that I don’t know what to make of it, except to say that both the boys and the girls seem to be really enjoying it and they all look adorable. I guess this is one of the things youth sports does to parents. It turns us into insufferable conformist yahoos.
Let’s hear it for the yahoos!