After two years of playing roller hockey, my nephew decided to play football. While my mother started listing off all of the new protective gear she needed to buy, I asked him what schools he would be playing. He mentioned the usual lineup of regular middle schools and then paused, chuckled and said, "We're playing Malcolm Hardawell."
"Really?" I said, my voice cracking a little, "Do they have a good team?"
He laughed and I knew why. You see, Malcolm Hardawell is the magnet school for gifted kids. Odds are good some of those kids are athletic but there is also this bred to the bone instinct that all elementary and middle schoolers have for beating the crap out of anyone attending anything labeled "accelerated", "gifted" or "magnet". I really didn't want to see my Perfect, Beautiful Nephew Boychild piling on to some fat, doughy little oddball who was probably already feeling self-loathing because s/he'd rather be reading "The Martian Chronicles" and instead got stuck with a quacking, pear-shaped teacher who insisted that everyone read Beowulf while she played the cello. Um, maybe I was over-indentifying a bit much. Anyway, we had a conversation on why it is a good thing to be nice to Krebloids and that was that.
So, the season started and we got glowing reports from Perfect, Beautiful, Talented Nephew Boychild's parents that he was doing very well: really loving it and playing most if not all of every game. Four games in we finally got to attend. My mother thought they were playing Portland. It turned out they were playing Malcolm Hardawell. Oh, the humanity...
It was exciting to see PBTNB and his teammates gather at one end of the field for their pep talk from the coaches and then burst through a wall of painted butcher paper, intent on playing the heck out of the game. I saw PBTNB in a new light, he was not just the sweet little kid we'd all gotten to know and love, he was a rather handsome young man who had found something he could be passionate about. Couldn't help but feel a little glow of pride about that.
And then Malcolm Hardawell took the field. Some of them looked like they were in third grade. A few of them were sauntering with that rolling black angus-y gait kids get when they wear cleats and a few of the smaller ones were trying to saunter while keeping up and ended up -oh please don't let me go to Hell for typing this- skipping on to the field.
We watched as Boy's team scored and scored again and netted a couple of personal fouls for holding and scored again. Sometime around the second quarter, a couple of portly kids in fanboy gear walked past the stands. One of them -we'll call him Nacho Cartman- loudly proclaimed that "it looked like the team was actually scoring for a change". Oh, dude. While they're on the field playing, you're walking past, tucking in nachos and criticizing loud enough for everyone to hear? Where are your parents?
As the game progressed, PBTNB's team's score continued to climb while Malcolm Hardawell's side of the board stayed blank. I started to feel a little sorry for them, especially after one of the kids on Boy's team toppled over one of their players and sat on him. The fourth quarter wound down with Boy's team scoring 24 points and Malcolm Hardawell getting zip. Nine seconds from the end, they called a time out and then set up to play. One of the bigger MH kids took the ball and was immediately sacked. Seven seconds in, they put the ball in play again, passing it to Number Three, who I had kind of worried about all night because he might have reached PBTNB's collarbone if he stood on tip-toe. Number Three took the ball and put every bit of energy he had left into trying to score in those last seven seconds. I have to apologize here because I love PBTNB and of course want him to win; but I so wanted to see that little kid score one for the Krebloids. The clock ran out, the referee blew the whistle and Number Three kept running until one of Boy's teammates flattened him just short of the end zone and then helped him up while giving him a big brotherly pat.
And then it was over with a first win of the season for the Mighty Mighty Commandos. The coaches gave an end zone talk while the parents and grandparents looked on. After that, it was all cheering and jubilation on a middle school scale. We're all very proud of Boy and I hope somewhere, someone is telling Number Three they're proud of him because he wouldn't give up.
copyright 2005 Jas Faulkner