Yesterday afternoon, Terry called me, frantically asking if I could get out of the church youth group I lead on Tuesday nights so that we could go to the high school football banquet that evening, since he helped out with the team so much.
Banquet? As in, I don’t have to make dinner? As in, I could save time because I would not have to make dinner and I would not have said youth group? And you said it’s for football? Football brings in a lot of money for the school, right? Don’t they have boosters? Could the boosters, perhaps, have gotten Terry some sort of thank you for the free work he does for them? Like a gift card?! To the movies, or a restaurant, or something?!
Six o’clock rolls around and I put on a pretty little dress and iron Terry’s shirt so that we can leave as soon as he gets home. Off we go to the banquet, with happy thoughts of delicious foods in our heads, looking hot as Florida summer.
We sit down just as they’re welcoming everyone. Everyone’s dressed to the nine’s, even the woman who really could not pull off a backless dress, try as she might. I smile at Terry. He smiles at me.
Dinner is served.
Only, this does not look like dinner. This looks like blobby white stuff slobbed onto overcooked tubey pasta (it was so not worthy of the name penne) with some rubbery meat. And, wait, yes, that’s exactly what it tastes like too. And shouldn’t salad have just a wee bit more than dressing, lettuce and croutons? Would it really be asking too much to add a tomato? Maybe some cucumber?
And I could have been eating wild-caught Alaskan salmon with green bean medley. Salmon.
Football 6, Caitlin 0.
No matter. There’s still dessert and there’s still the gift card.
They play a highlights reel all through blobby white stuff with boring salad, the shaky camera job underscored by the same monotonous three-measure two-tone song. And my back is to the screen, so I’m straining my neck all night long to get a glimpse at what’s going on.
Point for Football Banquet. 7-0.
But then! Dinner (or the travesty of it) ends and they say they have a few thank you’s they’d like to give out. This is it! That gift card is ours! Watch us hit up the town with it!
We wait with bated breath. They call Terry’s name. They ask him to come up to the stage! They say he’s the best they’ve ever had and they love him and wanted to give him something special! They reach for it! They have it in their hands! And they give him! – a plaque.
A plaque. Isn’t plaque that stuff they scrape off your teeth? That stuff that really does no one any good? Especially when it’s too small to even write my grocery list on? (Granted, it was a nice, thoughtful plaque, but still - where’s that gift card?)
Another touchdown for Football Banquet. 13-zip.
Ok. I gotta get some points here. I look towards the cake. Cake! They’re so close to serving it to our table! And look, I even get a piece that clearly used to be a part of the football they decorated on to cake back when it was whole. Unfortunately, the fondant they used to make the football tasted like it was actually made from real football. Going for authenticity, I suppose. Still, the frosting under the fondant and the cake under the frosting were going to be my first points, I just knew it!
But – let me see if I can describe to you what this cake was like. I think Terry said it best when he said it was like the cake had been soaked in dish-washing liquid for three days. Spongy and dense, dense, dense. Like I probably could have taken someone out with that piece of cake. In fact, I found myself wishing I hadn’t given my piece to Terry after a single bite of it, because I really could have used something to throw at someone the rest of the night. So, nada on the cake.
14-0. Losing hope here.
And little did I know it, but it wasn’t even half time.
The head coach stood up to do some more thank you’s. He pulled up 3 kids and started talking about how special they were, what good players they’d be, how he was so proud of them. And I thought, aw, how sweet, that he’s complimenting these kids who have obviously gone above and beyond what the rest of the team did.
But then. Oh, then. Then, he proceeds to pull up every. single. player, on the freaking. team. The whole team. Do you even know how many players are on one football team?! And we’re not just talking varsity here, but JV too. One by one, at least one of the coaches says something about each player. And not just ‘something’. Most of them started off with something along the lines of “Now let me tell you about this boy here. I’ve known this one since he was in diapers. In fact, let me tell you about the first time I met him, and every moment since then, and then I’ll go over it all again just in case you missed it the first time.”
Football Banquet is killing me. They go up 21, nothing. 28 nothing. They are trampling me.
7,000 years pass.
Still, we are sitting and listening to this coach. By now, it’s clear to me that he was a traveling minstrel in another life. He was all over that stage, and then jumping off of it to be closer to his audience, to get right in their faces with penetrating questions and genuine “I’m proud of you’s”. He knew just when to yell and stomp, and when to let his voice fall into a whisper, soft as a lover’s kiss. He moonlights as a preacher now, and practices his old inspirational minstrel ways on his congregation, his team, and on unsuspecting parents and athletic trainer’s wives. I found myself wishing that I, too, could be a bobcat. That I could wear that badge of honor. That I could care, the way he said I should care! Can I get an amen?!
Things were winding down now. It was clear I was getting creamed. But, as Coach Preacherman told me, I’d learned some life lessons along the way. I’d become a better person because of it. I came to finish, and I came to care, and by the gods of the first down, I would do it!
He had his audience so wrapped around his finger, that the team-voted MVP stood up, no doubt on fire with the football spirit, and announced that he wanted to give his MVP award away to the quarterback that kept them going! And he did!
They lined up all the players, yet again, to give them all a certificate of participation. Terry went down the line and whispered in my ear all the injuries each kid had had during the season. Sprained ankle, torn MCL, decapitation, another sprained ankle.
Coach Preacherman was really at it now. Had everyone been thanked yet? How about the cheerleaders, why don’t you all stand up with your Taylor Swift Red lipstick and your shiny dresses, stand and be thanked! And the parents, we can’t forget them! Tyrell’s grandparents, could you please stand up, you deserve extra thanks. And Kwa’dron’s uncle’s dog’s owner’s sister-in-law, I think she didn’t get thanked yet.
Um, I think you missed the athletic trainer’s wife, sir. She would like to be thanked. Preferably with a gift card, to make up for all the dates she couldn’t go on because her husband was busy being your athletic trainer and taking care of decapitations and whatnot.
Finally, finally, the night ended. I check the time. 9:30. 9 freaking 30. So much for saving time.
Football Banquet 3,294, Caitlin 0.
Although, I did get a blog post out of it. Maybe we can count that as a field goal.
Football Banquet 3,294, Caitlin 3.
And to quote Coach Preacherman, “Babe! I give you my heart felt!”