Both my sons played their first games of football last weekend.
My 5-year-old played a game of flag football and it was as expected - like herding sheep. Kids ran in all directions and general confusion ensued for the first half of the game. By the second half most of the kids had started to grasp the "don't move until the ball is hiked" concept.
This game was followed by his older brother's, who just happens to be playing tackle football.
And he couldn't be more excited about the prospect of game days in full pads.
Much like the opening game, there was plenty of confusion at the start. They don't have enough players on their team to actually scrimmage each other. It appeared early on that the concept of facing opponents, some decidedly bigger than them, was daunting.
My son, who plays running back, got the ball a few times. He also made a few nice tackles. I was glad to see that he wasn't afraid to stick his nose in there and get dirty.
Then it happened: on a broken play up the middle, he scampered outside and made it to the sidelines, then turned and headed up field, a chase of about five players behind him.
He crossed midfield and the parents in the bleachers started to scream.
I'm sure my friends in California could have heard me yelling, "Run! Run! Run!"
One of the larger kids was on his tail and began to gain on him.
They crossed the 20 yard line and one of the opposing team's coaches yelled, "Dive!"
The team that was set to play next now had lined up on the sidelines and were cheering him on.
The kid dove...
And a roar came up from the bleachers and the sidelines and pandemonium broke loose among his teammates as they ran to congratulate him in the end zone.
I don't think I've ever felt that kind of pure joy in my life.
My son had just scored his first touchdown in his first football game on a 60 yard, knuckle-biting broken play.
I wanted to cry.
Parents came up to me and asked me, "Is that your son?" with gleaming eyes.
"Yes, that's my boy," I said proudly pondering how they would view me next week if I just fell down and cried tears of joy.
Then he had to kick off.
And play safety on defense.
He got juked bad and the kid scored.
He came out for a rest and some water but while he was out their quarterback got the wind knocked out of him. So he went back in as quarterback. He later told me he was scared because their quarterback kept getting sacked. But after getting sacked twice himself because the textbook hand-offs he was attempting were left with confused running backs going in opposite directions, he just kept it on third down and bootlegged his way around the corner for a decent gain.
Then the first string kid came back in and he went back to running back.
They may have lost the game but boy howdy did seeing my son score a touchdown tickle my spine in a new and unfound way.