It’s not easy to see the football career end (for Dad)

If you think it’s tough watching high school seniors in the immediate aftermath of the final football game of their lives, you aren’t paying close enough attention.

There’s another entire group – also with Y chromosomes – that is having an even tougher time with it.

When the buzzer sounds and you’re on the wrong end of the scoreboard, it’s a tough deal for a player. They really don’t grasp the totality of it; just that it feels like the team on the other end of the field is tap dancing on your grave. That’s a direct punch to the 18-year-old ego. They are going to play next week, and you aren’t.

There will be a few tears, and that’s usually reserved for the inevitable moment or two with Dad.

For the last three weeks, as Shreveport-Bossier teams have slowly filed out of the playoffs, that scene has played out all over the state. Buzzer sounds. Coach huddles up the team one last time. Coach then talks to seniors only for one last love-you-guys moment. Seniors then take the slow walk off the field, intercepted somewhere by individual dads.

The guy with the shoulder pads on may be the only one with the salty discharge running down his face, but that’s only temporary. He will be over it by the time the bus warms up. But that’s not the case for Dad.

In the moment, Dad is fine with it. The offspring is sad, so he is there to be comforting. Quality move.

But be assured there’s somebody else who is going to need comfort: Dad.

There’s an empty feeling that doesn’t go away soon. So much time, so much emotion, so much pride has gone into watching a boy go from flag football to his senior season of high school.

And now it’s over? What am I supposed to do now?

There’s no more practice to watch and analyze. No more team meals to help out with. No more discussing the next game with the guys at work.

Nothing can begin to prepare Dad for the rest of his post-football fatherly life. You just try to exist until the feeling of living a normal existence — one without Friday nights at the stadium – comes back.

Don’t let anyone tell you that basketball or baseball or soccer is going to fill that void. Because it won’t.

For some reason, the end is much tougher to take over the long haul for Dad than it is for the player. Unless they are headed to play in college, most high school football players are fine with it. Sure was fun playing and being part of a team, a few locker room pranks were pulled, maybe a fake injury to get out of a practice or two. Overall, it was a great three months.

Dad looks at it on a much more global scale. He still can remember seeing his kid with the shoulder pads on backwards or having that “stick with it” conversation. Every season was another step, but Dad always knew where it was going to end. He just didn’t want to think about that, because it was so much damned fun along the way.

And then the other team won on a November night and it all stopped.

So as the scene gets played out all over the high school football landscape, please know that Dad is going to be fine.

It’s just going to take some time.

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