Back in November of 2007, I knew my life was going to change drastically when the inevitable was coming.
I was going to be a father.
Less time would be spent watching football all weekend long and more time would be spent changing filthy diapers and losing hours of sleep.
However, I can still remember one of the first nights I was home alone with him. I had the Connecticut-Pittsburgh game on in the background while trying to get a crying baby to settle down. All of a sudden he quiets down, keys in on the TV, and is watching the basketball game.
I don’t know if it was the crowd noise, the squeaking of the shoes, or the colors on the screen that drew him in. Either way, I felt like I had a budding sports fan on my hands.
So that’s why it was an extra special moment for me when Georgia and LSU squared off on Saturday afternoon. In the week leading up to the game, my son noticed the various college football preview magazines on my end table. He grabbed one, brought it to me, and said to me in toddler-gibberish, “Football? College? Read.”
Hey, who am I to argue with that? It sure beats reading the same Dr. Seuss book for the 16th time in the last 30 minutes.
All week, we read through the conferences together. We have no dog in the fight when it comes to college football. My wife and I grew up in the Northeast and attended FCS and Division III schools, so there is no attachment to any major college football team.
However, he did gravitate toward the SEC teams. Maybe they were the easiest to say. Perhaps the colors or logos were really interesting to him. I don’t know. My brain hasn’t been two years old in a long time.
My wife had some errands to take care of, so it was father and son football time! LSU at Georgia, it’s 3:30 PM...here we go!
Now, the first three-and-a-half quarters of this game can mean two different things to two different people. To me, it was a defensive struggle, with lots of three-and-outs and punting. To a two-year old, it is a lot of, “Ready? Set? Kick” and running around the house grabbing the dog by its ears and hanging on dad’s legs while he’s making dinner.
But then something pretty neat happened around 6:20 PM, and I have to thank the Bulldogs and Tigers for picking up the pace on offense (finally).
My son sat still with me on the couch.
When it was 7-6 Georgia late in the fourth quarter, LSU began their 13-play, 88-yard touchdown drive. I guess my son could feel the intensity of the situation, because he stopped what he was doing when he heard the announcing team gathering excitement. He sat on the couch next to me and watched the drive unfold.
When LSU scored, he raised his arms (not really cheering for one team or the other, but he knew something good happened) and let out a “Yea!” and started clapping.
After that happened, I figured I had to get him ready for bed, so I told him, “OK, time to change your diaper and go up to bed.”
“No. Noooo...NO!” he said, shoving my hands out of the way.
I never saw him react that way to a game. I have had hundreds of games on TV since he was born and that was the first time he was appalled that I would take him away from the football game.
So I went and grabbed his pajamas from upstairs and changed him while we watched Georgia take the ball into the end zone. Six plays, 79 yards, and only 1:44 taken off the clock. Georgia regains the lead. My son cheers again and let’s out a, “TOUCHY-DOWN!” He claps once again.
I was amazed at what was happening on so many levels. The game’s momentum was shifting back and forth and I was watching a breakthrough moment from my son. He was legitimately excited to be watching a football game.
“It’s really getting late pal. We have to head upstairs. I don’t know that Mom will want to see you down here this late.”
He yells, “NO!”
So we make a fair compromise and head up to watch the game in the upstairs bedroom while he brushed his teeth; just in time to watch LSU take possession with 1:09 to go in the game.
My son sits on my lap, toothbrush hanging out of his mouth. On the second play of the drive, Charles Scott busts through the line for what turned out to be the game-winning 33-yard touchdown run. He gets up off of my lap, runs around in circles, and yells out, “TOUCHY-DOWN, TOUCHY-DOWN, TOUCHY-DOWN!!!”
With the final seconds ticking away, I took my son into his room and read some books to get him ready for bed. In the moments before he fell asleep for the night, he whispered to himself, “Georgia. Tigers. Georgia...Tigers...”
I saw my wife later and told her what had happened. She could tell that I was thrilled with how things went. It was just a really cool moment.
As I have moved into my 30s, my close friends and I have all moved on to bigger and better things in life. Guys get their own families and some leave town for their job advancement, so it is tough to get together and watch football games like we used to in our twenties. We all have lives now.
Maybe that’s what made Saturday’s game so special to me. Sure, it was a regular-season college game in October (with a spectacular ending), but I was able to share that experience with someone who was just as into the critical moments as I was...even if he is only two years old.
Georgia, Tigers indeed.