“Wait! I Didn’t Say Hut!”
High school football season is in full swing, and last night I attended a game as an extraordinarily proud Band Mom. My son is a high school senior and is the bands only tuba player and as if that’s not reason enough, his sister is his band director. As I walked in with the band, I could feel a collective sense of walking into the Lion’s Den, since we were as my husband so eloquently said, “out-manned, out-classed, and out-gunned.” (Yes, we lost 66 – 8). The band members knew they had to play their hearts out – and they did, especially in the fourth quarter when you could see the spirits of the team disappear like a balloon spiraling into the sky.
The best part of last night’s game didn’t take place on the field, but rather all around me. From my seat, I had a birds eyes view of six little boys engaged in their own imaginary football game. I have no doubt, that no boy played harder on the field than those six little boys who conducted their game on the outside of the fence near the end zone. They were out of the way of the foot traffic so they could play without being interrupted and play they did! Sweat ran down their grubby faces, flushed red with excitement and determination. At first I thought they had a mini football, but then I realized their football was imaginary. No matter. Still, they jumped into the air to catch it. They cuddled it next to their chests. They held it with their arms tucked close to their sides. They could not have protected that imagined ball any better than a real one.
As I watched, it occurred to me that these five or six year olds knew a great deal about the game. First, they set up their game so they were three against three. They faced off and crouched down in football stance. The team with the imaginary ball, had a quarterback waiting for the center to hand him the ball which he threw to the third team member who ran like his hair was on fire through the line of three boys who made up the opposing team. If the boy was successful and broke through his opponents, he held up his hands to catch the imaginary ball. That’s when all hell broke loose. Boys bounced off boys – rolled around on the ground – jumped up in the air and attempted to tackle each other. One little fellow with black spikey hair and a face full of freckles had the unfortunate handicap of blue jeans that were too big for him, making it necessary for him to run with one hand holding up his pants, his batman underwear in full view. He wasn’t the only one with wardrobe malfunctions. Another little fellow whose hair was what my mother would call “wringing wet” had on a t-shirt that had been grabbed and pulled on so much that the neck had stretched out and hung off his shoulders like a poncho.
Back and forth they scrambled for that imaginary ball, calling plays, “Hut one! Hut two! Hut three! Hut Hut!” The only time I saw any unsportsmanship-like conduct was when a little boy with curly red hair yelled, “Wait! I Didn’t Say Hut!” It was clear to me he expected them to stop and get back in formation so he could call his play and when they went right on scrambling for that imaginary ball, he stood still and screamed, “I said WAIT! I DIDN”T SAY HUT!” It was about this time in the game when they were joined by four little girls who decided the boys needed cheerleaders, and they were perfect for the job. These cheerleaders who were also about five or six years old had imaginary pomp poms which they waved in the air over their heads when they cheered, “GO! Boys! GO!” I wasn’t at all surprised when the little boys ignored the cheerleaders with imaginary pomp poms and went on playing with their imaginary football.
Just before the game was over, I saw the parents come to collect their weary warriors. I watched them leave with moms and dads, oblivious to the actual game that had taken place on the other side of the fence. They had played for over two hours with an imaginary football in a game that was as real to them as the superheroes decorating their underwear. No doubt they would dream sweet dreams where they shouted, “Hut One! Hut Two! Hut Three! Hut Hut!”