Saturday, November 4, 2023

All Good Things...

These guys at 8th grade

These guys as seniors and district champs!

Last night my son stepped on and off the high school football field for the last time as an athlete. He and his group of 26 fellow seniors had an epic ride that started in their elementary and middle school days. In hindsight the journey feels unbelievably fast, too fast. I feel truly lucky, grateful, blessed to have been able to walk this part of the journey with my son, maybe reliving some of what it felt like from my high school playing experience. I am experiencing a lot of feelings right now: joy and amazement at my son and his fellow seniors and their up-and-coming teammates accomplished this year, but also tremendous sadness and a sense of loss as this is the first day of "moving on" from this epic journey. 

Yeah, there are tears.

There are so many memories and so many awesome people who came into my life as a part of this: my coaching brothers and the super supportive, and super fun, parent group of friends are people I hope to find some new adventures with. I mean how many parent groups take a party bus to a further away game?! 

There are a number of other big on-the-field memories from this group as well (and worthy of a couple html bullets): 
  • The epic 8th grade Bloomington v. Bloomington playoff game that went to overtime and solidified that this was an amazing group with a lot of heart. 
  • The Covid year freshman game at Chaska in whiteout blizzard conditions. 
  • The flag-a-palooza against Hastings last year where we ran and scored on the same play several times in a row due to flag-happy refereeing. 
  • And finally, what I hope will be referred to as "the drive", the 92-yard fourth quarter drive (more like ground assault) to score, take the lead and get the win against a rejuvenated Apple Valley team in our section semifinal. 
Inside all of this is also a passion for coaching and sharing my love of the game. I loved coaching this group through their middle school years. Seasons go fast and it is so fun to see when things click for the kids. I believe there's so much to learn about ourselves and how to handle success and failure in this sport, both individually and as a team. How to challenge ourselves and how to work towards common goals. I don't think there's a part of me that didn't learn from playing and is still learning from coaching.  

Digressing now that my fixation on my ordering, sentence structure and grammar has stymied some of the feels and tears. 

There were a lot of parallels with my career from playing the same position on the offensive line to working with a core group of seniors to bring a team from losing records to an amazing ride of an 8 win 2 loss record in our senior years. Honestly, I think I did define myself a bit more of a "football jock" than my son does, but ultimately we both just loved having the opportunity to play. As "O" linemen we aren't a flashy breed, we let our good work show through in the successes of our ball carrying teammates and our recognition is usually a, sometimes token, footnote in any press. And that's totally okay, we know what we did or didn't do.

My hope is that my son, and as many of the group as possible, keep partaking in football beyond watching it on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and the occasional Thursday, and Monday and was there a Tuesday night game this last week? Playing in college is being discussed lightly in our house but we will see. College football was a profound experience for me and even at the D3 level it's another level of work. I still loved it, but it is a distinctly different era of my playing in my mind. If I have football dreams at night, they are about college two-a-days 😳

Ultimately, this was an amazing ride. Like all but the state champions, we ended with a loss. I have my opinions on hand-picked private school teams being considered "equal" (seriously MSHL, wtf?), but there were enough mistakes on our side that kept victory out of reach. We knew we'd have to play near perfect as you have to do moving further into the playoffs and that didn't happen. Still as the game progressed the offense found ways to move the football. A bad play call (opinion of the writer and probably many others) on the 4 yard line, after a good drive supported by a big play, near halftime and resulting in an interception on a trick play. We didn't need a trick play. We spent our entire season making habit of blocking and running hard and I have full confidence we would have scored in that manner. 

Okay, momentary rant done.

Beyond the end I think all expectations were exceeded. I am so proud of my son and this group. I am absolutely enamored and hope we (players and parents and family) find ways to remember and celebrate this era. My momentary sadness and sense of loss will turn to fond memories and hopefully a continued sense of building community and football here in Bloomington. Go Jags!

Sunday, August 6, 2023

A Quiet, but Exhausting Weekend

Finally! A weekend as I enjoy them...almost. Let's say I'm 85% full relaxed and peaceful. Coffee, morning soccer and getting back to some writing. The 15% is due to the muffler on my car having rusted out. I'm pretty sure I just redid most of the exhaust within the last couple of years so I'm a little perplexed that this muffler (well really where the pipe attaches) went so fast. Oh well. 

The car has 260k miles on it so in reality I've been looking for the next. I'm rather stubborn though. I really enjoy not having a car payment as well as a vehicle I know how to work on and gets better than 30 mpg. I also enjoy driving a stick shift :). Similar to writing in cursive, the manual transmission has become something of a novelty these days. This is too bad as they are fun to drive; with the exception of when sitting in traffic (the key is to leave lots of space). The stick "perk" is that, due to their rarity, no one really learns to drive them anymore; making it an excellent anti-theft device. 

The reality is, with my propensity for projects, fall hauling of football pads/gear for coaching, the need to tackle winter weather and now having a couple of towables, something bigger is in order. It would be fun to find something older with lower miles that I can just pay cash. I think I'm intent on having the current rust bucket as long as I can, relegating it to being my commuter to save on gas. 

After the great longevity I've had with my little Corolla S and the Sienna my co-parent drives, I've been leaning towards a Toyota. A late '90's early 2000's Land Cruiser, 4Runner or even a Lexus LX seem like front runners. I also haven't ruled out a pickup. Still, I'm not out to buy a rust bucket with 300k miles, this makes the search a bit of a challenge. Admittedly, there is a fair amount of risk when buying old and used. Some expectations of repairs are expected. 

The other challenge is one of our time: vehicle prices are really high. Most reports point to the woes the semiconductor industry have had in maintaining supplies of all the chips needed to support new vehicle production. Modern cars use a lot of chips to do various things, from managing emissions to interior climate control and autonomous driving features. Still, this has put a crimp on supplying the new vehicles that, in turn, result in used vehicles. Inflation and supply/demand have really made prices soar. I do contemplate waiting, however, I also have my doubts that a truly significant decline in prices will occur for quite some time and, if they do happen they won't be appreciable enough to be worth waiting for. 

For now, I'll repair my car as needed. I do have the Ford Freestyle that my son drives for any bigger hauling. Not to mention renting a truck for significantly bigger jobs is more cost effective than supporting another vehicle outright. My eye will be out for an opportunity, but I'm sure at the end of  today's repair job I'll be exhausted.