Life is Like That Sometimes by: Dr. Rod Kirk

 

 As a boy growing up I had many wonderful coaches and mentors along the way.  Ironically I played many years at various levels of hockey, but it was one particular football coach that shared some insight with me that has stayed with me to this day.    We had a lousy high school football team that year.  Actually, we were better then the previous year because they only scored on touchdown all year.  Our team, the second year of high school football at Lester B Pearson, faired a little better that year.  Sure we never won a game but we scored lots of points that year.  Sometimes teams actually had to  play their first stringers against us. I remember the day I learned a great lesson about life.  I feel like it was just yesterday, the image of the days events are permanently etched in my memory.  It was a cool fall day and we were visiting Central High School – the second worst team in high school football that year.  If we were going to make history to be the first team at our high school to win a game, there was probably no better day then that day.  We were leading late into the fourth quarter when I dropped back to pass.  One more first down and we would be able to run the time out.  We were on our own 25 yard line.  Hit, dive right, fake screen, on two, was the call.  We ran this play successfully all year, there was no reason to doubt it that day.  As I dropped back to pass my primary receiver gets held up and I check my backup receiver – he was wide open 15 yards up the field.  For a moment I felt as if the ‘Football Gods’ were watching over us.  It was the break we had finally deserved for all our official beatings we endured that year.  I pulled back and fired.  The next thing I know they have the ball on our 20 yard line and I have a bloody lip.  As I threw the ball their linebacker hit my throwing arm during my follow through and the ball went 5 yards forward and hit the ground.  It was ruled a fumble and was recovered by the other team.  They subsenquently scored and won the game.  An incomplete pass would have been the right call, but it looks like the ref made the wrong call (imagine that a referee making a wrong call).  To add insult to injury, the linebacker who broke up the pass wasn’t finished.  He decided it wouldn’t be that great a play unless he finished me off.  His hand came up under my face guard and as he drove my head into the field he decided to try and knock out my teeth.  Well I guess I could say I was fortunate that day I kept my teeth but my lip wasn’t that lucky, I was cut rather well.  I pleaded with the refs. But, under some remarkable turn of events that day, the referee did not reverse his call despite; me, the rest of the team and our fans yelling at him.  In great frustration I came to the bench threw my helmet (if I only through the ball that far there wouldn’t have been a problem that day) said every swear word I knew and combined them in every computation possible.  As I sat on the bench attending to my wounds I continued to voice my opinion of the injustices of the world, but no one seemed to be listening. My coach was an ex CFL player.  He was a strappingly prominent looking man.  The girls called him Clark Kent because they thought he looked like Superman, if Superman were a school teacher in his spare time.  He ran every day at lunch and was a specimen of great health.  He turned to me and walked to where I was standing, arms crossed, biceps bulging, and not a hair out of place.  Where he stood the sun was setting behind him and it almost looked like he stood in the middle of a ring of light that separated him from all the turmoil that was going on.   He said “Rod your actions will not be accepted on this team and if you continue you will remain on the bench for the rest of the game” “Are you serious did you not just see what happened,” I said. I went on about how that’s so unfair and that we never get a break.  He let me ramble on, I was spewing about the Refs the other team and of course the jerk who tried to excavate my teeth from my mouth.  Then in a somewhat surreal kind of manner my coach said.  “You’re right sometimes life is unfair.  But, there are two types of people in this world,   there are those that will react like you and feel as if the world is out to get you and there are those who brush themselves off refuse to make excuses and rise above it.” He turned away, walked back to his place on the side line and encouraged the defence.  If I could have found my helmet I would have thrown it at him.  I was so frustrated and felt like no one was listening.  What in the name of sport was this guy talking about. Five years ago, I was my son Fraser’s House League Hockey Coach.  It was his second year of hockey.  It was one of my most memorable times as a coach, from the interests of the boy’s right down to the bright yellow jerseys.  My five year old son was skating as hard as he could to get to a loose puck.  He was in hot pursuit by another boy on the Green Team, for a moment I found it amusing that the lime was chasing the lemon, however the race was on.  Fraser reached the puck first and as he changed direction to elude his citrus pursuer, the boy turned his stick over, placed it on the laces of my son’s skate and delinquently but deliberately tripped my son.  Fraser fell to his belly as the puck continued forward.  As the other boy went to collect his reward for his shifty hand eye coordination – that was most likely taught by his father, who in turn was probably celebrating his son’s accomplishments – my son, resembling more like a star fish then a hockey player, swings his arms side to side and trips the other boy.  As the puck moves to the other end of the ice, the referee approaches my son and leans over to tell him something.  You see that year there were no penalties handed out, just instructions.  When the ‘fair play buzzer sounded’ to change the lines my son and his line mates took refuge on the bench.  I leaned down to ask what the ref said and I notice a tear in the corner of his eye. “Are you hurt Buddy,” I said. “No” he replied.  “It’s not fair Dad he tripped me first and the ref doesn’t speak to him.” I paused for a moment and asked all the players on the bench to turn around and listen for a moment.  I told them that I was so proud that we get to learn our first life lesson from hockey at such an early age.  I told them the same thing my football coach told me many years before, that sometimes life may seem to be unfair.  I told them the choices you have when times like that occur.   I am uncertain how many of the boys looked at me the same way I looked at my coach that day.  I am also uncertain whether any of them got the point then or will ever eventually get it.  But, one thing I am sure is my son got it.  On our car ride home my wife asked Fraser what the Ref said to him.Fraser replied “don’t worry Mom I just learned my first life lesson.”

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