So besides that, here is what I’ve been thinking about: you know that stuff I was saying about wanting Scout to have an experience equal to what Tiny Coach got two years ago? I realized something there at the game in Chicago: he did. Two years ago I held TC in my arms, pressed up against the storage-shed-turned-visitors-locker-room, taking shelter from the intense sun and watching a wonderful outcome on the field. Someone on the Chicago organization saw me standing there with the baby and brought me a folding chair; I still appreciate that. This year I held Scout in my arms, pressed up against the same storage shed, taking shelter from the rain and watching the opposite outcome on the field. And someone on the Boston organization saw me standing there and brought us into the shed where the whole team was waiting out the lightning delay (and really didn’t want or need any company at the moment).
There are essentially two outcomes that a game you care about can have: one good and one bad. My experiences with my kids there spanned both of them. Both came with an unexpected act of kindness from someone who didn’t know us well. In both cases, I was proud of my team when they walked on the field and I was immensely proud of them when they walked off. Please don’t let that make you uncomfortable and please don’t try to argue with it. If you’re not ready to be proud of yourself, that’s one thing. But it doesn’t invalidate my admiration and respect.
This next part is especially for the players for whom this was their last season playing. Maybe you thought your legacy was going to be a third championship, obtained through a rewrite of last year’s ending. It would have been a nice legacy, to be sure. Poetic, even. I was hoping for that, obviously, and over the past week had increasing heart palpitations and aaaahhhh!!! moments as I thought about the game. But I was honestly surprised to feel a true sense of calm once we got to the field. While in general I am not exactly boss at finding my zen, in this case my zen found me. I still don’t know why. So towards the end of the first quarter, when the score began to really not be what I was hoping to see, I just stepped back from the field a little bit and looked around.
And right there, in the grassy area outside of the fence which demarcated the actual field, were two little girls. Maybe ten or eleven years old? Somewhere around there. And they were just running around, throwing a football back and forth. Maybe not so much catching it, but definitely working on it. (One of them had a pretty good spiral going.) And I watched them, and tears came to my eyes. This, I thought. This is your legacy. I thought it was going to happen on the field where you were playing, but I was watching it happen on the grass right next to you. Backseat Coach saw it, too.
I don’t know who those girls were. I don’t even know if either of them wants to play football; maybe they were just bored and that’s what was around. But that’s not what matters here. The truth is that women’s tackle football and all that comes with it is trending upwards and no one can stop it now. Do you know about Maddy Paige? She’s a twelve-year-old girl in Georgia who was the starting left defensive tackle on her school’s football team last year, then was told by the school that she couldn’t play again this year because it was inappropriate to have a girl playing on a boys’ team. (It’s a private Christian school and thus exempt from Title IX.) Her mom started a Facebook page called “Let Her Play”, thinking that if she could get a few hundred supporters, she might be able to convince the school to change their mind. In a matter of weeks, she got almost 50,000.
Maddy Paige is your legacy. Sam Gordon is your legacy. Those girls I saw on Saturday are your legacy. My sons, who will grow up with your sport as a part of their everyday reality, are your legacy. Their understanding of women will be shaped in part by the sport you played when no one else wanted you to or thought you could. I cannot thank you enough for that. You helped create the environment that is allowing this groundswell of support to manifest. Especially those of you who started playing ten or fifteen years ago – you are pioneers. It breaks my heart that so few people will know what you did, but I promise you that I will do what I can to change that.
If you are done playing now, my family and I thank you deeply and sincerely, and we hope that you’ll remain an active part of the greater Militia family from off the field. (Come sit with us! I usually have candy!) And if you’re planning to return next year, I cannot wait to see you out there. Please get healthy and stay safe.
Finally, you can ascribe this last part to whatever emotion you’d like but the honest truth is that it would have been accurate completely regardless of the outcome of Saturday’s game: every day, at least once a day, I stop what I’m doing and just allow myself to be grateful that Cahill is not a singer/songwriter. #thatisall