Growing up, I would receive a phone call from my dad every day. My parents were divorced, so my dad called my siblings and me every day to see how our day went. Some days, I would not be overly enthusiastic about the call because I had nothing interesting to talk about. This was rarely the case in elementary school because I could always just tell him about what happened at recess. The best days were the days where I did something significant, like kicking a homerun in kickball or making an interception in football, but there were two days in particular where I could not wait to tell my dad about what happened at recess.
At the elementary school I attended, we played a variety of games at recess, but most of the time we played football. Like most young boys, we took recess football very seriously. Winning the football game was more important in our minds than our schoolwork. Consequently, tempers flared and arguments occured frequently.
In our later years, the teams were, for the most part, evenly matched. However, when we first started playing football, the teams were nowhere close to being evenly matched. We used the traditional system of two captains picking from a line of kids who stood by a wall, anxiously waiting to see which team would select them. The school would only provide us with wimpy nerf footballs, so we rewarded the kid who brought a real football from home by making him the captain who got to pick first. Stan (not his real name) almost always brought the ball, and he always made David (also not his real name) his first pick. The other captain was not allowed to pick Jim (another pseudonym) because Stan and Jim would fight if they were not on the same team. This allowed Stan, David, and Jim to always be on the same team. I felt this arrangement was extremely unfair because Stan, David, and Jim were the three best football players in the second grade, but I was too timid to voice my objection. Their sly stretegy for selecting teams ensured that the teams were virtually the same every day. Unfortunately for me, this meant I was always on the other team. A daily defeat at the hands of Stan, David, and Jim was basically guaranteed, causing me to refer to my own team as "the bad team" and their team as "the good team."
I hate losing, but I kept playing football at recess because I liked playing football (and still do) and there were no other acceptable options for recess activities, due to the small number of students at my school.
Due to my team's poor record, the only time I was able to tell my dad about my achievements in recess football was when I scored a touchdown, something that did not happen often for a member of the bad team. I took great pride in telling my dad when I scored a touchdown. Little boys always want to make their dad proud, and hearing the excitement in my dad's voice after telling him I had scored made me so happy. So, anytime I scored a touchdown I eagerly looked forward to his call that night, but the day we finally defeated the good team, I was especially excited to tell my dad about recess.
Then came the day when I was finally picked by the good team. That alone was enough to excite me. Yet, that was not all I had to tell my dad about that night. In that game, I scored two touchdowns, and my move to the good team became permanent (strangely, the unjust method of choosing teams ceased bothering me once I joined the good team).
Looking back, it is hard to believe how easy it was to find joy. Playing football at recess and telling my dad about it later was all I needed to be happy fourteen years ago. It was a much simpler time.
Shortly before we finished the sixth grade and moved on to junior high, we were given clay and instructed to make little sculptures of something that would help us remember our time at that school. I used mine to make a little football because playing football with my friends will always be my fondest memory of elementary school.