Monday, February 8, 2016

A Salute to my Son's Childhood Star

Last night we were flying home from the Dominican Republic during the first half of the Super Bowl. No sooner had we landed at our home airport ("Tri-Cities," as it's shared by the cities of Kingsport, Johnson City, and Bristol) then my husband's phone went off with text updates from our son, who was watching the game at his university flat in London.

Where it was two in the morning on a school night.

I texted back, "Why are you still awake? This is Mom." (Because his father would not ask that question.)

He replied, "Because I cheered for Peyton Manning for my entire childhood and this may be my last chance."

I replied, "Good reason."

Usually we have a little family Super Bowl party, just the four of us, with extra-special "Super Bowl drinks." From our children's earliest childhood we've gone to Wal-Mart on Super Bowl Saturday and perused their weird collection of offbeat sodas. Cheerwine. Cherry Cream. Ginger Beer.Everyone gets to make their own selection, just for the Super Bowl. My own personal Super Bowl drink was usually a nice New Zealand sauvingnon blanc. We'd buy weird frozen snacks, too, mozzarella cheese sticks or potato skins, something like that, and dinner would be snacks and soda.

We put the kids to bed at halftime back then, which eliminated any need to pay attention to the half time show.

My daughter, like me, was mostly in it for the party, but my son has been passionate about football since he's been old enough to be passionate about anything. When we lived in Indianapolis, we were just down the street from the Colts's practice facility, which we passed every day. After Super Bowl 31, when my son was just 2 years old, I couldn't drive him past the place without hearing him say, from his car seat, "Mommy? The Packers won the Super Bowl."

"Packers won," I'd say.

My son loved the Colts best, naturally. A year later we moved to east Tennessee, where the local college hero was some fresh-faced kid named Peyton Manning. Peyton graduated and got drafted by the Colts--my son was four or five--he was in heaven. The best player on the best team.

For his birthday when he was six he got a little Peyton Manning jersey. He wore it to his birthday party. The cake was shaped like a football, and my son had me add the Colts's symbol in blue icing.

If you're going to have a sports hero, you might as well have one as classy as Peyton Manning. No arrests, no drugs, no violence. A few years ago, Peyton Manning actually came to play golf at one of our local clubs for a weekend. One of my son's best friends was working there as a cart boy. Thunderstruck at seeing Peyton, my son's friend held out his hand and said, "Hi, I'm S--." Peyton shook it and said, "Nice to meet you. I'm Peyton."

I hope he retires, because it's good to end on a high note. Glad my son could cheer for him for all these years.