Sunday, October 28, 2012

Fear & Loathing in the Arapahoe Youth League

Or, What Did We Learn As a Family This Football Season?

Since there are all Major Arcana in this draw, we can be assured we have learned a lot, and they were karmic lessons for all of us!

Deviant Moon Tarot- The Magician, The World, Justice

What a long, strange, often exhilarating, often frustrating, few months it has been since we started our football season in July.  I say "we" because even though Little Big Man was the one playing football, and NicNoodle the one doing the cheering, three or four practices a week, plus a game every Saturday for both of them, usually in different places, required a real commitment from the whole family.  It has really been a hectic few months, but I wouldn't change a minute of it.  Yesterday marked the last day of the Little Big Mans' regular season, while NicNoodle still has practices every week and several cheer competitions through November.

NicNoodle Cheering!
The Magician shows both of these kids learning how to bring their desires and ambitions forth from fantasy into the real, physical world.  The World shows how they have progressed, both mentally, with new found self esteem and belief in themselves, and physically, with their ever improving skills.  It has been awe inspiring to watch this progression, especially with me feeling so much the proud mama.  They started out a little unsure, maybe a bit awkward at the beginning of the season, but they were both determined to tap into any innate talent they possessed and they both were willing to work hard to master the skills they needed to excel at their sports.  The World completes a cycle, just like the end of a season does, and while they should never stop improving, they have come so far, learned so much, and they are both ready to step into the next part of their learning journey.  They are leaving this season not only better athletes, more confident in themselves,but also as better sportsmen and having learned many valuable lessons on how to be a good and decent human being in a world that sometimes lacks those.
Little Big Man & Coach
The Justice card probably alludes to some other kinds of learning that have taken place for these kiddos, and for us, their parets, too- Life's not fair.  It's that simple.  I don't care if my kids win or lose, though winning probably feels better to them.  I care about the lessons they learn, and we all have to learn to win AND lose gracefully.

One particular game was played against a team that is coached by the president of the Arapahoe Youth League, a conflict of interest if I ever heard one, not to mention this particular team has the same officials at each of their games.  The reputation of this team was that of being "The Best" in the AYL, but our Spartan Bronze was wiping the field with them.  The other team couldn't get past ours to score, and they couldn't shut our offensive line down to keep us from scoring.  At the point it became apparent Spartan Bronze was going to best the supposed best team in the AYL, the one coached by the president of the AYL, the officials, the same ones that ref every game this opposing teams plays, started making some "interesting" calls and throwing down some odd flags for penalties.
Eli Game Face
It began with calling "Intentional Grounding" several times on the Spartan Bronze quarterback, a call which is almost never heard at this level of play, because it can be really hard to discern what is in fact intentional grounding, and what is simply 12 year old arm inaccuracy.  We then had three touchdowns in a row called back for our offensive linemen "Holding", but they were not even involved in the play.  All three of these called back touchdowns were run in by one amazing wide receiver, who had to have been near spent after sprinting 50+ yards three times in as many minutes.  On the last "Holding" call, the Spartan Bronze quarterback was just watching his beautiful pass being run right into the end zone for a score when he took a late hit by two HUGE (like seriously, I think they had to shave before the game and drove themselves there) opposing players that absolutely leveled him.  No one was blocking for him anymore because he had loosed the ball several seconds earlier and the action was all down the field, scoring.  The officials called a "Holding" on Spartan Bronze, although to my eye it was a Spartan and a Bruin rolling around together on the grass like a make out session, so how they knew who was holding who is beyond me.  The bitch of this call was that the "Holding"  took place right next to the late hit on our quarterback, and that late hit was never called or acknowledged.  That poor kid laid on
NicNoodle in the cold!
the ground for several minutes, and good sportsmanship dictates all players should take a knee while there is an injured player on the field, and then we all applaud when he stands up.  The opposing team failed to do this, players, parents, and coaches alike, undoubtedly having been taught their own brand of sportsmanship by their coach, the esteemed president of the Arapahoe Youth League.

One of our coaches is the father of the mowed down quarterback, and he was visibly as well as justifiably upset.  That was an intentional late hit by two players, each of them easily double the size of our quarterback, being taught to play dirty football.  It makes ones head shake, dirty football being taught to 12 & 13 year olds, by adults they have been told to trust and look up to.  The officials were all over the supposed "Holding" call, but they can't see an intentional late hit less than a yard away?  Smells a little fishy.  Or like greenbacks, to me.

The quarterback suffered a serious concussion, one that took him out for the rest of the season, but before we knew that, while we were still trying to play this rigged game out fairly,  his dad was justifiably heated, asking loudly, but respectfully, with no cursing, how they can see the supposed "Holding" but no late hit?

After this incident, there were several more "Intentional Grounding" flags thrown on our Spartan Bronze quarterback, and I can't even blame the little dude if he was in fact trying to dump the ball, although I believe he plays hard in every moment.  The officials had made it clear to the opposing team they weren't going to be penalized for late hits, as well as having been real clear with our quarterback he was not going to get any protection from them, which is their job to provide.

Beautiful Cheerleader, NicNoodle!
However, the final straw came when an opposing player ran out of bounds a good few yards before the goal line and that was called a touchdown.  The younger official, nearest the play, indicated no scare, but the older official, all the way at the other end of the field (gotta watch for those crazy Spartan holders, you know, and make sure the Bruins were gonna get more chances to beat up the quarterback, totally sanctioned) called it a touchdown.  Unbelievable, but it is all caught on tape.  At this point, some of our parents became quite vocal, although again, no cursing, no threat, just a bunch of "Come on"s and "How could you"s, not to mention support for Spartan Bronze, "That's all right, guys.  You got this anyway.  You have skills, you don't need luck!"
At this point in the fourth quarter, Spartan Bronze should have been up 19-12, even without our called back touchdowns and even with the touchdown the Bruins never scored but got counted.  The head official, Mister Talking Back to All the Parents, Mister I Let Tiny QBs Take Nasty Late Hits, Mister I Throw a Flag on Every Play the Spartans Benefit From & Make up a Plausible Penalty Later, called a forfeit on Spartan Bronze, due to the loud grumbling of the parents on the sidelines.  At least, that was the reason we were given, but I believe, in my entire heart and being, that the truth of the matter is Spartan Bronze was well on the verge of beating the supposed best team in the AYL, and the paid off officials couldn't allow that to happen.  They were even looking to the opposite sideline, to the coach and president of the AYL, to hear what penalty they were supposed to call.  Spartan Bronze was about to score again and seal the deal of the win, as there were only a handful of plays left in the game.  When the forfeit (another thing almost unheard of at this level) was called, the coach of the opposing team, who is the president of the Arapahoe Youth League, led his team and his players in clapping loudly.  They can't applaud a hurt little dude regaining his feet, but they can clap for the shame of a forfeited game they were never going to win?  Who the hell claps like that?  If it were my team, I would have insisted they play it out, because they sent a very clear message to the opposing teams' players, that they were well aware the Bruins couldn't beat Spartan Bronze on skill.

The other team didn't bother to come across the field to high five each other, or even huddle up to discuss the game themselves.  They just slunk off the field, one by one, in shame, which they needed to feel.  Their coach has taught them to play dirty, the entire coaching staff was clear to them they did not believe they could win this game, and their parents were complicit in all of this.

However, Spartan Bronze all huddled up together, because they are a team, and they win together, they lose together, and apparently they, through no fault of their own, forfeit together.  19 teenage boys crying in unison, and  we all know 12 & 13 year old boys don't cry at all if there can be any help at all for it.  We have been telling them to just do their best, and leave the rest up to us, the adults, the coaches, the refs, the people in charge, and now their faith has been shattered.

Eli in glorious football whites!
I don't think there has been any Justice for our boys in this situation, but this is a pretty damn ugly Justice card, full of slimy creatures from the dark places.  Spartan Bronze played their hearts out that day, and they played a game to be proud of.  The parents, on both sides of the field, the officials in the pocket of the AYL's president, and the poor sportsmanship of the opposing team, coached and led by the president of the Arapahoe Youth League, stole this game from some very deserving young men.

The quarterback of Spartan Bronze suffered the most serious concussion possible, and may never play football again, and all because the officials did not care about our kids getting hurt.  The QBs father, one of our coaches, and an ordained minister, was suspended for the season, for yelling at the officials for not protecting his son.  Our head Coach was suspended for the next game, as is protocol when a game is forfeited, and the remaining two coaches had a rough time in the following game.

The young men, and even we as parents, got a very hard lesson that we don't always get Justice, even when we deserve it, and sometimes when Justice is served, we still don't get to see it.  The boys from the opposing team left without pride, and that is so sad for young men to be that jaded, beginning to corrupt around the edges.  This lack of Justice, at least in a tangible way we can see and know about, is particularly hard on my Little Big Man, as he is a Libra, who rules Justice, and he really needs for thing to be fair.  We have all got a hard lesson in, "It's not right, but it's okay.  I'm gonna make it anyway" (thank you, Whitney Houston) and they are being taught honor over winning at any cost, which will serve them better in life.  They lost one game.  The Cherry Creek Bruins, Coach McMinimee's team, are well on their way to losing at life, and that is too sad for young men who probably do have some talent.

Deviant Moon Tarot- Page of Wands
The Shadow Card is the Page of Wands, who often indicates in my reading one of my 13 year old sons, is here to tell me that the other 13 year old has not enjoyed football season as much a the rest of us have.  He is in a rough spot.  He loves his dad, with every fiber of his being, and it is hard for him to share his dad with the other kids.  We tell him we are a family, we support each other, and we want to support and be there for him just as much as he has been supporting his brother and sister.  What we have not told him, because it is not his burden to bear, is that his mother deliberately keeps us from knowing what is going on with him, so we can't show up, then, and based on the things he has said to us, he is told that Danica and Eli take priority and we will never let him do the things he loves, which is the vilest kind of lie.  He is every bit as important to us, and we will make every effort he gets to do any activity he wants, including paying for it and attending functions.  Also, despite being 13, he does not always think on the level we expect 13 year olds to think.  We have emphasized over and over that football is brief, and when it is over our weekends will calm down again, but three months can seem like forever to little kids.We would be just as happy to let him stay home on these football days, if we got more than a handful of days a month with him, but a it is now, this has to be family time, too.  Based on his unsolicited comments, it also seems that he is being told, from the other side of his family, that this part of it is not his real family, and he doesn't have to participate in it.  This is particularly damaging because I believe he wants to be part of this family.  He loves his dad.  He wants to love his new siblings.  I try very hard to make his life here seamless and that he is aware how loved he is, how precious, how we would do anything for him.  This poor kid feels like he is on thin ice no matter what he may do, and he is just trying to navigate this slippery slope as best as he can, and it is heart breaking to watch.

Thanks for sticking with me through this long, vain post, full of pictures of my awesome Spartans!  I am so grateful for my ex to cooperate and allow Nicoodle to participate, and his wife to help get her where she has needed to be.  I am so grateful to Grandpa and Grandma Fluffy, for coming to support the kids whenever they could, to my aunt and brother who did the same, and of course Uncle Billy & Auntie Des, and the cousins, who push my kids, who support them, and who always make them feel special!  Thank you to my 17 year old young men, who have come when they could, and never voiced a complaint when football has had to come first.  Most of all, I need to thank my amazing husband, a very good dad, for making the sacrifices, both time and money, to make this possible for the kids.  We have given up several evenings a week and most of our weekends for the past three months, and I am not sure there are a lot of people who would do that for "stepkids".  I love you all, and the kids and I are blessed to have you in our lives!

These cards are from Deviant Moon Tarot by Patrick Valenza, published by U.S. Games System, Inc.


  1. i admit sports talk is gibberish to me, but lovely kiddos :]

    1. Yeah sports talk is not interesting unless you are into it, but it was a crazy season. Since you complimented my kids I'm just grateful you stopped by! Thank you!

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