by Elise Seyfried
Sports spectating is not, as they say, my bag. Living in a city known for its sports nuts, I watch with detached amusement as grown men scream and jump up and down, curse, high-five each other and spill beer on themselves as they view their Flyers or Sixers or Phillies or Eagles. Who cares? Well, my husband, for one. We have a photo, taken in 1986, of us with World Series 1980 pitcher Tug McGraw (Tug had his own segment on Action News in those days and was covering Steve’s children’s theatre performance at a school). Steve was thrilled. I was unthrilled in the extreme. Nice guy, Tug was, but what was the big deal?
If I care not a whit for professionals who play the games, you can imagine my keen lack of interest in sports, back when my own children played. None of them were exactly kindergarten standouts, so what I recall most were the baseball games that lasted well into the night (on unlit fields, I might add), when the frenzied dad-coaches swore they could still see the ball and we could go one more inning.
I also remember the Arctic chill of late-fall evening soccer. When “our” team was behind, I secretly hoped our opponents would crush us quickly so we could all go home. Confession: during an early basketball game with my daughter Rose playing, I was totally engrossed in conversation with my friend Holly. At one point the ref, who happened to be a friend from church, actually came over to me and informed me that Rosie had just made a basket (her very first, in fact) and that I should pretend later to have seen it. I gave an Oscar-worthy performance at halftime, oohing and aahing at her athletic prowess. Knowing Rose, she probably wasn’t fooled for a minute, but she gave me the benefit of the doubt.
I kept thinking that my attitude would improve as they grew older. Surely a middle-school baseball tournament, with Sheridan on the pitcher’s mound, would be more engrossing than watching the same child at age 5, whaling vainly away at T-ball, would have been! Surely I would be swept up in the excitement of the other Upper Dublin High School football spectators when PJ took to the field as place-kicker! Nah. Still totally disinterested, still waiting impatiently until the final whistle blew, until the last play was over. I viewed watching my kids’ games as my motherly cross to bear, and counted the days until I would be off the hook forever.
Well, guess what? It’s happened. I am no longer contractually obligated to sit on any bleachers anywhere. And you know what? I kinda miss it. Not the sports themselves of course — nor the sports-crazed parents. (One parent of a boy on Evan’s team was given to shrieking at the children, even following them out to the parking lot afterward to rant and rave.) I do, however, miss being an important game-watcher — important to my kids, that is, even when I was rooting for a field hockey player I could have sworn was Julie and wasn’t. My offspring never got mad if I cheered their adversary’s goal by accident; they just wanted me physically present for them.
So our college man PJ came home for Steve’s birthday last April and needed to go back to Millersville University for a lacrosse game. (The team he played on was doing very well, on its way to a national championship). On an impulse, Steve and I decided to drive out and watch his game. It was all so uncomfortably familiar — the bitter cold, the hard bleachers, the requisite bizarre screaming fan (this guy wore a full yellow bodysuit).
But attending PJ’s game gave me another chance, maybe one of my last chances ever, to stand up and cheer for my child at play. The years are flying by at a ridiculous pace, and — there’s no getting around it — my brood is all grown up. Someday soon, it will be their turn to stand on the sidelines and watch their own offspring score that basket or (if they take after their grandma) miss hitting that T-ball. Meanwhile, though, I could still watch PJ (it WAS PJ; wasn’t it?), racing down the field.
Wonder of wonders, I enjoyed myself that evening. College lacrosse is, I must admit, very fast-moving and, I guess, even a little bit exciting. PJ was, himself, fast-moving and fun to watch. But best of all: PJ was genuinely happy we had come. And just because of that, I was happy too.
I may still be an ignorant numbskull when it comes to understanding even the rudiments of sport, and I still wouldn’t pay 10 cents for tickets to anything at Citizen’s Bank Park or the Wells Fargo Center. But as long as my kids are glad to see me, anytime, anywhere, I’ll be there.
Elise Seyfried is Director of Spiritual Formation at Christ’s Lutheran Church in Oreland. She is also an actress, wife, mother of five and co-author (with husband, Steve) of 15 plays for children. She is also the author of a self-published book, “Unhaling: On God, Grace and a Perfectly Imperfect Life.”