Anyone who knows Lily has seen her run like the wind. Anyone who knows Levi has witnessed his rougher side.
Many of you know that watching your kids grow up participating in sports is one of life’s great blessings. You know that people in my profession spend most of our time around sports, whether covering games or writing about the people involved.
What you might not be familiar with is that we spend much of our lives missing out on, well, a sizable portion of life — you know, helping our kids out with their homework or family events such as a great grandmother’s 90th birthday party.
Our jobs require nights. Our jobs require weekends.
That said, I’m entering a realm in which the athletic world isn’t only about scratching my head to find ways to put fresh sentences and ideas together. Not only about debating all sides of the American sports culture with colleagues. Not only about setting the DVR.
These days I find myself in the same role as many of you — lunatic parent. You know, the guy who screams bloody murder in the form of “three seconds” every, single, second. The guy who gives credit to his kids when victorious and blames others when not.
And, just like you, I’m enjoying every minute of it.
Much like you and yours, witnessing my daughter and three stepchildren begin to blaze their own paths through sports is a clear path to pride. It’s not something that’s ever been pushed onto them, but all four have found enjoyment on their own.
Lily, 2, just ran her first 50-yard dash.
Levi, 8, is being introduced to soccer this spring — and getting better by the game.
Esau, 10, is a skilled outdoorsman and encyclopedia in all things hunting (a major fact being that hunting is a sport).
And Kayley, 12, has immersed herself in just about everything — beginning with cheerleading, volleyball and basketball.
These days, I find myself clinching a $5 bill for the concession stand (gotta keep Lily “Terrible Twos” Stark happy) just as much as my pen, notebook or recorder. These days, I find myself fighting the urge to scream at officials instead of laughing at other crazed parents who do the same.
The reason I mentioned Lily and Levi in the first paragraph is because their respective journeys have just begun.
I’ve never seen Lily Copeland happier than her sprint down the red bricks of College Ave. during the kids’ dash of the Azalea 10k last Saturday. She was almost impossible to hold still at the starting line, because she knew what all that jogging around the house was really about.
“Training for the race. Race! Race! Race!”
“On your mark, get set, go!”
And she was off.
I’ve never seen Levi Joaquin sprint with more urgency than his return to midfield after Americas took a 2-1 lead over the Rockets later in the day. All those hours playing FIFA 2012 on his PS3 — in addition to his new coach and teammates — have taught him a lot about soccer.
“It was awesome, dude!,” he told me after the game, just before his mom, Naomi, took him to Grandma and Grandpa’s for celebratory fried chicken and ice cream, topped off by Oreo pie.
Experiencing such moments makes me think back on my own early childhood, when my dad built a fledgling dynasty in flag football, aptly named the Raiders. Back when a great summer league baseball coach taught me how to play catcher, and then grilled up hamburgers and took the mighty Senators for a spin on his barge after practice.
Back when everyone huddled around the TV at my grandparents house in time to see the opening kickoff of the Cowboys, at which point my uncle Hugh always reminded us: “This is going to be a long day.” Back when “10-Yard Fight” and “Double Dribble” were the greatest video games ever made and my bedroom came complete with a locker filled with the helmet and jersey of the Penn State Nittany Lions — long before a monster named Jerry Sandusky forever stained the name.
Kayley, Esau, Levi and Lily are daily reminders that sports — much like one of Levi’s favorite cereals, which he often points out we never get him — are for kids. And watching them play ball, run or return from Central Texas with a 19-pound turkey in tow brings out the bright-eyed wonder in me.
On Saturday, I asked Lily whether she enjoyed the race while she basked in glory with her Lolli, Pop, Aunt J and cousin Paiten, her 50-yard dash teammate, a new pair of shiny medals in their little red wagon.
“No!” she replied, with that brilliant smile.