We Are the Champions, Statistically, of the World, More Or Less (Part 3)"I know you're feeling terrible," I said to Eli 10.2 in the locker room. "And I know you're upset with Jarret [the star]."
"The first goal was his fault," Eli said through his tears. "And he deflected the third goal--I was going to stop the shot."
"I know," I said. "But when you calm down, you need to go talk to him. He's only eight. He had so much pressure on him, and now he's over there feeling totally alone. You need to go tell him it's okay."
Jarret was sitting at the other end of the locker room, crying hard, with his head in his hands. Eli looked toward him. "I can't do it yet," he said, another tear falling.
"That's okay," I said. "You just need to do it before we leave. It's a good time for you to be a leader. Anyone can lead after a win."
We sat there for a few more minutes, and the tears slowed down, then stopped. Gloria and I helped him with his gear, his eyes still watery, and when the bag was packed, he said, "Let's go."
"Jarret," I said. "Then we'll go."
I could see that Eli was struggling, trying to compose himself as he walked over. Jarret was still crying, and Eli leaned over, put his hand on his shoulder, and spoke to him softly. I couldn't hear what he was saying, but I saw Jarret's dad nodding while he talked. Jarret didn't say much, but Eli talked to him for a few minutes, and he had stopped crying by the time Eli was done.
Eli walked back over to us. "I know that was the hardest thing you've done all weekend," I said. "Well done."
There's a Carino's in Laredo where we ate after the championship game last year, and for a combination of reasons, it was spectacular. Eli said he wanted to go there again.
On the way, he complained about everything.
"I've come here for TWO YEARS and lost in the championship both times," he said. "Nothing went right today. Everything has gone wrong."
By the time we got to the restaurant, it was lunch rush hour, and we saw a few people sitting on benches. "Oh, no," he said. "Now we're going to have to wait. Of course. EVERYTHING has gone wrong today."
We didn't have to wait (please note that this did not count as something going right), and sat down at a table with a good view of an HD screen showing an NFL game.
We didn't say anything for a while. I knew he was hurting, and it was a new kind of hurt. It's hard for grown-ups to handle that, let alone kids.
After a few minutes, I picked up his child's menu, which was on one sheet of paper. I neatly folded it and took off a strip of paper about 3" wide. Then I started folding it like a flag is folded, which makes a triangle shape.
"What is that?" he asked.
"A paper football," I said. "When I was a kid, we played paper football on our desks whenever we had a few minutes."
"I DO NOT believe you," he said.
I started sliding the paper football back and forth across the table top. "So you slide it back and forth," I said, "and if you get part of the football over the edge, it's a touchdown."
I slid the football toward him. He waited a few seconds, then pushed it back with his finger. I pushed it back towards him. After a few tries, he pushed it and the football just reached the edge of the table, with the point hanging over. "Here's how you check for a touchdown," I said. "You slide your finger along the edge of the table at a ninety degree angle, and if the football moves, it's a touchdown."
I did, and it moved. "TOUCHDOWN!" he said.
"Time for the extra point," I said, making goalposts with my hands. I showed him how to hold the football in place and kick it with his finger, which he thought was very silly (it is, which is one of the reasons I love paper football). He kicked and it hit the crossbar (my index fingers), then tumbled over.
"It's good!" he said.
We played for about 15 minutes while we were awaiting for our food. I taught him about footballs over the edge, and how three meant a field goal attempt for the other player. My attempts at kicking were so pathetic that he started giggling every time I lined one up. We also tried a few kicks over the breadbasket and assorted trick shots.
He blasted one kick over the table on an extra point. "Nice kick, Sebastian Fingerowski," I said, and he cracked up.
"Fingerowski," he said. "Good one, Dad!"
I was behind 36-30, but I just needed one more touchdown before the food came. Then Eli pushed the football halfway over the edge. "YES!" he said, and before he could kick the extra point, the food came.
Final score, 42-30.
"Good game, Dad," he said, tearing into his spaghetti.
"Same," I said.
We had an excellent dinner, and when we got back on the road, he was asleep within 15 minutes, not waking up until we were just outside San Antonio. We stopped at McDonald's to get drinks.
"I know it's hard to hear this now," I said, "but those three games were epic. They were unbelievable."
"They were, weren't they?" he said. "It was really exciting."
"Oh, you know something else?" I asked. "Corpus doesn't score many goals, and you scored three for them, so you might be their leading scorer for the season, and you don't even live there."
"That would be AWESOME!" he said.
"Maybe you'll get a plaque or something," I said, laughing.
"You know," he said, "we played McAllen twice and beat them once. And the score of those two games combined was 5-4. So really, we kind of won." Then he started singing: "WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS, statistically, OF THE WORLD, more or less."
We had a nice drive home.