Friday Nights

December 13, 2009
By
No matter what I do I will always remember these words, “You got something special kid, you can get out of here.” My brother Danny told me this at the beginning of my senior year. I live in Gilroy Illinois with my mom and brother. We live in a two room apartment in the heart of the city where I share a room with my brother but we get along real well so I don’t mind. My mom works two jobs one at night and one during the day. During the day my mom works as a bank teller and during the night she works the graveyard shift at the local grocery store. My brother Danny works at the local grocery store on the weekends. During the week he goes to the local community college. School is really important to my mom, she always said no matter what that we would finish school. Danny helps me with all my problems in life and especially in football. Every game I can always find my brother and mom sitting in the bleachers behind the end zone.
Every year we have our annual rivalry game for football, it is always the last game of the year and whoever wins it goes to the state playoffs. We have lost the last three years to Live Oak while they have gone on to win the state championships these last three years. This year is going to be different though we are more talented then we have ever been and we have the best coaches around. Football is my way out of this town as long as I have a good season.
Football is my life; I live for Friday night lights. The only time I ever feel good about myself is when I am on the football field. Danny taught me how to catch and run when I was six years old and ever since then I have been in love with the game. Last year’s rivalry game was the only time I have ever not wanted to play football. It was a battle through three quarters and it was tied 10-10. Both defenses were doing really well and it was starting to look like it would end in a draw. When the fourth quarter started we all knew we had to get it done, it was win or go home. We started off the fourth quarter with the ball around the fifty yard line. Riley ran to the sideline to get the play from our coach. He sprinted back to the huddle with a smile on his face. “52 green reverse.” I started to feel something I had never felt before. I felt fear that I would mess up. I was getting the ball and I knew that if I scored on this play we would win the game. Set, hike I ran towards Riley and all I could see was a green pathway to the end zone. I started to run but realized I didn’t have the ball anymore. I turned to find it and saw a Live Oak player running with it to the end zone. Live Oak won that game 17-10; I blamed myself for the loss. I had screwed up in life before but never in football. My family and coaches all said the same thing. They all told me how it wasn’t my fault that a lot of things happened to make us lose that game. I didn’t want to hear it; I promised myself that I would never be afraid in a football game again. This year was going to be different though we have been working harder than ever before and our coaches say that we are the best team they have ever coached in there twenty-five years of experience.
It was the week of our first game and we were all excited. We were going all the way this year. First we had to take care of Sobrato High School and then we would be on our way to the state championship. All week I could not even focus on my classes all I could think about was Friday night and how good it would feel to be playing football again. The week went by pretty quickly and it was Thursday night and I was talking to Danny in our room. He was telling me stories from when he used to play and how excited he would get. We shared everything with each other. I never had to be afraid that he would tell my mom, but if I was screwing up he would take care of me personally. I was telling him how I was just ok and that I was having doubts about my ability. That night he told me something I will never forget, “Theo you don’t understand kid you got something special. You can make it, you can get out of this town. Don’t let nobody tell you different. You got something special kid.” I could tell he was starting to cry and that made me tear up too. No one said another word as we fell asleep in silence that night.
The first game came and went, I scored three touchdowns and we killed Sobrato High School 42-0. It was great start to a great season. The entire team was pumped after the game. We knew we were going to win but we didn’t know we would beat them by that much. Then when I got home me and my brother talked about the game for almost an hour. He said I did a lot of good things but then he pointed out all the things I needed to get better on. Leave it to Danny to let me know what I did wrong. It’s ok though I need his criticism; it has helped me get to where I am right now.
The next week was great everyone treated me like a hero. Danny said that this would happen and that I shouldn’t let it get to my head so I didn’t listen to the praise that much. If we didn’t keep winning then that game wouldn’t matter anyways. For the next eight weeks I was on cruise control. I got my school work done but I mainly focused on football. There was nothing else on my mind. We won all of those eight games by huge margins. It was never even close, we beat each team by at least two touchdowns or more. We were dominating teams but so was Live Oak. It was the same thing as last year, winner goes to the state playoffs while the losers end their season early and wonder what could have happened. That was not going to be us this year, no way not this time.
The next week was game week and everyone was pumped up. When I got to school on Monday, I was shocked a big L O had been burned into the center of our football field. I knew that they would pull a prank but I didn’t know that they would go this far. The team was angry and we wanted to retaliate. Coach Jackson told us that anyone who was caught pulling a prank on Live Oak would sit out the game on Friday night. I decided that it would be too much of risk to even think about doing something back in retaliation. The worst part about it is that none of the Live Oak guys were going to be punished. The team figured that we would give them their punishment on Friday night.
Then Wednesday came around, a day I will never forget. I was walking home from practice and I was thinking about this upcoming Friday. We had just had a great practice and we were ready for our revenge game. When I turned the corner onto Magdelena I saw my brother walking also. I sprinted to catch up with him and just as I was about to reach him a car sped past me and stopped right next to my brother. Then I saw two guys jump out. BOOM, BOOM!! I watched in horror as the guys took off in the car and as my brother’s body slowly fell to the pavement. I sprinted toward my brother’s lifeless body and fell on top of him. I was in complete shock and couldn’t hold the tears back. As he took his last breaths he whispered those same words to me. “You can make it, you can get out of this town.” I cried even harder when his breathing stopped and I knew he was dead.
I didn’t go to school or to practice the next day. The game seemed childish compared to what I had to deal with now. I didn’t even know if I could play the next day verses Live Oak. Football was the last thing on my mind. My mom was a mess and I knew that I was going to have to help her out through this tough time. We found out that earlier that day some punks had been harassing a girl at the grocery store. My brother stepped in and told them to get lost. Then it turned rough and my brother got in a fight with a few of them. He beat them up pretty good. They killed him in retaliation.
My coaches came to my house to offer their condolences and to tell me not to worry about showing up to the game tomorrow. They told me that there were more important things then football and that I had a lot to take care of at home right now. As they were talking to me I had made my decision about tomorrow night. No one could change my mind I knew where I belonged and where Danny would have wanted me to be. I told my mom my decision and she said that she would be watching from her and Danny’s usual spot behind the end zone. That night I couldn’t sleep. I didn’t know if it was because my room felt empty or if I was nervous about the game. I went to school that day and didn’t even pay attention, my head was in the game and there was no taking me out of it. My coaches were surprised but glad to see me. They had not expected me to even think about going to the game let alone play in it. I knew that to make the pain go away for at least an hour I needed to be on the football field. It was the only way to heal my pain.
Finally the game came and I was completely zoned in on what I had to do to make sure we won. During the first three quarters it was a defensive battle. At the end of the third quarter it was tied 0-0 still. No one expected it to be any different it was two great teams battling it out to see who was better or at least who wanted to win more. Then the fourth quarter started and we were on offense. Our quarterback Riley through me the ball on a post pattern and I caught it. Then I sprinted by two of their players and dove into the end zone to avoid the third defender. I looked over towards my mom and saw her crying silently to herself. I knew Danny was watching somehow, he never missed a game. The game ended and so did our streak of not getting into the state playoffs. After the game I went home with my mom. The whole drive home we were silent. We got home and sat down at the kitchen table we were both crying. I could make it in football, and get out of this town but it wouldn’t be the same without Danny.





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