"Why not us?"      Russell Wilson, Super Bowl Winning Quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks


New Year, New Team, One dream!

Clayton Adamson's Time Out: Gridiron Anxiety

A football helmet acts like a mask as he turns from an 16-year-old boy interested in politics and philosophy to a 16-year-old man with a craving for grit and grind. He is not old enough to vote, to sign up for the army, or even to gain admittance to a “R” rated movie; however, he is old enough to have the immense pressure of a high school and a town on his shoulders. Whatever commotion and excitement lie in the outside stadium—the band, the fans, the cheerleaders—the locker room acts as a temple, comparable to the Hagia Sophia of Istanbul or the St. Peter’s Basilica of the Vatican. In this locker room lies “the calm before the storm.” Others can not picture the emotional strain one feels prior to the battle of the gridiron unless he too has sat in a locker room on a Fall Friday Night. 

His feet are numb, adorned with tightly wrapped, worn cleats. They have endured the 90° mornings of summer training and 30° nights of late October magic, still alongside him like the most loyal of all companions. A poorly-placed blister lies on his right heel and has made it nearly impossible to make a clean cut since the beginning of week one. In his arms and legs, soreness has reached a pinnacle, the symptoms which come from a seemingly endless and punishing season. So many aches have collectively accumulated; however, as he takes a breath in, all of the anguish is suddenly gone. What replaces the concrete pain in his body is undoubtedly more agonizing: the unyielding thoughts which quickly swarm his head as he anxiously prepares for the clock to strike 7:00 P.M.

While others turn to a close friend, a musician, or a deity, he is alone with his own mind. What seems like thousands of questions race through his brain. “Am I good enough? Am I big enough? Am I tough enough? Do I love it enough?” He thinks of Arctic-like conditions, the thousands of expecting fans, the excellent coach sitting in the office next door who will come under loads of fire if we do not produce a win. He even thinks of the other team. He asks himself, “Why us? Why not Stoughton? Have we truly worked harder?”

Then he reflects on his past. He remembers the people who doubted his team along the way. He remembers the degrading predictions in the State Journal. He remembers back to grade school, when he was a kid with dreams of one day putting on that glorious red-white-and-black to add to the lengthy Redhawk legacy. He asks himself: “Have I earned this? Do I deserve this?” He remembers the exhausting summer workouts. He remembers the six hours of Hell in the beginning of August called “two-a-days.” He remembers the 8 o’clock Saturday morning workouts and meetings less than 12 hours after another gut-wrenching defeat on the way to a 0-5 start.

All of this excruciating work was for one reason: to make the playoffs. And now he is so close. Win and they are in. That’s all he ever wanted. That’s all he ever asked for. But why does he now second-guess himself? He can not help but ask himself: has this whole journey been for nothing?

He can not do it anymore. He is in no shape to step out into the grim night which so fluidly polarized the men from the boys. He must find a way to turn off his brain, which so much adores logical reasoning, to one programmed to the tone of the demented game at hand.

Preparing for those final moments, his hand intimately brushes his helmet. His hands run the stickers which embellish his helmet like the prideful ribbons on a general’s uniform: the dumbbell that was earned through months of offseason weightlifting, the “Redhawk” which signifies his perseverance in practice, the footballs which were awarded for Friday night successes, and the yellow-ribboned sticker with the letters “AM” which so adamantly reminds him of the young warrior courageously fighting for more than a win, but for his young life. He then reaches the Block “M” on either side of his helmet, which signifies a new year, a new regiment of Milton Football. He peers around the crowded room at the 40-something young men who have become nothing short of brothers over the long and grueling season. He closes his eyes one last time and finally summons the courage to hoist the helmet onto his racing head. As the expensive piece of equipment, which has practically become an extension of his own body, is precisely secured on his skull, all thoughts evaporate into the cold, deadly night, and suddenly, nothing has ever been so clear. There is nowhere in this world he would rather be.

Milton Red Hawk Football