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By Loren Sanders
Just because a statistic doesn’t come from the Elias Sports Bureau doesn’t mean it’s not a statistic. That said, three out of every five American high schools have a Coach Mac. My Coach Mac is the head football coach.
I have no idea if he has any Scottish blood in him, but I do know that if I take the high road and he takes the low road, he’ll get to Scotland before me.
One of the main job requirements of any high school football coach is sculpting random vocabulary tidbits into alleged axioms that never make sense to outsiders and usually don’t make sense to the coach’s own players. If they don’t make their own, coaches certainly steal someone else’s nonsensical platitudes. Keeping in the vein of statistics, if I’m rounding to the nearest percentage point, 100% of you don’t care about my Coach Mac’s truisms. Sorry.
Sadly, when it comes to former high school athletes, I’m way more Kenny Chesney than Robert Nkemdiche. And chances are that if you’re reading this website, you’re in the same boat. So for us, playing high school sports wasn’t about being a football star. It was about growing as a man.
Through all the early morning workouts and Monday night film sessions, we thought we were putting in the same work and fighting for the same glory as the players we watched on Saturdays and Sundays. In reality, we were learning how to work, how to trust, and how to commit, and trying to get girls to wear our jerseys. We learned that every day you have to put a little bit of hay in the barn. Even if most of us lived in subdivisions.
As a player, it was about having fun and winning football games. Looking back, I’m not sure if that’s what it was about for the coaches. Sure, they wanted to win, but I can’t figure out how they weren’t more concerned with helping boys figure out how to become men. Breaking up fights, listening to cassettes of Lou Holtz speeches, driving ratty old school buses, and finding out that your star quarterback was rapping in a mall kiosk on a playoff road trip? Well, those are just some of the perks of being a father to hundreds of kids. Being a football coach is not normal. Yes, this is true in the Les Miles sense, but it’s also true in the sense of men all around this country who miss out on evenings with their families to shuttle their defensive line home or to tutor their running back in geometry.
You may raise your concussion arguments and talk about the degenerate gamblers betting on Florida Pee-Wee football, but I sure hope my hypothetical son wants to play football one day. I wholeheartedly believe that my life would seem a lot harder today if I hadn’t played high school football back then.
Today we found out that Coach Mac’s got cancer. He’d say “100 million Chinese couldn’t care less.” They may not, but I can find a few hundred people who do. This isn’t the end of the low road. No, there’s far too much hay in the barn to shut the doors now. This just seemed like a good time to step back and say thanks.
This is my way. You can figure out your way to say thanks to the men who make sure a prayer is said after every game and practice is stopped every time a military plane flies over the field… even if one or two of those might be a Delta Connection flight. Thanks to the men who make fun of the fact that a kid couldn’t gain 20 pounds over 4 years of high school… I learned how to gain weight just fine after college – some things just take time. Thanks to the men who take the time to impact the lives of future cube dwellers as much as they do future SEC receivers. Those kind of men win every time.