William was inconsolable. His sweat-drenched hair against my face, I held my son as his body shook with heaving sobs. The game, the season, the countless predawn weight room sessions, and two-a-day practices—the investment of eight years of his young life all came down to one Friday night. As co-captain, he had devoted everything to inspire this team of young men to surpass everyone's expectations.
Earlier that evening, an electric atmosphere warmed the chilly December night. It was true Norman Rockwell Americana—lush green turf with perfect white stripes brilliantly illuminated, animated cheerleaders at their practiced best, bands blaring, and the intense pregame warm-ups anticipating the epic battle about to unfold.
This was no ordinary game. It was the second round of the high school state football playoffs. The teams' energy quickly transformed the waiting crowds into a fever-pitched frenzy—both sides desperately wanting their team to prevail. I was the proudest dad on the planet as I watched my son walk out to midfield for the coin toss.
An epic battle it was. Neither team lost that night, even though the opposing team had more points on the scoreboard and advanced to the semifinals. Behind by two touchdowns at the half, our team fought back fiercely, almost tying the game in the closing minutes.
When the final seconds ticked off the scoreboard clock, the families walked on to the field to meet ...