23

The Only Question That Really Matters

My son plays wide receiver for a small-town high school football team in the heart of the South where football is more than a game—it's a religion. Friday nights under the lights are sacred, and in this cathedral of sport, few things are worse than going into a game knowing that your chances of winning are slim to none.

But that was how the stage was set for what we call the Backyard Brawl: the traditional first game of the season between our school and a rival just across the county line.

Years ago when this rivalry was first conceived, the game was an even match. But over time, economic expansion in the county next door helped our rival school grow in size. With that growth, they gained more resources, funding, and players. Their facilities are beautiful and their crowd of fans large. This inequity had been a major contributor to our six straight Backyard Brawl losses.

As our small contingent of parents entered their stadium on Friday night and walked across the manicured field and past our rival's huge crowd, there was little hope to lift us up. We knew and they knew what the outcome of this game would be. So we settled in for our traditional beating and prepared for the after-game clichés and platitudes we'd use to lift the spirits of our sons.

At midfield the opposing team towered above our boys. Taller, bigger, faster, stronger, and there were many more of them compared to our limited bench. It was intimidating. A casual observer comparing ...

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