It’s a running joke in my family: if you want to know what Nathan’s brother is like, just picture his exact opposite. And you’ve nailed it. I’m bookish, small, unathletic, though I’ve recently rediscovered my love for running. I’m as right-brained as they come. My brother, on the other hand, is an almost stereotypical jock: tall, good looking, confident, and a brilliant accountant. I was Honors Society Treasurer in high school; my brother, three grades behind me, was a captain of the football team.
I never got to see my brother play high school football; I was thousands of miles away in college. When I was home for the summer I saw him train like a maniac. He made Jillian Michaels look like a three-toed sloth. He was good, too; good enough that after high school he earned a football scholarship to Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. If you know anything about Trinity Football, it’s probably because of this clip, in which the Trinity Tigers win a game with fifteen lateral passes at the last second.
John had graduated by the time that happened, but I was lucky enough to get to see him play at the college level dozens of times. My mom and I can now drive from Oklahoma City to San Antonio with our eyes tied behind our backs. Just before Christmas 2002 we got to watch his team compete in the Division III National Championship. I once watched him intercept a pass in the end zone to save a game. I couldn’t be prouder of him.
Last night I got to watch him play again. Westmoore was having an alumni game, playing against Putnam City’s alumni Pirates at the Yukon High stadium. I’d seen the videos and the photos, I’d heard the stories, but I had never seen my brother play football in a Westmoore High School jersey. He’s still friends with all his old football buddies, having moved back to Oklahoma City after college. It was a motley assortment of players going back to the class of 1999.
(It bears mentioning that my class, the class of 1998, was not represented; probably because a) we were awful, and b) Westmoore’s official line is that we, the class of 1998, never existed, and no one can prove that we did. There’s material enough there for five columns.)
The stands on the visitor’s side of the Millers’ stadium (chosen because it was neutral territory, I assume?) were sparse; perhaps 100 Jaguar fans showed up to watch. The players had been practicing for a couple weeks, but few of them were in the kind of shape they were in high school – I mean, who is?
My brother’s fiancee, her sister and nieces sat next to us through most of the game. One of them asked, “Is John still in school?”
“No, sweetie, John’s been out of school for awhile.”
“So why is he playing?”
“They’re trying to relive the glory days.”
I laughed; that sounded so grim. Did anyone ever believe it when they were told that high school was the best time of a person’s life? John’s getting married next year. They just bought a house. He’s got a great job and an amazing woman has agreed to be his wife. These are the glory days.
The Jaguars lost to Putnam City, 13-6. But they had a great time. They played because they genuinely enjoy the game. Those are the moments that make sports truly fun to watch.
The photograph is mine; more photos from the game, including a cheesy shot of my brother, are available at Flickr.