My friend Susan and I have a running joke about Dick’s Sporting Goods. When we’re there, we’re completely sucked in by the marketing ploys, the fancy equipment, and the brand spanking new clothes. Dammit, doesn’t that place make us feel like we could be sooooo good at golf? Or fishing? Or wrestling? The whole place makes you feel, not only like you could be a super athlete, but that, holy cow you already ARE! You just have to purchase these clothes! And these clubs and that glove right over there.
Which reminds me (somehow, obscurely)…WHY are people in my life keeping the secret of the amazing Gillette Stadium from me? (Dave and David, I’m looking at you.)
We drove down to Foxboro, Massachusetts on Saturday. I left three hours later feeling like a Patriot. And I don’t mean a patriotic American. I mean a football playing, end zone slaying, defense dismaying New England Patriot. Kind of like when I hang out at Dick’s. If I only had the field. And the locker rooms. And the uniform. And the perfectly deflated balls. (I did NOT just say that.)
We were invited to Foxboro to a celebration of Hood Sportsmanship Scholarship recipients. Garrett, facebook people know, became a finalist because of their dedication to voting daily for our boy. It’s an odd way to choose the finalists, but he also was interviewed at length, and came out a winner! To which we say HALLELUJAH! (And thank you coaches, teachers and family for the millions of ways you helped prepare him.)
We are very proud. He impressed us.
Equally impressive though, is the stadium itself. Sorry, Garrett. You’re a shining star, really. But HAVE YOU PEOPLE SEEN GILLETTE STADIUM?
We had a tour. We saw private dining rooms, and hung out in box seats (with restaurants attached. They have private phones for everything from “if the toilet breaks” to “you want refills on chicken wings”.) Did you know there are huge hotels attached to this place? And a shopping mall? Several bars? It’s true! We were this close to the fake grass upon which the legends play. Sigh. I love you, Julian Edelman, for this catch right here. I really do.
I don’t think the people at Gillette did it just for our group (about which, more in a sec), but as we walked around the stadium, the ending and extra minutes of Superbowl 51 played on both the Megatrons. Our small crowd slowed until we all merely stood, mesmerized by those history-making plays, calls, and outcome of that epic game. I still ask myself whether the whole thing really happened, and more to the point: how did I convince myself to stay awake for it?
I shall never doubt again.
The kids. The kids. We were there for the kids. Eighteen of them, actually, Garrett among them, chosen for their sportsmanship and dedication to athletics in their chosen sports. We met vibrant young men and women from the New England states, some of whom will go on to play in college and some of whom won’t (Garrett won’t.) They were confident, outgoing, eager students who unabashedly showed how grateful they were to be held up and honored in this way. It was special, indeed. I was happy to spend an afternoon with the future of our world.
Unlike for me, it wasn’t being at Gillette Stadium (or being inside Dick’s Sporting Goods, for that matter) that made Garrett feel like he could really shine. It was someone objective thinking about him as an athlete, a sportsman, a scholar, and saying Hey, man, you work hard. You do good work. You’re a good person. Keep it up. It really made him take notice of what matters in life (from someone who doesn’t share DNA that is.)
The tallest man, the day’s guest speaker, in the above photograph, is Gord Kluzak, of the Boston Bruins, circa 1984. He said it best, I think, when he explained that though he’d been a standout athlete (first draft pick in ’82), knee injuries at age 19 took his career in a direction he hadn’t foreseen. He still played after several surgeries, but it was his dedication to service (in his case to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation) that gave him purpose. In other words, regardless of what kind of an athlete you are, it’s important to be a good person. Which we tell our children all the damn time.
So. To recap: I love Gillette Stadium. I love the Patriots. I love Julian Edelman. And I also love Dick’s Sporting Goods.
But I love my son Garrett because he’s a good person. And it was nice for him to be recognized for it. Thank you, Hood Scholarship Foundation, for seeing him.