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The Commute: Joy at the Dome

Fri, Nov 29th, 2002
Posted in Columnists

My family and I made the trip to the championship game last Saturday. My kids, ages three and seven, had never seen the Metrodome. They speculated before our trip about how big it would be, and whether theyd see any Minnesota Vikings or Twins just hanging around.

I dont know, offhand, the dimensions of the Dome, but we proved that it is big enough to hold the entire community of Rushford-Peterson in just three of its sections.

My attention during the game was frequently diverted by trips to the bathroom, and breaking up duels between kids using big, foam #1 fingers as swords. But what a game. I felt so proud of everybody, from the players, coaches, cheerleaders and danceline, to the loyal hearted fans, and Ive only lived here for three years. I know the names of only a few players. I can imagine that lifelong residents were nearly bursting.

I saw a button on a woman that said, Football Mom. In a way, we all got to be football moms and dads that day. I thought about how so many of us in my generation graduated from high schools that no longer exist, either due to the wrecking ball, or consolidation of districts. I thought about how these high schoolers, maybe especially the seniors, will talk about this day for the rest of their lives. Your school didnt just have a good football team, you went to the playoffs. And you didnt just go to the playoffs, you won!

After the victory and presentation of the trophy, many R-P fans stayed to watch the Kingsland game, which I thought was quite neighborly. Since our kids were antsy, we decided to walk to Nicollet Mall and see the Daytons (okay, okay, Marshall Fields) animated Christmas display. We waited in line so that the kids could tell Santa Claus (the real one for we were in The Cities) their most urgent Christmas requests. Santa said optimistically, Ill see what I can do just before the picture was snapped. Their faces, above the gold, Rushford-Peterson shirts, radiate their hope that Santa will come through. They slept the entire way back to Rushford. We will all be talking about this state championship for a long time. The following morning in church, Father Kulas began by congratulating the team and coaches.. I knew, without looking, that Coach Reinhardt and his family were seated in their usual spot near the back. Up ahead, I could see the back of Assistant Coach Koenens head as he sat with his family. And then I noticed, seated just ahead and to the right, one of the R-P players. I had been focused on this particular player at the moment the game ended because, while all the players were jumping, smiling, and waving helmuts in the air, this player seemed to jump higher, and with more abandon. He leapt and skipped toward his coaches, the mythic hero returning home. If I remember correctly, he even turned a couple of near 360's in the air. Joy personified. I still smile thinking about it.

And here he was the following morning, in church. I wanted to walk over and hug him for those high leaps in the air. But he is not so old that he shouldnt still be leery of strangers, maybe grabby women in particular.

So instead, I hug my own son who, miraculously, is able to resist his three year old urges to shove and struggle for just a moment, and he hugs me back. I whisper, thank you, and he answers, youre welcome. Thanks for allowing us to experience that pride, coaches and players. And in a world too often filled with reminders of sadness and the evil humans are capable of visiting upon one another, thank you, Number Eighty, for reminding us about joy.

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