When the lights went out on a Friday night


The yellow flag was tossed higher than usual into the black sky.

Judging by the height the flag was thrown, I figured the referee was really angry. When it came down, the lights went out on a Friday night at Golden Peaks Stadium in Pagosa Springs.

It was the last game at home and the last game for this senior.

“What happened?” The fans stood stunned as one of the players pulled off his helmet and jersey and was asked to leave the game before the second half.

This young man has played football with his teammates since fifth grade. This is his team. After review of the film, the consensus was, “The punishment didn’t fit the crime.”

It didn’t matter, it was done.

When the Friday night lights went out, was the game over? No, it’s the next step to proving your character — what you’re made of and how you handle an unfortunate situation. It’s part of life and it’s all about learning who you are under fire. It’s how you’re going to handle the next day, the next opportunity and the next challenge.

I’ve said it a thousand times over my lifetime: “I needed that lesson; I don’t know how I would have learned it any other way. I didn’t want it to happen that way, but it did. I’m better for what I’ve gone through, than not. I’ve also had to apologize to many people whom I let down and who were counting on me. I’m sure I’ll have to do it many more times.”

I have always believed it’s how you deal with the challenge. Grandson, you’ve already stepped up and owned your mistake. You apologized to your parents, to your team and your coaches. Your size makes you visible, threatening and vulnerable. Just know, it’s the size of your heart that makes you so much bigger; that’s what will prove who you really are.

Being a leader is not something you ever asked for, it’s part of your DNA. It’s in you to see a wrong and step up and challenge the situation. It’s in you to go your own way, because you have a purpose and you know where and what you want it to be. You’ve also planned how you are going to get there. You are your own agent, but life will come in and challenge every decision you make, life will test you to see if you are really the man you say you are.

When you are a born leader, it’s in you to be passionate over something, so passionate that it will drive you to be out in front. The problem with being out in front is you become more visible to everyone around you. At that moment, you don’t think of the people who are following you or looking up to you, but they are.

When you are a leader, there are those who secretly want you to fail. When you lead, it challenges people around you to step up. Some don’t want to be reminded that they could do better. How you handle things proves to them that you belong in that place as a leader.

After the game, the next day, you have a new challenge. You had a meeting with a college football coach who has been looking at you and your videos throughout your high school years. They are considering you to be a part of their team next year.

You’ve lost hours of playing time on the field. Have you lost credibility? It remains to be seen.

Are you going to get out on the field on Monday and practice with your team and help them in the next game, even though you have to sit on the sideline? Yes, you will.

Your football team came to your house for a planned end-of-the-season party on Sunday night. The coaches, according to the rule book, couldn’t come, but your teammates did. Sixteen boys played a video football tournament, had a wiener roast, did skits and bonded. Too bad the rules didn’t afford the coaches who have admired you and who loved you the opportunity to bond and see what the team is made of under adversity. It’s their loss.

The team went home Sunday night with mohawks, challenged to play their best with their rival, Bayfield, the next Friday night. You’re still a part of the team and a part of their hope. You’re still a part of Pagosa Pride. You’re a Pirate.

Final brushstroke: Do your parents, aunts and uncles, grandparents, teammates and friends still love you? More now than ever before. Your uncle, Stephen, wrote: “My nephew, the strongest man I know next to my father. A born leader who carries the weight of the world on his shoulders, carrying the burden of all, because he can. If only I was half the man this 18-year-old is, I can’t imagine how much further I could be in life.”

Sometimes the loss is the real win. Sometimes that’s all we need in order to know how to move beyond ourselves to win a much greater prize. I sure love you, “Mini Me.”

Today’s battle is tomorrow’s victory.

Artist’s quote

“A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.” — Christopher Reeve.

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This story was posted on November 7, 2013.