Remember the brave young man penalized for taking a knee after scoring a touchdown at a high school football game?
Here's how I imagined it should've gone down:
Mac, the defensive captain, had to bite his tongue to keep from saying something he’d regret when Sam scored. He watched the scoreboard and waited for it to change.
It never moved.
The ref grabbed the ball and started pacing back fifteen yards.
“What was the call?” said Mac.
“Delay of game” someone said.
“Unsportsmanlike conduct” said another.
“Because I took a knee,” Sam said as he walked past Mac.
Mac dropped his helmet and followed Sam. “No! No way not like this. I want to win. I’m gonna win. But not like this.” Mac walked in front of Sam and faced him. “This is our game man. You did nothing wrong. Stand strong.”
The ball was set back fifteen yards from the previous plays original line of scrimmage. Mac ran and grabbed the ball. “Huddle up” he hollered and ran the ball back to where he had dropped his helmet, back where the ball should’ve been placed for an extra point attempt.
The players, the refs and the crowd watched; many with their mouths hanging open; some scratched their heads and a few nodded and smiled as their eyes lit up.
Mac yelled at the opposing teams quarterback, “What’re you waiting for? Get over here so I can sack your butt trying for the extra point.” He flipped a thumb over his shoulder toward the goal post and smiled.
Whistles were blowing from every referee.
The quarterback shook his head and jogged toward where Mac had placed the ball. “Lineup” he shouted and his team followed. Without a huddle they got into position. The quarterback shouted as he stood ready directly behind his center, “This is our game. We’re going for it. Hike.” The ball was snapped and the quarterback faked left and flipped the ball to Sam on his right.
All the flags had already been thrown, and all the whistles had stopped their blowing, because all the refs had run out of air.
As Sam opened his eyes he felt a hand on his shoulder.
It was Mac, extending a hand. “Hey, you done good. Don’t get used to it though, ‘cuz I’ll never let you behind that line again, but for now—good job. Listen, this is more than a game, and we can’t let an agenda steal it. Sometimes the best way to stand is by takin' a knee.”
Sam grabbed Mac’s hand and stood. “Alright man, thanks.” They both looked at the scoreboard.
It hadn’t moved.
“Give me the ball.” A terse voice broke the reverie between the two players. “You boys won’t need it.” The ref smiled and lowered his voice. “’I’m kicking you both out of the game.”
Mac grabbed the ball and tossed it to the red faced ref. “Here ya go. Oh, we need a time-out.” Mac raised his hands signaling a time out as he ran toward his coach. He didn’t have to run far because his coach was half way across the field to meet him.
“Have you lost your mind?” Mac’s coach shouted.
Mac shrugged and listened to his coach rant for a full minute.
“Coach it was the right thing to do and you know it.” Mac looked across the field and noticed Sam getting the same lecture from his coach. Mac motioned for him to join them.
They met in the middle of the field on the fifty yard line.
Both coaches took a deep breath and then started talking at the same time until they both stopped to take a breath.
That’s when Mac interjected, “We’re not playing unless that ref leaves the game.”
“Well that don’t mean squat because you’re not playing anyway” Mac’s coach said.
Sam’s coach pointed at him and said, “That goes for you too.”
Sam said, “Both teams.”
“You’re nuts, both of you” Mac’s coach was upset nervous and at a loss as to what to do… but, down deep in a place he seldom visited, he was never more proud of his player.
About that time a whistle blew. The refs had gathered for a meeting of their own, and then approached where the coaches stood.
Before Mac and Sam headed back to their respective benches to tell their teammates what was going on, they tucked their helmets under their arms, bowed their heads and took a knee. It only lasted a second or two, but the crowd erupted with applause as they stood to their feet.
The cheering rose to a roar on both sides of the field, so loud that the players and the coaches and the refs had to yell to hear each other.
After some heated discussion between coaches and refs a decision was made. The penalty would stand. They would let the players off with just a warning, but any similar behavior would result in immediate rejection from the game.
The referee made his announcement and all went silent.
No one moved.
Mac and Sam had been watching the scoreboard, each from their side of the field.
The scoreboard remained still and silent.
Mac folded his hands and bowed his head. Sam did the same. The players of each team one by one lined up and did the same.
The silence echoed with whispered prayers.
Little by little the stands filled with a wave of hands folded and heads bowed.
Suddenly in the silence a click was heard. And then another and another…Mac’s eyes popped open at the familiar sound. He watched the scoreboard click up six points for the touchdown and two more for the extra point.
The scoreboard operator raised his hands, "I never touched the thing!"
Eventually it got loud. So loud the place shook like thunder. But not at first. It started out quiet, just the sound of one person clapping. The sound came from the field...from a man wearing a zebra striped shirt, a sad smile and a tear. And he was taking a knee.
(photos courtesy of flickr.com)