Senior Night isn’t always the best night

When I finished writing Sunday’s column, I hesitated for a moment and considered whether I should publish it or not.A lot of times in this business, you get accused of not being positive enough. And while sometimes we are put into a position to cover and report on what some would consider to be negative events, we don’t actively seek such things. It goes back to the old saying, “We don’t make the news. We report on it.”

So when I was done with the column, I knew I had presented myself with an angle that wasn’t exactly uplifting. And I was also worried that somebody might think the column was specifically about him or her. It wasn’t, though I have heard horror stories from the past, and so those thoughts are always there.

At any rate, I decided to go ahead with it, and I’ve heard some encouraging comments already. I know it’s sad and I know it’s not the most positive thing I’ve ever written.

But it is something to think about. And life isn’t always rosy.

That’s unfortunate, for sure. But it’s true.

 Here’s the column:

Every high school does it. At the final regular season home game in every sport, the seniors on the team are honored before what is often their last time playing in front of the home crowd.It’s always a wonderful moment, and usually a telling one. When it’s the male athletes, you can usually count on the firm handshake with Dad.

But then there’s Mom, though, and the kid has the rose in his hand, and well, you know, it’s Mom, and you don’t want to look soft in front of your boys and all, but it’s Mom, man. Mom.

And then the smile creeps across his face, and he can’t help but put his arm around her. Then it’s … aw, forget the boys. This is Mom. And it’s time to thank Mom. So the kid gives his mom the rose, leans in for the kiss, blushes a little, and then it’s on to the next guy.

Except sometimes the next guy doesn’t have his father or his mother there.

Sometimes he just has a coach, who steps in because nobody else is there and it would be worse if the kid was left there all alone.

And his shoulders are slumped.

And he tries to look hard, like it’s no big deal.

But it doesn’t work. Never does.

He tries to shrug those shoulders. Tries to show everybody a half grin. Haphazardly gives his rose to the coach, tries to be humorous about it and then abruptly, awkwardly steps back in line as the next name is called.

It’s the hardest moment to watch during any senior ceremony, and it seems to happen at just about every one of them. And you can’t help but wonder what the story is.

You may not even know the kid, but you start to rationalize it. Maybe his parents had to work and couldn’t make it. Lots of people work nights, after all. Not all of us have it so good.

Or maybe he’s from a single-parent home. Nothing unusual about that. And maybe his little sister had something tonight, too, a dance recital maybe, and the parent is there for that and will come by the gym later to see the senior play his last game.

But it’s always there in the back or your mind. The worse-case scenario. You don’t want to admit it to yourself because you can’t fathom somebody not caring enough about their son or daughter to come stand beside them as their name is called in front of an adoring crowd, to hear the cheers reserved for their kid and watch them play.

But it happens.

It happens often, in fact. And for every one of those kids down there in that line who has a not-so-heartbreaking reason for why there’s a coach escorting him, there’s one whose backstory would be too much for most of us to bear.

For that reason, we usually allow our minds to wander and choose one of the “acceptable” reasons for why the kid is alone on this big night, the one the school has set aside just to honor him and his classmates. It’s a fleeting moment, one that we only allow to last for as long as it takes for the P.A. announcer to move on to the next kid, the one with both of this parents flanking him, rose in hand, cheeks mere seconds from full-on blush mode.

And so we watch as the names are called. And we chuckle when that one tough guy gets that big hug from his mom, the one where she grabs him, pulls him down because her baby towers over her now, and rocks him side-to-side, a bear hug that is filled with love and as gentle as the first rays of the morning sun.

The kid may act embarrassed at the time, but nobody is going to make fun of him. He may not realize it until the night is over, but his teammates will let it slide as if nothing happened.

But something did happen. And we revel in it. Those brief seconds warm our hearts and make us believe that everything is right in the world.

And it is.

In our world.

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2 Comments

Filed under Sports columns

2 responses to “Senior Night isn’t always the best night

  1. Terry T

    Outstanding article Alex and right on the money.

    When Southern Lee first opened, Coach Lee started a program he brought with him from North Moore and called it “Cavalier Sweeties.” Football parents would be given a random player, other than their own child, to bring snacks to after every game. This way, every player on the field had somebody in the stands every week.

    I know that’s not the same as not having a parent there beside you on Senior night but, it does go a long way towards building a sense of family among all the players, coaches and parents.

  2. designatedhitter

    I thought about mentioning the “Cavalier Sweeties”, but decided instead to focus on the generality of the senior night moments, and unfortunately, the moments I describe seem to happen at just about every senior night ceremony, regardless of the sport.

    I applaud Bryan Lee for bringing that program with him from North Moore; nothing is better than following a game and watching as the Cavaliers line up along the bleachers of their fans and walk along shaking hands and thanking everybody for coming out. That’s pretty classy, and I haven’t seen another program do it on any of the Friday nights in my 10 years of covering high school football.

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