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Julie Stauber


The Year, The Moment

Crispy fall nights under stadium lights
A boy dreams

Until this year, this moment, he’s lived in the shadow of high school legends.
He sidesteps a tackle, looks down the field, a pass . . .

Snagged out of the air by his buddy, now his best friend for life

This could be the year, the moment his local history begins.

Gone are the times of yellow dump trucks and red gumballs. 
Now, a senior with a swagger yet still so unsure.

His confidence falters at the homecoming bonfire.
She peaks, she smiles, she looks away.

Unusual nerves twinge tonight.
He feels her eyes, he hears her cheers.
The game begins.

The score is tied, the teams are fierce.
Time on the clock suggests one more play.

His buddy for life sprints down field.
The ball leaves his own fingers. . . touchdown.

The field is flooded with fans, cheering, jumping, enjoying the win.

He looks for her, this could be it, another first for him.

He spots her, she stops.
Shining hair, rosy cheeks. He waits for her to move.

Leaning in, he can’t believe this year, this moment.
Her hot pink kiss is a dream.


Hockey Game

I swore at a hockey game once, out loud.  Technically the game was over, and the teams had exited the ice.  The last few fans were streaming out of the arena, and I couldn’t stand it anymore.  I had learned to be quiet at games, but I had had enough.  I had to say something, out loud.

Hockey fans are probably one of the most despised segments of the population.  We love our teams so desperately and our players so passionately that it’s difficult to hold that in.  Our players not only have to attempt to get a game piece into a net or area of the playing field, like all those other athletes attempt to do, but they also have to do it on skates.  Perhaps this extra feat is what makes hockey so amazing to so many people.  It might also be one of the reasons hockey players develop such a swagger, a characteristic that the girls adore and the boys either emulate or detest.  When our boys were young, they needed a lot of direction, so we yelled those directions loudly, very loudly.  We might have even added some gestures to make sure they understood.

My own son began playing hockey at age four, and I would cheer and cheer for him throughout the entire game.  Watching him skate after the puck or skate after another player who had the puck would fill my heart to bursting.  I couldn’t hold that kind of happiness in.  It spilled out of my heart, out of my mouth in cheers and words of constant encouragement.  When he began peewees at age 10, he made it very clear to me that I didn’t have to yell for him anymore.  He knew what to do without any direction from me.  I reminded him how my cheering had helped him and his teammates earn multiple wins over the years, and he politely thanked me but insisted I stop. 

I stopped but became a ball of nerves at his games.  My cheering now stayed in my head or under my breath.  No more, “Here we go, Ha-awks.  Here we go!”  Clap, clap.  Cheering at games had become exercise for me.  I could leave a game feeling exhausted from cheering and clapping so heartily for my team.  Now, I either had to sit on my hands or cross my arms during a game, a quiet little church mouse.

The game that I swore, out loud, began like any other game.  Someone introduced the players, someone else sang the National Anthem, and the fans cheered and booed at the appropriate times throughout the game.  In between periods, many of us had coffee or hot chocolate, and some had beer.  We probably nibbled on popcorn or ate a cookie.  This was one of my husband’s games.  I could still cheer at some of these games, but not this one.  I sat on the edge of my seat with my hands clenched in my mittens, biting my tongue and praying for a win.  It was a close, playoff game.

As the final buzzer sounded, a disappointing loss hovered in the air.  The kids and I felt awful for our dad.  After winning a national championship, the success of his team had continually gone downhill.  Division III hockey is different from Division I, and no Division II really exists.  DIII programs are not allowed to offer athletic scholarships, but private DIII schools could offer creative funding for their players.  Overall funding for my husband’s program was dwindling, and finding a consistent assistant coach was difficult when no additional employment opportunity was available on campus.

So, we lost the game.  A group of students were exiting the arena to our left.  They seemed to be couples, so many girls and so many boys.  One boy looked vaguely familiar.  Suddenly, one of the boys yelled, “Stauber, you suck!”  I couldn’t believe my ears.  What had my husband done?  The teams had finished shaking hands and were skating off the ice.  In fact, most of them had already left the ice.  I watched my husband step over the boards to leave as well.  The boy yelled again, “You suck, Stauber!” Wow, my kids were standing with me, waiting to walk down the stairs.  Again, “Stauber, you’re the worst!”

I couldn’t stand it anymore.  I yelled, “Why don’t you just shut the F#*% up!”  I couldn’t believe it actually came out of my mouth.  My kids yanked their heads around to stare at me with complete, jaw-dropping shock on their faces.  I had thought it, but now it was actually out there.  I’m a cheerleader not a swearer by nature so this was completely out of character for me.  Someone from the university finally came to that end of the arena and said thank you to me, but I was shaking.

The one who had been yelling, his posse of buddies, and their girlfriends were looking at me as if I was filthy gum on the bottom of their shoes.  One of the girls even glared up at me as they filed through the exit tunnel just below my seat and said, “Yeah, that’s a good role model for your kids.”  I just kept staring back at them, seething and wishing they would crawl back into their cave.  How dare they yell stuff like that about my husband?  What could he have done to make them so angry?  Lose a game?

My kids wanted to go find Dad right away, but I was too scared to death to leave the safety of my favorite seat.  When everyone had left the arena, and my son had scoped out the lobby to make sure the group was gone, I finally left my spot.  We made our way to Dan’s office, and the kids excitedly relayed the story of what had happened.  He asked us if we recognized any of the boys.  He had actually heard something and peaked through the curtains on the other side of the ice to see who it was.  Here one of the boys had been someone recently cut from the team.  For most of the boys who play for my husband, this is the end of the road for their hockey career.  As passionate as the fans are about their teams and players, the players are just as passionate about playing.  Dan understood that his buddies were just backing up their friend, but he was still angry that someone was allowed to yell like that multiple times with no reaction except from his wife.  He’s an intense guy, and when he feels that someone is not doing their job, he springs into action.  He darted from the office and returned with two security guards.  He asked them why they hadn’t done anything about the yelling, but they said they hadn’t heard it.  They had already made their way to the zamboni room for coffee.  “Coffee?” Dan asked with disbelief.  This was not the answer he wanted to hear, especially knowing what the kids and I had just experienced.  Someone had once described my husband as insanely protective of his family.  I think others would probably describe him like that if they had heard him ranting at these poor security guards.  The athletic director came in and asked the security guards to leave.  He couldn’t believe what had happened, but he just shook his head.

Less than a week later, my husband received a formal complaint from the security department, suggesting that the security guards were embarrassed for being reprimanded in public. I notched this little incident down as just one more reason why I love being married to a coach, never a dull moment.