Friday, May 28, 2010

The Winning Goal Images

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The Winning Goal

With the score tied, the unthinkable happened. Britney stumbled, twisting her ankle and kicking the ball out of bounds in the process. Whistles were blown, the clock was stopped and Coach ran onto the field with the team trainer right behind him. You could feel the tension in the air while they examined her injury. I watched and waited with silent hope burning in my breast.

Supported by Coach and the trainer, Britney hobbled off the field. She moaned in obvious discomfort. The trainer helped her to a seat on the opposite end of the bench from me. Coach’s eyes scanned over the rest of us looking for her replacement. Stopping on me, he frowned and took a deep breath.

“Kaitlyn,” He said, “ you’re up.”

I jumped up from the bench a little surprised, but more than ready for a turn on the field. Coach grabbed my arm, stopping me as I was jogging past. I raised a questioning eyebrow at his concerned gaze. He never did much to disguise his dislike for me and the set of his jaw made his opinion clear. If he thought he could have sent anyone else into the game, he would have done it.

“I need you to play it safe out there,” Coach said.

I shrugged. “Sure.”

“I mean it,” He said. “The game is tied and the clock is winding down. The last thing we need is to give them a penalty shot.”

“I got it,” I said.

He held my arm, making certain I was looking at him and said, “We just need to run the clock out. We’ll have all the time we need to win in overtime.”

“It’s not rocket science, Coach,” I said, confidently returning his gaze. “I got this.”

“Alright then,” Coach said, letting go and landing a single swat on my backside. “Go!”

I shook my head and laughed, taking my place on the field. It was their ball out of bounds. I laid loose, giving the impression I was slow and my cover was a good option for the inbound. As soon as the ball began its trip, I picked up my pace. Leaping into the air, I kicked the ball just before it hit its target.

On the sideline, Coach yelled, “Kaitlyn!”

Ignoring him, I stuck with my momentum, following the ball and quickly switching directions to avoid the closest defenders. With less than thirty second to go, hesitation was not an option. My teammates were too slow to get into position going up the field, leaving the game completely in my hands or more accurately, my feet. Coach would have been happy with taking the game into overtime, but the way I see it; you get a chance to win, you take it.

I was almost in position to take a shot. The clock was under ten seconds and in my peripheral vision I caught the flicker of a red jersey that could only mean a defender was moving in on me. I was going to have to take a longer shot than I wanted if I had any hope of getting past her. She dropped into a slide, intending to break my stride and if lucky, knock the ball away from my control.

At the last second, I slapped the bottom of my foot on the top of the ball, stopping its forward movement and bouncing it into the air, well above the sliding girl. I leaped into the air, avoiding stumbling on the girl, and threw myself into a three-sixty spin. On the final arc, my right foot connected with the ball sending it toward the goal at rocket speed.

Their goalie dived for it, but it was too fast and too high for her. The ball swished into the net and the crowd cheered. I had done it. I had won the game being on the field for less than a minute. Coach would be upset. I had not listened to his instructions, but everyone knows you should not be on the field unless you are willing to take the chances you are given. It’s not like anyone else was going to complain, and if Britney had done it, not that she is capable, Coach would not have complained either.

“You got lucky,” The girl on the ground said.

“Yeah,” I said, offering her my hand, “that my teammate twisted her ankle.”

Taking my hand, she laughed and said, “I wouldn’t let your coach hear you say that.”

“Why? He already hates me,” I said, pulling her to her feet.

“Well, if that wasn’t luck, you’ve got some good moves,” She said, dusting herself off.

Watching my teammates running toward us, I said, “Thanks. You made a pretty gutsy move yourself.”

“Not good enough,” She said nodding at the scoreboard. “I’ll see you around.”

She jogged off toward the congregation of her team. My teammates surrounded me with jubilant congratulations. They hoisted me up into the air and carried me off the field on their shoulders. Britney sat on the bench scowling, as if she was upset we had won without her on the field. Coach was doing his best to appear more neutral, but his true feelings were obvious enough in his eyes.

Coach clapped as my teammates set me down on the ground, still cheering. He said, “Nice job ladies. You played hard and the majority of you can be very proud of your performance today.”

Most of them did not catch the exception in his words, but I did. He had no intention of acknowledging my part in the team’s win. It was typical, he had his favorites and I was not among them. I didn’t let it get to me. My teammates and friends were not short on their congratulations and hugs, Britney being the only exception of course.

We were adversaries from day one. I knew her type from the start. She was second best and used to being the best. Instead of stepping up her game, she changed the game entirely. She can have it for the price. If I’m going to kiss a guy’s ass it will have to be a lot nicer looking than Coach’s. That’s just me though, I guess she likes it well enough.

“Is everybody up for Winner’s pizza?” Coach asked.

With all the other girls, I shouted, “Yeah!”

My teammates began dispersing with their parents and Coach. It was team tradition to caravan over to the local pizza house after a victory. We’d been on a bit of a losing streak making the day’s win even more special. Scoring the winning goal, I was guaranteed the first slice. Dad was standing by the bleachers waiting for me.

“Nice to see you get some playing time again,” Dad said, offering a hug.

I wrapped my arms around him and said, “It felt good. Did you see that kick? Nothing was going to stop it.”

“What I saw was your coach panicking on the sideline,” Dad said.

“He’s such a drama queen,” I said, shaking my head, “Even if I missed, they had zero chance of bringing it back up the field and scoring.”

“I don’t think that’s an appropriate way for you to address your coach,” Dad said, holding me out at arms length.

Sighing, I shook my head and said, “Whatever. He hates me. It’s the only reason he doesn’t let me play and it just pissed him off that I won the game.”

Dad blinked at me and said, “You mean your team won.”

“Come on Dad,” I said, “you know what I mean.”

“Yeah, I think I do,” Dad said. “I think it’s time we headed home.”

“Aren’t you forgetting something?” I asked and Dad raised an eyebrow.

“The Winner’s pizza,” I said.

Dad said, “I think you are forgetting something.”

Confused, I stared at him with a raised eyebrow of my own. He said, “You’re grounded, remember?”

“Oh come on!” I said. “You saw what I did out there. I’ve never scored a game winning goal before.”

“You know the rules,” Dad said.

“But, it’s just a lunch,” I said, giving him my best puppy dog eyes.

Dad said, “That’s right and it’s a privilege to go, a privilege you forfeited when you decided to sneak out last week.”

“But they’re expecting me,” I said.

Dad just looked at me. He’d said his final word on the subject and was letting me know the discussion was over. I sighed and followed him to the car. If I hadn’t kicked the winning goal I probably would have dropped the subject myself, but I had. It was an important opportunity for me to show everyone I cared about the team, not to mention how valuable I was to it. I couldn’t just let Dad take it away from me without trying to change his mind.

Dad started the car and I said, “I was wrong.”

“About what?” Dad asked, glancing over at me.

“Sneaking out,” I said. “It was stupid and disrespectful to you. I’m sorry.”

Dad said, “I appreciate the apology. You know I wasn’t trying to ruin your social life. It’s just sometimes you get your priorities a little mixed up and it’s my job to help you straighten them out.”

“No, I understand and you were right. It wasn’t even important, I just wanted to go out and didn’t think about the consequences,” I said.

“It really wasn’t worth it, was it?” Dad asked.

I shook my head and said, “No, it wasn’t. It won’t happen again, I promise.”

“I really hope you keep that promise,” Dad said.

“I will. I know I should have listened to you,” I said. “You were only looking out for my best interests and it was really foolish of me to ignore that.”

“I’m glad to hear you say that,” Dad said. “You’re starting to sound like the intelligent, mature daughter I’ve been struggling to raise. It’s nice to see and let me say, you really made me proud when you helped that girl up on the field after you scored your goal.”

“Not when I scored the goal though?” I asked, tilting my head at him.

Dad said, “You have real talent and I’m always proud when you display it, but winning isn’t everything. When you helped that girl up, you showed you were more than just a good soccer player, you proved you are a good person. To me, that matters more.”

“Are you sure we can’t go to the lunch?” I asked. “I know it’s against the rules, but since you make them, you can also bend them. It would be good for the team morale and I promise I’ve learned my lesson, I won’t sneak out again.”

Dad shook his head at me and said, “You know, I actually thought you were being serious. I should have known this was all about the Winner’s pizza.”

“It’s just not fair,” I said. “It’s not like it happens every week or something. It’s a one time thing.”

“What’s not fair is you trying to manipulate me into letting you go when I already told you no,” Dad said.

I turned to stare out my window, frustrated by Dad’s lack of compassion. We sat in silence for the rest of the drive home and kept it all the way into the living room. I slammed the front door closed and Dad headed into the kitchen. He opened the freezer door and started shuffling things around. I plopped myself down on the couch, wishing he’d accidentally fall inside, releasing me from his prison.

“Do you want pizza?” Dad asked.

“Are you saying I can go?” I asked, hope lighting up my spirits.

Dad said, “We’ve already covered that young lady. I have a frozen pizza in here and I’ll put it in the oven if you want it.”

“You just can’t resist rubbing it in, can you?” I said, climbing to my feet and glaring at him from across the room.

“I was just offering you pizza,” Dad said, tossing the box back in the freezer and closing the door. “If you didn’t want it, all you had to do was say so.”

“You really think I’d want to sit around here eating pizza with you while all my friends are eating it at the restaurant, celebrating my victory without me?” I asked, bouncing my practice ball on the floor to punctuate my words. “I mean really, is that what you thought?”

Dad walked out of the kitchen back into the living room and said, “I understand you’re mad. You know what? You should be mad, but not at me. The only person you should be mad at is yourself. You’re the one who made the bad decisions leading you to this point, not me, not anybody else, just you.”

I said, “Thanks Dad, really thanks a lot. I just didn’t see it before now. How could I be so stupid? I just need to go up to my room and get in my time machine. Then I can go back and fix everything I ever did wrong. What was I thinking? It’s all so simple now.”

“You better get that attitude of yours under control before it gets you in a lot more trouble than you’re already in,” Dad said, pointing toward the stairs. “I suggest you go on up to your room and stay there until you’ve calmed down.”

“So typical,” I said, shaking my head, “you can’t win a debate with me so you either go mute or send me to my room.”

Dad said, “A debate is more than throwing around sarcastic wit and pointless insults, but you’re right, I’m not going to debate my rules with you. When you get a job and pay rent, you can make your own rules, until then you will live by mine, like it or not.”

“I think I’ll choose not,” I said.

Dad said, “You’ve got about three seconds to get your butt upstairs or it’s going to be bent over my knee.”

“You think so?” I asked, tossing my practice ball in the air and kicking it straight at Dad.

He dived to the side, narrowly avoiding getting hit in the face. The ball smashed into a picture frame on the wall cracking the glass and knocking it off its hook. It crashed to the floor, shattering the rest of the glass. The ball bounced away and I held my hand over my mouth, shocked at what I had done. Dad crawled up off the floor.

“That’s it,” He said, crossing the distance between us in two steps.

“I didn’t mean it,” I said and Dad replied, “Oh yes, you did.”

His fingers wrapped around my arm and tugged me toward the couch. I stumbled still staring at the wall where the picture had been. Dad sat down on the couch and yanked me down after him until I tumbled onto his lap. I was too stunned to resist. His hand slapped against my uniform shorts, bringing an instant sting to my bottom beneath.

“I’m sorry,” I said, blinking numbly at the couch cushion in my face.

Dad swatted my backside again and said, “Not yet, you aren’t, but you will be.”

He let loose with a flurry of spanks, covering my backside with a tender stinging. I twisted and squirmed under his hold, trying to reach back and protect my bottom or grab his hand. It was futile. He easily pushed my arm out of the way and kept me secured over his lap. There was no escape from his grasp or the spanks landing on my upended bottom.

“I wasn’t thinking,” I said.

Dad responded with the loud slapping of his hand impacting my bottom. My legs kicked involuntarily until Dad held them down with his own leg. Completely helpless, I stared at the couch cushion as his hand continued to spank my butt. He made every smack count like thunder echoing in the living room. My bottom burned.

Dad rested his hand on the middle of my bottom and said, “I’ve been patient, but enough is enough. Your self centered, self serving attitude, your temper-tantrums, your glaring lack of respect, it’s all over with. I should have done this weeks ago, but I was trying to be nice.”

“You’re right,” I said. “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t try to manipulate me,” Dad said.

He raised his hand and slapped it back down, resuming his efforts to cause my backside to burst into open flame. My hips gyrated against his knee. I squirmed, twisted, pushed, and pulled in every direction imaginable only to remain exactly in the same place. He spanked with ferocity, bouncing my buttocks up and down. A frustrated tear slipped its way down my cheek.

“You’re only getting what you deserve,” Dad said.

“I know,” I said, squeezing my eyes closed.

“Well then, maybe I’m getting through to you,” Dad said. “Are you ready to listen?”

I swallowed and said, “Yes.”

“Are you ready to do as your told?” He asked.

I said, “Yes.”

Dad stopped spanking and loosened his hold on me. “Stand up,” He said.

Cautiously, I pushed myself up off his lap. Standing before him, my hands ran straight to my bottom, desperate to massage away some of the sting and fire. Dad stared up at me, shaking his head. I dropped my hands to my sides with a heavy sigh I immediately regretted when Dad scowled at me. Chewing on the inside of my cheek, I waited nervously, wondering how much extra trouble I had caused for myself.

“I’m going to tell you something,” Dad said shaking his finger at me. “I almost let you go to that lunch today, not because you asked, but because you did the right thing on the field and helped that girl up. You showed yourself to be thinking of someone other than yourself for that one brief moment and I was proud. I knew you had defied your coach, but I was willing to overlook it because I know how frustrated you’ve been sitting on that bench game after game.”

My mouth dropped open at the thought he had almost let me go. I had seen no sign of it in his actions or words. Everything indicated he took a sadistic pleasure in keeping me from going. It wasn’t like it really mattered to him, an hour at a pizza place wasn’t going to be some heinous joyride, freeing me from the shackles of being grounded for another week. Dad doesn’t lie though and if he had been tempted to let me go, I wanted to know what changed his mind. I listened a little more acutely, despite the distracting burning in my bottom.

Dad said, “You ruined it for yourself. Instead of being a gracious winner, acknowledging the hard work of your teammates, you turned it around into being all about you. It was your win, you said. Yours? Seriously, you were on the field for less than a minute and scored one goal. Your teammates exhausted themselves running the field and keeping the score even for the better part of an hour, but none of that matters because you made the winning goal in the last seconds. Do you have any idea how embarrassing it was to hear you say that?”

I shook my head.

“I’m just thankful none of your teammates were around to hear it,” Dad said.

“I didn’t mean it like that,” I said.

“You meant it exactly like that,” Dad said. “You think your coach keeps you on the bench because he doesn’t like you, but the truth is; He keeps you there because you aren’t a team player.”

“That’s not true,” I said, refusing to meet his gaze.

“It is true,” Dad said. “You never listen to anyone. You always know best and most of the time, like earlier, you get lucky and things work out. What will you do though, when things don’t work. Will you accept responsibility for the move that costs the team the game? No, then it will be their fault because that’s what you do, shove the blame for your bad decisions off on somebody, anybody else.”

“I said I’m sorry. What more do you want from me?” I asked, tears stinging at my eyes.

“How about for you to act your age for starters?” Dad said. “Is that asking too much? I’d love to see you take responsibility for yourself as well, but after your display today, I don’t think you’re really capable of it.”

“I am,” I said, wiping tears from my cheeks. “I will.”

Dad said, “No, you aren’t and you won’t until you accept there are consequences for your actions and you’re going to have to see them through.”

“I’m really sorry,” I said.

“Yes, you are,” Dad said, leaning forward on the couch. “So long as you consider yourself better than everyone else, you are a disgrace to your teammates, that uniform, and you’re an embarrassment to me.”

Tears streamed down my face. Not knowing what else to say, I asked, “What do you want me to do?”

“I already told you,” Dad said, shaking his head. “Since you obviously aren’t listening, you can take off the uniform and get back over my knee.”

“Dad!” I said, wide eyed with my arm wrapping in front of my chest.

“Oh, I’m sorry. Does that embarrass you?” Dad asked.

I nodded.

“Good. I think it’s way past time you started feeling a little bit of what other people around you feel,” Dad said. “Now get out of that uniform before I get up and do it for you.”

Gasping, I said, “You wouldn’t.”

“Don’t test me,” Dad said.

I gave up trying to keep the tears off my face. My lips quivered with words of protests I dared not voice. I stared at my feet and slowly lifted my team jersey off, over my head. Not knowing what to do with it, I held it bundled in my hand. Dad reached out and took it from me, laying it on the couch next to him. I tried to cover my bra from his eyes with my hands.

“Shorts too,” Dad said.

A new stream of tears slipped from my eyes. I took a step away from him, shaking my head. It was too embarrassing. I knew it was a mistake to disobey him further, but no matter how I tried to reason out compliance, my body refused to listen. My legs began to shake and a desperate sob wracked my body.

Dad half stood from the couch and grabbed me by the wrists, yanking me back to the couch. Sitting back down, he turned me over his knee and started spanking anew. I kicked and squirmed to no avail. The stinging burn returned to full intensity and began to build once more. I stared at my discarded jersey right beneath my face, taunting me, reminding me, I was not fit to wear it in Dad’s eyes.

Ceasing in my struggles, I cried limply laying on Dad’s lap. He continued with a flurry of fast paced smacks to my bottom before pausing long enough to yank my shorts down. In a panic I reached back trying to stop him, but it was futile. My shorts slipped down my legs and soon found their way, via Dad, to rest atop my jersey where I could look at them. His firm hand resumed spanking my bottom.

Each slap of his hand sent ripples of shame pulsing through me. Hot tears ran down my flushed cheeks. My fists clenched and unclenched on the cushion next to my head while my legs twitched in involuntary response to the spanking. It hurt as Dad meant it to hurt. The heat and stinging in my bottom were merely symbols of my hot headed actions and stinging remarks. A kind of calm washed over me, allowing me to see myself through his eyes. I cringed at the sight.

“Stand up,” Dad said, bringing the spanking to an end.

I rested on his lap, not wanting to move. The tapping of his hand on my sore bottom forced me to push myself up and stand before his scrutiny. Unable to meet his gaze, I looked downward at my pink undergarments and wondered if my bottom matched. Dad would no doubt know, but I was not about to ask.

Dad said, “I’ve given this some thought and I’ve made up my mind so don’t bother arguing with me. I’m going to give you a choice, you can either resign from the team or at your next practice, you can give a sincere apology for your behavior and attitude toward your coach and all your teammates. The choice is yours, but you are going to decide right here, right now.”

I looked up into his eyes and recognized the seriousness within them. I said, “They’ll laugh at me. I’ll never get any respect again.”

“Then I guess you’ll be quitting,” Dad said.

“No!” I said, fearing it was too late. “I’ll do it if I have to. It’s just so humiliating.”

Dad said, “Humbling, yes. A demonstration of humility even, but apologizing when you’ve wronged someone is never humiliating.”

“I’m sorry,” I said, looking back down at my feet.

“I know,” Dad said, standing up to give me a hug and a gentle kiss on my forehead. “I hope you know I expect a little more detail than that when you talk to your teammates. It would probably do them all some good to know just what inspired you to make the apology.”

“You don’t mean...

“I most certainly do,” Dad said, and all the blood fled my face at the mortifying thought. “Still want to apologize rather than quit?”

If only there was a third choice, I would certainly have gone with it. As it was, Dad hadn’t really left me with a choice. I couldn’t quit. It would utterly destroy my reputation and colleges don’t like quitters, especially ones that quit because things get a little difficult. I sighed and nodded my head, reaffirming my decision. Embarrassing apology it was.

Dad made me stand in the corner, still only wearing my underwear, while he called Coach and arranged my apology at the team’s practice the next morning. I didn’t want to think much about it, but it was impossible not to listen to Dad’s side of the conversation. There was little doubt in my imagination that Coach was smirking on the other end of the call, enjoying his own visions of me standing in the corner with my blazing backside on display.

The next morning, before starting practice, Coach rounded everyone up on the side of the field. I stood a bit off to the side, chewing on the inside of my cheek. My thoughts rampaged through the words I would have to say. Dad was standing nearby to listen and make sure I followed through. It was impossible not to blush and I felt certain everyone was staring at me, knowing my bottom was as pink as my face.

Coach said, “I want everyone to give their attention to Kaitlyn for the next few minutes. She has something important to say to all of you.”

Coach gestured toward me and all eyes turned on me. I took a deep breath and said, “My Dad spanked me after yesterday’s game.”

My teammates gasped. A couple giggled. Britney smiled.

“It was my fault,” I said, focusing on the words to get me through the most embarrassing moment of my life. “I got a little, a lot, too full of myself and it started right here, during the game when Coach was nice enough to give me a chance to play. I ignored his instructions because I thought I knew best and in doing so I put everyone else’s hard work on the line. I got lucky. We won the game, but it was in spite of me, not because of me. I didn’t realize that at the time. I got caught up in the jubilation of my lucky moment.”

I stopped staring at the ground and looked at my teammates and friends. They were all quiet, politely listening to me. They weren’t laughing, some of them were even nodding their heads, which was bad enough because it meant they knew and agreed with what I was saying. The best thing was that in looking over them, I realized I really meant the next words I was going to say.

I said, “I’m sorry and not just for yesterday. I haven’t been a very good teammate or a very good friend for a long time. If you’ll give me the chance, I want to make it up to all you, starting today.”

It took a moment longer than I expected. My heart could have burst in the interim of silence. The girls looked around at each other, nodded and a consensus was formed. They were willing to give me another chance, evidenced by the smiles on their faces. We exchanged hugs and a few supportive words, followed by Coach calling us back to order.

Coach said, “I’m willing to give you a second chance too, Kaitlyn. You took a chance, opening yourself up here today and I’m willing to give you the chance to prove you mean what you’ve said. Show me you can be a team player in practice this week and you’ll be back on the starting line-up for Saturday’s game.”

I could have jumped for joy. It was the last thing I expected to happen. I glanced at Dad, standing a few feet away and he winked at me. Maybe he does know a few things worth learning. I turned my attention back to the team and Coach, focusing on the moment.

I smiled and said, “Thank you. I won’t let you down.”