Biographical Non-Fiction posted March 25, 2012

This work has reached the exceptional level
A deserving teen gets passed over.

Still, Bobby Cheered

by Spitfire

Non-Fiction Contest Winner 
"No basketball team is complete without--"

My sister's heart pounded. Mine too. Maybe now it would happen. Maybe tonight the coach would call her son to the stage.

Every year, the school held a Sports Award Dinner to recognize outstanding achievements in football and basketball. Bobby didn't play. But he worked hard as manager of junior and varsity basketball teams. Not a simple thing for my thirteen-year-old nephew born with muscular dystrophy.

The ceremony had reached its half way point. I looked over to see tears in his mother's eyes. I wanted to grab the mike and shout, "You idiot! This boy deserves a trophy too. Do you know how hard it is for him to pick up smelly towels and uniforms while struggling to keep his balance? Do you realize the strain on his never-developed arm muscles when he has to carry basketballs and uniforms? Do you see that after long hours of practice sessions, he's so drained and exhausted that he can barely talk? He maintains and keeps track of your players' records too. Do you know? Do you see? Can you please give him a trophy for that?"

On nights like this I knew she most resented Bobby's father. He had left seven years ago, embarrassed by his son's physical condition: the shrunken frame, the overlarge head, the hitching gait when he walked.

My sister's bitterness toward John made her even more proud of a young man who took the lowliest position on the athletic ladder just to be a part of the sports he longed to play. How her heart ached when he watched others run, leap, and tackle--moves he would never be able to do.

Eventually, he would be in a wheelchair. We all knew that. But for now, he could still walk--although he fell a lot. Pride was Bobby's middle name. He refused a cane or braces as long as his feet held up. The teenager wasn't strong enough to compete in team sports, so he did what he could-- managed teams: two basketball and one softball. In his dreams, though, Bobby was a player, not a manager.

"No basketball team is complete without--"

We both held our breath and didn't dare look at Bobby.

"Cheerleaders!" The coach completed his sentence.

"Rah, rah!" Seven girls in short skirts jumped up and ran to the platform to receive their awards.

Barbara and I couldn't bring ourselves to clap as we realized her son's hard work would go unacknowledged. Bobby leaned over and patted her hand. "It's all right, Mom, I don't mind."

The program continued with awards for softball, volleyball, soccer and track. Barbara sat, seething. I knew she would give the coach a piece of her mind at the end of the ceremony. We both marveled that Bobby could applaud all the winners of letters and lightweight gold cups. Who cared! Let's go home, she wanted to say. I was ready to leave too.

But Bobby wanted to see who would receive the highest honors of all: team jackets given annually to six boys and six girls who not only participated in several sports, but also demonstrated outstanding team spirit and sportsmanship. Earning a jacket was the highest nonacademic honor a student could achieve. Bobby rooted for several of his buddies. He clapped and cheered as each fortunate student shrieked with delight and raced to get their treasure. A dramatic pause ensued as the coach held the last jacket up.

"The last jacket is very special because it goes to a young man who has not been on the stage this evening. Some of the players have been asking me all night why didn't I introduce their manager."

The coach beamed at the crowd. "That's because he's going to receive recognition now. This boy's courage in coping with a handicap has been an inspiration to me and to all of us. This last jacket goes to Bobby Lilga."

The audience rose almost as one, clapping and cheering as the boy made his way down the aisle. Yes, he limped and moved slowly--but his face glowed. His stunned mother struggled to hold back tears. I screamed with happiness. Through blurred eyes we watched him take the jacket and shake the coach's hand. Teammates and cheerleaders gathered around to congratulate their dependable and loyal manager.

That night I fell asleep, warm with memories of peer recognition for my nephew. I blessed God for the transient happiness He had given to two precious people in my life. As for my outstanding,brave nephew, he fell asleep hugging his jacket,

Contest Winner


The picture is my nephew Bobby at thirteen. He's now forty-three and has been in a motorized wheelchair since he turned seventeen. My sister, his mother, died of cancer two years ago, but gave me her written version of this story, hoping I would edit it and use it somehow. The dialogue is exactly as she wrote it. I put the rest of the narrative in my own voice. And recently changed the title using a suggestion from Humpwhistle.
Many thanks to Tammy Gail for pumping this up to 77 cents. That's a lovely gesture from a gifted and beautiful woman.
Pays one point and 2 member cents.

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