My father-in-law takes most of his family to one Tennessee Titans game each year (okay, actually, he’s taken us twice in the past two years, but I’m hoping it’s a regular tradition). This year, we attended the Redskins-Titans game. It was a terrible, terrible game. But there was one moment that made all the interceptions, bad decisions, and, oh, losing the game, worth being there. That one moment is an experience for which I am extremely grateful and completely overshadows the rest of the afternoon.
My father-in-law is friends with someone who has good seats. We sat near the field in perfect position to watch the game slip away from the home team. The Titans played poorly, so it was difficult to get excited about much of anything. I tried, I really did, but my enthusiasm waned as the afternoon wore on. I felt disgusted by how our team played. I prepared for disappointment and thought nothing could lift my spirits. Nothing did, until a timeout when a mother and daughter were brought onto the field.
I didn’t know it, but Jodi and Kayla Foster (no, not that Jodi Foster) were about to impact my life in a profound way. The announcer told us to direct our attention to the north end zone where they stood. The announcer was difficult to understand, but I gathered that Kayla wrote an essay which was selected for something and somehow brought them to the stadium. I honestly paid little attention until the announcer said we should watch the screen for a special message from Afghanistan.
I don’t have strong family ties to the military. My dad was drafted for Korea, but served his term in the U.S. I believe his highest “honor” was a decoration awarded him by members of his unit for an injury he received (he cut his hand on a suntan lotion bottle cap when he was assisting a young lady in applying it to her back). I did, however, mostly grow up in a military town with many friends with one or both parents serving. That was why I got a little chocked up listening to the pre recorded video message. I remembered having to leave my four-month old daughter for a mere week and the toll it took, so the much greater sacrifice that Jodi’s husband (and those men and women like him) made tears well a bit. But they welled just a bit.
The announcer then said, to the best of my recollection (yes, I know I could search for video of it, but I prefer my memory), “But wait, Titans fans, there’s more. Direct your attention back to the field for one more surprise.”
I knew what had to be coming, but I craned my neck. A cart raced to where Jodi and Kayla stood. In that cart was Mark Foster. In that cart was Jodi’s husband. In that cart was Kayla’s father. Even though I knew that was what the surprise would be, I still felt surprised, and the afternoon transformed completely.
I glanced down to the other end zone where the players from both teams turned and clapped. In that transcendent moment, there was no score, no game, no field, no football, no disappointment. There was nothing other than a man, his wife, and their daughter. I stood with tens of thousands and cheered as joyful tears flowed down my cheek.
I thought, This is the moment I will remember. This is the memory I will cherish from this day. The view was much better on television, but I was there. I experienced it as it happened, a moment I will always remember. I will remember it because of it’s uniting power. What else could cause over 70,000 people to forget everything for just a moment and bask in a family’s love? The moment caught all of us and gave me hope that we can truly set aside our petty differences and understand what matters most.