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Little brackets



Back in my running days, I ran around this tri-county Piedmont maze of back roads, auditoriums and playing fields by car, attempting to keep up with my daughters' various activities, from the drama department to the verdant pitch.

It was a busy time, but I kept centered with one cherished morning routine: I'd grab a cup of coffee and the local daily newspaper and turn to the sports page—the high school box scores, specifically—to see how my friends' kids and my kids' friends had fared the night before. For the coaches and athletic directors who called in those nightly stats, and for the beat reporters who covered school plays, these few lines of print were probably a thankless job. But for the kids and parents, it was often the highlight of the day. One year, my youngest daughter and her best friend scored goals in the same game; that tiny box score clipping was on the refrigerator until it faded.

Another year, she was on two different high school teams that made it to "The States," the sacred and succinct term for the state's championship tournament. I had a few "not in Kansas anymore" moments at those games, especially when opposing team parents yelled at my daughter and her teammates from the heated sidelines. I was all teary-eyed at the end, probably wondering why we all can't just get along.

My older daughter spent a lot of her senior year in the school's Black Box theater. I loved hearing my now big girl running lines with her fellow cast members. The production was the thing, and the parents were on 24-hour-call, serving supporting roles for the actors and directors as needed. During that final week of dress rehearsals, I realized that they don't call it drama for nothing.

For a dozen years, I checked the small print of the box scores and theater reviews. Teams came and went, as did leads and supporting roles. Rooms in our house became seemingly permanent backstage areas and at-home locker rooms. I often prowled the sidelines, too, as an excited parent, a coach, even a ball boy.

I thought it would go on forever, through swim meets, dance recitals, plays and corner kicks. Then that curtain fell, and the final whistle blew. For my daughters, it was off to New York, Washington and Los Angeles, by way of Beijing and Amsterdam. Other parents took our places on the edge of their seats, rain or shine, to watch the shows, carry the snacks or run back to the car for that forgotten hair tie.

When my daughters were still around, I'd notice the swarm of younger brothers and sisters, running around like crazy, playing their own fantasy games, with boundless energy and joy on the festive sidelines of every soccer game. And now these once-tiny kids, who caravanned to playing fields unknown to watch their big brothers and sisters, are graduating themselves. They're the ones streaking down the wing, the small-print heroes in the next morning paper. They've become the last leg of the relay, meaning I recognize fewer and fewer names in print every year.

Long may they run.

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