Last night was the last soccer game of the season. They lost, 3-2, and Dale was in net for the deciding goal.
Therein lies the triumph.
Dale went in with his team down 2-1 in the second half, the coach's choice. Early in the half, he went to the ground to gobble up a ball in the goal. The girl on the other team followed through and kicked him in the head, just behind the ear.
A tearing shriek. The game stopped and we rushed out. Heather talked to him and he slowly got up into a sitting position. I asked her to take Louis. The coach called for his son to take Dale's place in net.
Dale asked if he was bleeding, and I assured him he was not. I checked him over closely and there wasn't a welt or any other damage, nor sign of a bruise.
I asked him if he was all right, and told him his team was depending on him. He said yes, and stayed in. The coach called off his son and high-fived mine. The other team's sideline applauded, as did ours.
For the rest of the game, he played the same way as before the kick to the head--aggressively (probably too aggressively) charging to the ball, and falling down to cover, follow through kicks be damned. Then flinging the ball out to his teammates to go on the attack. Matthew's dad came up to me and said "Your boy's going to need hockey goalie pads!" He let what turned out to be the deciding goal in and was very upset. I ran out to the net, wiped the snot off his nose and said "Win or lose, son, I am so proud of you. Don't worry about it and keep playing--you're doing the best you can." The tears stopped and he nodded out an OK. The game started up again and he charged the attackers in the zone, time and again.
"Boy, he's tough," one of our team's mom's said.
The Raiders didn't lose, they literally ran out of time, the whistle blown as they threatened to score again. But Dale sprinted off the field a winner anyway, no hint of shame on his face, proud admiration on mine.