I heard this story from my best friend in school and it has always kept me focussed and inspired.
This story is about a skinny young boy who loved football with all his heart. Practice after practice, he eagerly gave everything he had. But being half the size of the other boys, he got absolutely nowhere. He tried with all his might but he was unable to be as good as the other players. Pankaj could be seen at the football field day after day practising for hours.
At all the games, this hopeful athlete sat on the bench and hardly ever played. Pankaj was an awkward but sprightly teenager who lived alone with his father, and the two of them had a very special relationship. Even though his son was always on the bench, Pankaj’s father was always in the stands cheering. He never missed a game.
When Pankaj had joined school, he had been the shortest in his class. He was always at the head of any line or queue being made as he was the shortest. This often made him sad. Nevertheless, his father continued to reassure him to not get his spirits down. In fact his father encouraged him to try out other sports as well but since Pankaj’s heart was set on football, there was no deviating from that path and goal. The young man loved the game and decided to hang in there.
Pankaj’s coach could see the young man giving his best at every practice session. He could see the efforts Pankaj was putting in but still he were not at the same level as the other team players. He once sat him down and counselled him about his goals but there was no changing Pankaj’s mind that was set on being part of the team even if he became a senior during that time.
Since he never missed a practice session, Pankaj was one of those rare students with full attendance on the field. While he continued to be a bench warmer all through junior school, Pankaj’s father watched his son from the stands…clapping vigorously for the other team members. Senior school was slightly better as he played a couple of matches and during those rare moments he did shine in his own small way. Pankaj’s father was the proudest man in the stands then.
The years rolled by without any major milestone being achieved by Pankaj. Soon it was time for Pankaj to join college. Since he had always been fairly decent in his studies he got into one of the better colleges close to his home. He decided, once again to try out for the college football team. His friends were certain he would never make it but he proved them wrong and made the cut-off list much to everyone’s astonishment. The coach told them all that Pankaj’s attitude towards life, the way he put his heart and soul into everything and the manner in which he kept everyone’s spirits high was the main reason he was selected.
Pankaj had been in disbelief when he was given the news that he had been selected. He had rushed off to call his father with the good news. Pankaj’s father was indeed a very proud man to see his son’s name on the college football roster. He decided to buy season tickets for all his son’s games.
As luck would have it, Pankaj never got to play in even one game as he was always left behind on the benches. But this didn’t stop Pankaj’s father from turning up at all the matches. He was persistent!
Just towards the final term, on one of the weekend matches, Pankaj saw his coach coming towards him with a grim face. He wondered what was wrong.
He was informed that his father was seriously ill and had been taken to the emergency wing of the local hospital. His friends stood around him as he felt his whole world crashing. Pankaj was immediately escorted off the field by his friends and his coach excused him from the match in play.
The next week passed in a whirl as Pankaj’s father never regained consciousness and then passed away a few days later.
The following weekend, the team got back into the swing of the games without Pankaj as he was on leave. Unfortunately the team was losing very badly against the rival team. No one noticed Pankaj arrive quietly and go into the locker room to change into his gear.
Suddenly, the young man appeared and stood on the side-lines and pleaded with his coach to be allowed to play. The coach pretended not to hear him as he did not want his worst player to play at such a crucial time. Finally he relented when he saw Pankaj’s forlorn looks and unkempt appearance.
That day, Pankaj was at his lethal best and outshone all his team mates. The players and spectators were astounded to see his moves on the field. Pankaj ran, he passed, he tackled, and blocked like a star. Soon the score was tied. In the last few seconds, Pankaj intercepted the ball and scored a touchdown. The whole field went crazy and all the spectators ran into the field ecstatically. Pankaj’s friends hoisted him on their shoulders and cheered loudly. Pankaj was quite stunned by his own performance and had never felt this rush of adrenalin before.
Finally, after the stands had emptied and the team had showered and left the locker room, the coach noticed that this young man was sitting quietly in the corner all alone.
The coach came to him and said, “Kid, I can’t believe it. You were fantastic! Tell me, what got into you? How did you do it?”
The young man looked at the coach, with tears in his eyes, and said, “Well, you knew my dad died, but did you know that my dad was blind?”
The young man swallowed hard and forced a smile, “Dad came to all my games, but today was the first time he could see me play, and I wanted to show him I could do it.”
- Milestone: landmark
- Unkempt: messy
- Astounded: surprised