Celebrate the First Down

I grew up with college football.

Correction: I grew up with Buckeye football.

I was actually born a Nittany Lion. My father’s first teaching position was at Penn State.  I don’t remember much about those early years. I do remember a big lion statue, but maybe that memory comes from trips back to State College when I was older.

My first memories of Buckeye football games were in the 1970s. During Archie Griffin’s Heisman Trophy-winning years. Yes, plural. Griffin is still college football’s only two-time Hesiman winner. Back then, we had two season tickets, and my mom, sisters, and I took turns going to the games with my dad. It was just a given that my dad would get one of those two seats. Some things are non-negotiable.


There was – and still is – so much to see at the ‘Shoe!


I can remember begging to go, but it wasn’t really the game that held my attention. There was so much more going on in that stadium. There were cheerleaders and a marching band. (Not just any marching band. TBDBITL. Look it up if you’re not sure.) I didn’t always know who had the ball or what yard line we were on, but I was always 100% certain of the whereabouts of Brutus, the Buckeye’s big-headed nut mascot. (Laugh if you must, but I still love that guy.)


That big head makes headstands easier. I think.


And then there was the SCORE. I was always aware of the score. I mean, that’s why we came, right? To see the Buckeyes win. In the end, the most important thing was the score.

If, while I was busy finding Brutus, the crowd would leap to their feet and cheer, I’d ask my dad, “What happened? Did we score a touchdown?”


“Then why are we cheering?”

“We sacked their quarterback.”

“Oh. How many points is that worth?”


“Oh.” I didn’t see the point in getting all excited if it didn’t change the score.

I’d go back to band-watching. When more cheers erupted, it would start all over.

“What happened? Did we kick a field goal?”


“Then why are we cheering?”

“We got a first down.”

“Oh. How many points is that worth?”



Before long, I’d realize that four quarters could last a long time. A very long time. The clock ticked down, but it stopped. It stopped frequently.

I realized that time went faster if I actually paid attention to what was happening on the field. And it was a lot more fun if you celebrated every little good thing that happened.

A good kick?  YAY!

A long pass? HOORAY!

A penalty call that wasn’t on us? YES!

Of course, those touchdowns and field goals were worth extra-loud cheering and multiple high fives. But the whole thing was just so much more exciting when we celebrated the small stuff.

Isn’t life much the same? I know my writing life is. It needs to be.

Not every day is going to bring an offer of publication, an award notification, or an invitation to a big event. We can’t wait to “score” to celebrate.

Nail a revision? YAY!

Get an encouraging, helpful rejection? HOORAY!

Read a great tip about an editor who’s looking for something just like your work-in-progress? YES!

We have to cheer every small step. We have to celebrate every yard gained toward the goal.

If we don’t, we’ll find ourselves in a very long game looking for the big-headed nut while the clock ticks slowly down.

Celebrate the first down. Life’s a lot more fun that way.


Taking my little girl to the game is just as much as being there with my dad!


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2 comments on “Celebrate the First Down”


    You nailed it, Michelle. Celebrating the whole game is much more fun. Now about the Buckeyes. My eyes were always on the Hawkeyes! Good memories.

    • Michelle

      Thanks, Carole! We’ll have to compare notes after November 4th, when my Buckeyes travel to your Hawkeyes! 🙂 Keep celebrating every step of the way!

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