Becky barely held back a sigh as the final buzzer of the game sounded. It was already the fifth game of the season and she had only played a few minutes each game and only when her Dad was in control. And that was only when they were winning by a huge margin and Kevin was convinced that nothing his little brother did could cost them the game. Of course that meant she hadn't played at all this game since they had been losing for most of it.
Becky knew her uncle didn't mean to hurt her feelings, or crush pride for that matter, but he did. Every time he picked a player who wasn't as good as her instead it felt like a punch in the gut. She didn't want to say anything about it to the guys for fear of being labeled a drama queen. And she certainly didn't want to mention anything to her dad since he and his brother were finally getting along…off the field anyway. But she couldn't keep quiet after this.
They had almost lost! The only reason they won was because Spike had a brilliant, last second run into the end zone (though she would die before ever admitting that). And it wouldn't have happened. It shouldn't have happened. They should have had this game in the bag. If only Uncle Kevin had put her in. She knew with every part of her ten year old soul she could have stopped at least two of the other team's touchdowns. She didn't want to sound arrogant or cocky…it was the truth. She was good and she could have stopped them.
Becky growled softly as she watched her teammates form a line to congratulate the other team before going to join them. Did her uncle really think he was going to jeopardize her only shot at football glory while she sat idly by? He should know her better than that. And since she couldn't go to her dad without looking like she was whining she would go directly to the source of the problem.
Yes, she decided, as soon as the other team was congratulated and everyone had gone home, she would find her uncle. And then they were going to have a little talk.
"Hey, Pom-Pom, good job today. I haven't seen bench sitting that good since…last game!"
Yes, she and her uncle were going to have a talk. Unless, she thought to herself as Spike sauntered by with a smirk, I get thrown in jail for Neanderthal homicide.
Kevin looked up from his paperwork as his wife opened the office door.
"Kevin, you have a visitor." Karen smiled as he waved to indicate she show them in and sat back in surprise when his niece walked into his home office.
"Icebox," he greeted her as he got up to give her a hug.
"Hi Uncle Kev."
He waited until they were both seated before he asked, "So what brings my favorite niece by so late?"
He got a little worried when she didn't even crack a smile at their little joke.
"It's about the Little Giants."
When she paused he motioned for her to continue.
"I want you to let me play."
"I do let you play."
"No, Dad lets me play. You put me on the sidelines whenever you coach."
"Becky, I can't play you every second of every game," he admonished.
"I know that Uncle Kev but you never put me in. And if Dad puts me in as soon as you take over you pull me out."
Kevin shook his head and he leaned back in his chair, "Now honey, you know I can't show favoritism."
Becky started shaking her head before he even finished talking, "That's not it. It would be favoritism if I wasn't any good and you put me in anyway. But I am good and you still won't let me play. Why?"
Her question almost sounded like a plea.
"Becky, honey, the other players are good."
"Yes, but I'm better."
"No, it's the truth. I am better. I know it. You know it. They even know it. So why won't you let me play Uncle Kev?"
Definitely a plea this time.
Kevin looked at his niece and realized she knew what his answer was going to be. She just wanted him to say it. So Kevin got up, walked around his desk, crouched in front of her and gave her the true she didn't want to hear.
"Becky, you're a girl."
Becky crossed her arms over her chest, "So?"
Kevin sighed as he straightened up. "Becky, you're a girl and the boys are bigger and stronger than you. I don't want you to get hurt."
Becky glared up at her uncle as she gave him the truth he didn't want to see, "No they aren't."
"Yes they are Honey."
"No Uncle Kev, they aren't. Not yet."
"They aren't bigger or stronger than me. Not yet. They will be Uncle Kev, but not yet."
Becky sighed as her uncle stared at her unconvinced and tried to make him understand.
"Look Uncle Kev, I'm not stupid. I know that in a couple of years all the boys will be bigger than me and stronger than me, except maybe Jake…and Tad. But right now I'm bigger than or as big as everyone on the team. Except Spike and he's part Neanderthal so he doesn't count…even though I can still put him in the dirt half the time. I know I'm not going to get to play College Football or start in the Pros. Hell, I'm probably not going to get to play in Jr. High or High School either. All the guys will be bigger and stronger than me and they'll worry about hurting me. So this is it, Uncle Kev. This is my one and only shot to play football with the guys and have it be normal."
Becky looked up at him, and when he didn't say anything, continued.
"I'm not asking to play all game, every game but I want to play. I want to go out there and pass and run and score and tackle, "she gave a small grin, "Especially tackle, before the guys start treating me different and holding back so they won't hurt me."
She stood up and finished. "This is my only shot Uncle Kev, please let me take it." Then she hugged him and walked out the door.
Karen walked in a few minutes later after wishing her niece a good night to see her husband half sitting on his desk with a stunned look on his face.
"Kevin what's wrong? You look like you got tackled by the entire Vikings defensive line without a helmet on."
Becky was nervous as she got ready for practice on Tuesday. She hadn't seen or talked to her uncle since their talk last Saturday. She was worried he would treat her differently. She was even more worried that he wouldn't.
With all of this weighing down her young mind she was slower getting ready than normal and was one of the last players out of the locker room (her own, private locker room…she was a girl and in some situations that did matter) and on the field.
"What's wrong Pom-Pom? Bad hair day?" Spike teased as she finally joined the team.
Before she could go and give him a bad hair day, complete with mud, grass and possibly a little blood, she felt someone put a hand on her shoulder in restraint. She glared, ready to give the intruder a piece of her mind when she realized it was her uncle.
"Alright, cool it and gather around. It occurred to be after watching the tape of Saturday's game that we almost lost. And it was pointed out to me it was my fault and I could have prevented it. So, we're going to make some changes. Briggs and Hayden, you will be alternating as wide receiver starter. Vennaro, you'll start running drills with Spike so we can improve your foot work. And Icebox, you'll be our starting fullback from now on."
He waited until the cheers and groans had died down before starting practice.
"Alright, alright. Get on the field for endurance drills. Icebox, front and center."
"Yeah, Uncle Kev?"
"I'm not doing this because you are my niece. I'm doing it because you are better and you deserve a chance to show it. And Becky, this might not be your only shot. But if it is, I'm…I'm sorry I almost messed it up for you."
Kevin knew he had made the right decision when Becky simply smiled before running off to join her teammates.
That decision was reaffirmed a little while later when the IceBox put Spike in the dirt…for the sixth time in a row. Though he couldn't really understand why she rubbed mud into his hair before letting him up.