Father Figures: Twig And Berries

Greg Messinger
(Greg Messinger)

“All men know the one move that will make you drop to your knees – no pressure point, no figure four, no five-point exploding heart technique can match the acute agony of a blow to the twig and berries.

We learn at a young age to protect those family jewels, but when the jab gets past the guard, the pain is epic. I was playing goalie, age 14 on the youth soccer team, and the game was tied in the waning minutes. My father danced on the sidelines in his full coach regalia: clipboard in hand, his maroon aviator sunglasses firmly planted on his face (a night game mind you), my very own Stan Lee commanding the team and the moment.

A minute or so left on the clock, a strapping fullback came bouldering down the field. The defense decided to take a break so it was a sea of green between the 2 of us. I came out from the twin posts, took dead aim to cut down angles, and at that split second of commit or get burned, I went in. The back-fielder’s foot met the ball, the ball met my crotch, followed by the leg kick, which also firmly connected with my bait and tackle.

I exhaled a gale force wind, the crowd gave a collective gasp. I writhed. My Dad ran. As I rolled into fetal position, my dad, my coach, my voice of reason, took a knee beside me and chose that moment of blistering pain to teach me a life lesson.

‘Hey. You okay? Remember it’s not how you get knocked down, it’s how you get back up, and Greg, you’ve got to get back up.’

I was seeing stars, tasting bile, and fighting back tears, but I looked up into those sunglasses and Dad’s Club hat, and I knew what I had to do.

I slowly got back up, spit out some dirt, gave him a nod, and returned to the back line. Already my hero, he then did the next best father move of the day: he jogged back over to the sidelines and told my mom I was going to be alright. I’m not sure what’s tougher for a father, seeing your son get nailed in the nuts, or talking a Jewish mother back down off the ledge. That night, Coach Dad did both.”

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