The alternate title of this post could be “Or, how I learned to stop worrying and embrace my son’s awesome powers of recall.”
Saturday night, I took Ryan to a hockey game. It was Riley’s annual slumber party, so the boys, as we do, vacated the premises. As we do, hockey was prominently involved. Riley has now had this party for four years. Ryan and I have taken four hockey road trips, two to Washington for Capitals playoff games, and two to AHL destinations, also for postseason games.
There must be something in the water when we show up for an AHL game. Three years ago, we saw a team blow a three-goal lead with 14 minutes left to lose in a regulation and get eliminated from the playoffs.
This year we went to Springfield, Mass., for the fifth and deciding game between the Springfield Falcons and the Providence Bruins. And the game was bonkers.
Springfield scored twice in the first five minutes, and Providence pulled its goalie. A few minutes later it was 3-1, Springfield. Two bad goals later, it was tied, and Springfield pulled its goalie. The period ended with Providence leading, 4-3. At one point, the Bruins had four goals on seven shots.
I told Ryan I had never seen a game where both goalies were pulled in the first period. He couldn’t recall one either. Then I mentioned that I wasn’t sure I’d ever seen a team give up four goals on seven shots, either.
“I have,” he said.
“Oh yeah? When?” I asked.
It took him about five seconds to reply.
“March 14, 2008. Cam Ward,” he said, naming the Carolina Hurricanes goalie, before adding “I think.”
As if there was any chance he was wrong.
What I did next was unnecessary. I pulled out my phone to check. It took me a minute to navigate back to March 14, 2008. As soon as I saw the scores from that date, I knew — as if there had been any doubt — that Ryan was correct.
Buffalo 7, Carolina 1.
Just for fun, I clicked through to the box score, where Cam Ward’s difficult night was right there in the stat line, exactly as Ryan said it would be:
30. C. Ward, Saves: 3, Shots Against: 7.
No matter how many times this happens, I will continue to be blown away by the breathtaking power of my son’s mind. It’s not just that he stores all this data — it’s that he can sort it, date it, recall it instantly — far quicker than I could confirm it online.
Whereas these moments used to be bittersweet, serving as they do of confirmation of his differences, I am much more comfortable with them now. As we have learned to do, I took the moment to point out to Ryan how unique and incredible a skill he possesses.
“Look around this arena,” I told him. “Of all the thousands of people here, I guarantee you are the only one who can do that.”
But I didn’t stop there.
“Ryan, there’s going to be an opportunity for you in this. Some team would be lucky to have you in their scouting department. You could cut down on their research time by probably 90%.”
That led to a conversation about scouting and research and why an NHL team would do such things. Ryan had no idea. But the more we talked about, the more excited he got. The conversation continued Sunday morning, and on our drive home.
I want to plant a seed. I want him to know that the things that can cause him difficulty are the same things that give him incredible strengths, and that those strengths have real-world application beyond making the honor roll in school and drawing praise from his parents. I was 100% serious. I don’t see why there couldn’t be a job opportunity for him in this some day.
There are similar examples. As I write this post, I recall a feature I saw on ESPN during college football season, about a Stanford offensive lineman whose photographic memory is put to strategic advantage during games — and is probably the reason why he’s on the team. It’s worth a watch:
There’s another thing I take away from Saturday, too. The people sitting next to us at the game overheard me looking up the game Ryan referenced. The woman looked at me, shook her head, and mouthed the word, “wow.”
And you know what I felt at that moment? Not discomfort. Not awkwardness. Not bittersweet.
I felt immense pride in a “look at what my kid can do” kind of way. A way that would be no different if people were amazed by his athletic prowess.
Getting there has been a journey, but it feels awful good to have arrived.