Our two younger sons, Joe and Billy, have been in soccer this fall. As part of this, one of my co-workers recently asked if I was a full-fledged soccer mom.   I replied that it might be more accurate to describe myself as a sidelines mom. I’m the lady who is grading papers during the game or messing around with her camera. I don’t know the names of the other players or the coaches. It’s not that I don’t care, it’s just that…well…okay, yes, I don’t really care. I’m glad that my kids want to play a sport, but, truly, that’s all I’ve got. I worry more about the carpooling to and from practice.

I have only seen half of Billy’s games because the beloved, aforementioned husband and I have to split forces. One week I’ll go to Billy’s game and he’ll go to Joe’s; we switch the next week and just figure things out as we go with Michael’s non-soccer schedule.

While we’re at the games, the Bah and I text each other:

– Missy, where did this wind come from? It was warm at home, but a bit chilly here.

– Toughen up, old man.   I just saw that Maureen O’Hara died. She was 95.

– That’s pretty old. You’re almost that old.

– What’s the score?

– Tied. Joe made two good saves.

– Good for Joe. I’m happy for him.

– Now we’re down.

– Literally. Everyone is slipping on the goose poop out here.

This witty repartee continues on as such until the end of the game.   Billy’s game is no longer directly mentioned until the last text when one of us says, “Game over. We never scored.” This has happened nine times.

Billy’s team has not scored a goal yet this season. (For the sake of the story, I’m framing this as a ten-game season.) When I was at his game yesterday, I could hear a nine-game shutout desperation in the voices of our team parents. There was one superstar mom who knew the names of all of the kids on Billy’s team and was cheering her heart out for all of them. She was clearly not a sidelines mom.

I knew that we were on our way to another shutout when many of us, myself included, finally started cheering for the opposite team’s goalie. I mean, honestly, we had to respect the grim Universal forces at work that were preventing our team’s shots from ever crossing the revered goal line. The other team’s goalie – both yesterday and in every previous game – would block our attempts, sometimes quite skillfully. There were multiple cries of “good job, goalie!” as we all sat and waited for the carnage to end.

As I was daydreaming and cheering for the other team’s goalie, I couldn’t help but think that there might be a kind of symmetry, or even a foreshadowing, to these ten potential shutouts.

Here it is: What is a zero but an “o” that is standing a little taller and is trying to look thinner?   An “o” is nice and round. An “o” is relaxed, confident even. The zero is a little more uptight. The zero is that guy who is angling away from the camera, trying to suck in his stomach, trying to look a little taller. We see you, Zero, but we’re not going to comment.

The zeros are uptight o’s in disguise.

Ten zeros are like ten o’s.

And maybe this is how it all began for the Olympians. Those five Olympic rings could really just signify five shutout zeros from soccer games of years past. And if we put two sets of Olympic rings next to one another, now we’re looking at a ten-game season of soccer shutouts.

Hypothetically speaking, of course.

The five (or ten) Olympic rings, the Olympic o’s, are symbols of victory. The Olympic rings, those perfect o’s, are the zeros growing up and letting their stomachs hang out a bit more, of being confident, of not minding that their parents were cheering for the other team’s goalie.

This zeros versus Olympic o’s philosophy could apply to us as well. In the winter months, when my jeans are getting a tad tight and I’m taking a deep breath to zip them up, I now know that I can say to myself, “This discomfort is not due to the potato chip obsession. Certainly not. Instead, this is my own Olympic o, my Olympic ring, expanding out to its full, rotund beauty. I’m done with the suck-it-in zero right now. It’s all about the Olympic ring, baby.”

Therefore, today’s Gratitude Selfie shout-out (shutout?) goes to the Zeros. We know what you are now, oh brave little zeros. We know about your quest to fill out a bit and become an Olympic o. We believe in you, little zeros. And we’re keeping our eyes on those Olympic rings for you.