Oh Yeah, We Heard The Crowd Roar!

Published: Thursday, September 19, 2013 at 08:35 AM.

            My football career started in the front yard. The south end zone was the front sidewalk. The north goal line stretched from the telephone pole out by the Como Road to the drain pipe under the driveway. The teams consisted of me and David Mark on one side and Leon on the other. We blamed the scarcity of players on Mom and Dad; that was all the children they had. And they moved to a remote area out on the edge of town.

            The side boundaries were marked by a couple young maple trees that bordered Stonewall Street on one side and the house on the other. We didn’t have white lines running across the grass so we had some serious rhubarbs as to exactly where a runner stepped out of bounds between those trees. It was a little easier on the house side. We just looked for the blood or the dent in the wall. 

            Leon was five years older than me and he had six and a half years on David. Those were light years in terms of growth, strength and power when Leon was ten and me and Dave hadn’t entered kindergarten yet. We played “tackle” football, of course, and one of us had to snap it back to Leon and then turn and attack him.

            Leon mostly ran over us and scored at will. But, listen, we didn’t just stand there! None of us had actually seen a real football game. But the objective was crystal clear. David would dive at Leon’s knees, I’d jump on his back. We couldn’t spell teamwork but if we were going to get him to the ground, we had to do it together!

            And I can still remember to this day how my little heart would beat with fear and trepidation when I tried to run around the right end with mighty Leon bearing down on me from his middle linebacker position! He knocked the wind out of me so many times I showed up for the post game meal looking like a crumpled up sail.

            I also remember how my heart would soar on those rare occasions when Dave would toss me a pass that Leon didn’t deflect and I’d take off toward Como Street! The score didn’t matter. The shellacking I’d been taking against the house, the trees and the ground forgotten. The blood on my shirt glistened as courage marks. I raced across the goal line in triumph!

            Of course, the euphoric tide tuned in a nanosecond. We had to kick off to the giant! Football can lift you up to unbelievable heights one minute……and humble you to a spot lower than a whale’s belly the next. I never had a football coach that didn’t compare the game to life. And those same coaches, in between yelling and blowing whistles at you, taught that it didn’t matter how many times you got knocked down…..it was how many times you got up that counted!



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