With football season upon us, I enjoy reminiscing about my high school years and toting the football for my team. As the years go by, in my mind my prowess and accomplishments back then get better and more significant like a lying fisherman’s stories of the size of the fish he caught and the ones that got away.
I struggle with saying “It was the best time of my life,” because it wasn’t, but it was a very fun time and I am very happy that I made it without doing too many stupid things.
Traveling to help one of my children move in for college one more time, I was driving back through the county in Alabama where I grew up and played high school football, I got this sudden urge to see some of the mementos of years past, and maybe take a look at the fields where I played.
My first stop was “out in the country” where our archrivals, the Wildcats, called home. Why in the world would I want to do that? I will tell you. I wanted to hold the “Golden Football” just one more time. The Golden Football was a trophy that was passed back and forth to the winner of the football game between our schools each year.
The Wildcats got to keep the trophy back in the mid-80’s because as the rules stated, “If a team won three times in a row, it was their trophy to keep forever.” Rules are rules and they had the trophy and I wanted to hold it just one more time.
After sitting getting my picture made, my credentials kind of checked and talking to the secretary for about 15 minutes, a nice young man, who was one of the coaches at the school led me to the entrance to the gymnasium. He looked at the trophies and pointed to one of many and asked, “Is that the one you are talking about?”
I said, “It is, would be OK if I held it?” The coach laughed and said, “Absolutely.” He slid the glass back from the unlocked trophy case and handed me the gold football trophy. It felt good to hold it once again, maybe even feel 16 again. He agreed to take a picture (actually many) of me holding the trophy.
We talked and I went back to the office to be officially checked out.
Being about 40 years ago, I was reminded that I actually was not part of a team that “lost” the coveted Golden Football. Fortunately, it was a team a few years later. I was part of one team in 1978 that actually kept our archrivals from keeping the trophy.
1978, was a great year for my high school’s football program. It was the first undefeated season in my school’s football playing history, which had just begun in 1972.
Thinking about it, I remembered our big “Gold Football Trophy” that the school had made commemorating that undefeated season in 1978. It had been 40 years and I thought about how nice it would be to hold that trophy one more time and see my name etched in one of the gold plates that were stuck on the nice wooden base.
I traveled about 15 minutes to my alma mater, where the Falcons still play today. A nice young man was manning the office window and I informed him that “I was here to see the trophy.” He had no idea what I was talking about, but the athletic director fortunately was just coming into the office.
The athletic director informed me that the football coach might know and that he was down in the gym teaching a yoga class. The yoga class business concerned me at first, but I have recently read where a lot of football players benefit from the stretching and contorting of the body involved in the ancient Indian practice. My football coach taught a cooking class where he taught the art of throwing spaghetti against the wall to determine if it was done – so I’m good with yoga.
Upon meeting this new football coach, I immediately liked him, but I also knew something was not right. None of these folks knew where “that” Gold Football Trophy was.
They were nice and I could tell that my school was still the academic powerhouse that it was when I was there, but through the years, some things lose their significance I suppose.
I met the principal, who was wonderful, a few other people in the office and even the maintenance fellow who proceeded to take me to every storage building and closet on the school campus. He rode me around in his truck and we talked. It’s amazing what you can find out talking to folks who fix things.
The bottom line was that they had “run out of room” for trophies a few years back and probably discarded many of the older ones.
I didn’t get to hold it; I didn’t even get to see it.
So, to the students who will suit up this fall to play football, cheer and play in the band, enjoy it while you can, because in 40 years, going undefeated won’t matter that much, neither will losing them all.
My biggest trophy is stored in a trophy case in my head and it gets bigger every year.
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