Friday night football at my old high school.
Second game of the season. Second play of the game -- a forty yard bomb from the quarterback to a
kid he's known since grade school. Touchdown. And I thought
the head coach had no imagination.
By the end of the first half the
score was 22-7. One rushing TD, two in the air. One two-point
conversion. Or was it three touchdowns. Two missed PATs. And one field
Earlier in the week, my friends'
son was told by the running backs coach that he wouldn't start at
running back unless the other back was dead or something equally
inspiring. Coaches never cease to find ways to foster camraderie
among the players.
Before the game the two boys -- teammates, friends, and competitors -- pounded shoulders, banged helmets,
did that thumb wrap handshake thing, and hugged each other.
During the game my friends' son
played hard on defense and special teams. He even went into the
backfield a few times, but only on passing plays.
In the fourth quarter, the other running back, who had been nursing a flu-like bug, suddenly got sick on the sidelines.
Hollywood moment, sort of. By
that time there was no question who was going to win the game. With the
starting running back too sick to continue, now was a good time
to use up the clock. On the ground.
On seven carries, my friends' kid ran for 159 yards and two touchdowns, one of
them a sixty-five yard sprint through the line.
Yes. We got the game on video. Four cameras. One up in the stands. Three on the field.
The best part was afterward, over
beer and pepperoni pizza at a local post game hangout. What a
retro place. I hadn't been there since a paddle tennis tournament ten
years ago. There's a huge, dark and smoky bar on one side with
pine paneling and TVs hanging everywhere. On the other side,
there's another large room decorated like someone's basement, which passes
for their restaurant. Coaches, players, parents, realtives, and friends
all milled around enjoying the good feelings that always follow a win,
especially a blow out.
The fathers of the two running
backs pulled up chairs next to each other, while players and coaches,
still full of adrenaline, walked around hoovering up the pizzas that
covered every single table. The dads huddled together, beers in
hand, talking about how exciting it was to have not one, but two fine players in the backfield. This was seconded by the
defensive coach, the receivers coach, and interestingly, the head
The one dad and his wife, my
friends, have only one son. He was so tired after the game he
went home with a request to bring him some food.
The other dad has four sons, all current or former stars on the team.
He himself is in his high school and college halls of fame. Normally laconic, he was positively effusive the other night, regaling us all with stories about the good old days.
Turns out, at one time I was good
friends with a college idol of the hall of fame dad. Plus the godfather
of my younger daughter was a legendary player at his high school and
Notre Dame. With those impeccable credentials, he is willing to talk
football with me. At least let me listen to his conversation with my
friend. From time to time, I would interject with things like "Pass
the pizza." "Are there any more napkins?" "Can I get a root beer?"
One of the hall of fame dad's other
sons came into the basement that looks like a restaurant wearing a basketball jersey. He's one of
the starting safeties. His shoulders and arms were bright red. I asked
him how he got a sunburn playing ball at night. He said it was from
being iced after the game. Yes, he laughed at me for asking.
The team picked to win the league has been beaten twice already. Both
non conference games. Nevertheless, they're still ranked in the top 20
in the state. All because they made it to the finals of the state
championship last year. That rankles.
This week's parting cliche: One game at a time.