Sunday, September 3, 2006

Mrs. Linklater's Football Column No. 2

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 goal. Whatever.

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.

Finalscore 35-7.

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 coach.

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.

1 comment:

screaminremo303 said...

Hmmm. Since I belong to the official booster group, The Sun Angels, I'll just leave this one for you to pass along:

Tell him to visit in January.