Don’t get me wrong. I like football. I don’t spend my entire Saturday or Sunday in front of the T.V. like some other guys I know, but if there is a game on and I don’t have a good book begging to be read or I’m hanging with my family or friends, then sure; I’m down for some football.
It’s not like I’m oblivious to what’s going on in college or the NFL. Ohio State almost got beat by Ohio. Tom Brady is out for the season.
See. I watch SportsCenter and read the New York Times.
I’m just not one to write a blog entry about the gridiron every other time out.
Let me explain. Baseball and basketball were my first loves growing up, but I actually played football while in high school in Nebraska.
My Senior year. Eight man football. Eighty-yard field. Roughly sixteen guys on the team, give or take a few. Played both sides of the ball. Offensive and defensive end. Played on special teams too. But with that size of our team, we all took a shot on special teams.
See, I hadn’t planned on going out for football. Never even crossed my mind until my buddies talked me into it. And even then I wasn’t sure. Had always been worried before that. Worried an injury would sideline by chances of turning pro in baseball (that is a blog post for another day and time). But what I remember vividly is deciding I wanted to go out for the team before the start of the season, heading home to tell my parents and both of them voted heavily against me playing.
Their concern: I’d get hurt. Having nearly all of my older brothers (six, if you are keeping score at home) play the game, many of them had sustained injuries. Concussions and the like. Guess my parents didn’t want to endure another ambulance ride. Then again, I didn’t stick around to hear their side of the argument. I heard the “no” part and bolted out of youthful immaturity and frustration shortly afterwards.
Can’t say for certain where I went or what I did. I only remember leaving.
I went out for football anyway. My parents didn’t like it much. But being the youngest of 11 kids has its perks. The track records of some older siblings isn’t exactly sparkling. If the worst I wanted to do was play football, apparently that was a battle they opted not to fight too hard. But they told me if my grades slipped (it went from “fear of injury” to “grades” overnight) they said I’d have to stop playing.
In the end, they were happy I went out.
The Village of Beemer, Nebraska at that time was just over 600 people deep – one stop light, three bars, seven churches, you get the picture – and the whole town turned out for games. Typical Midwest community support. Gotta love it. And my parents did. When I became a starter, made a tackle, caught a pass or was named Homecoming King at halftime of a game, they beemed with pride even if the true happiness went unspoken by my Dad. I’m sure had he been around (guy was a work-a-holic) to hear my football coach say I could have been all-state had I played all four-years, he might have enjoyed that moment.
But this weekend, my Dad and football are on my mind again.
My Dad – Wendell Sr.- passed away from cancer on Father’s Day back in 2005. Hard to believe it has been that long. Seems like yesterday, a sad yesterday. Yet every year since, a couple of my brothers have gotten together the weekend following the commemoration of his birthday (September 10th) to honor his spirit, impersonate his unique mannerisms and embrace at the thought of his passing by attending an Oregon State Beavers football game together.
It’s the third annual. Four of us brothers will be making the trek to Corvallis.
It’s a blast in endless ways: a chance for brotherly love, some football, the gift of keeping my Dad’s memory alive and to remember that life is not promised for tomorrow.
It’s now a large part why I like football.