Saturday, March 28, 2009

Gridiron Memories Revived & Medieval Impulses Re-Ignited

… and Trophy Wife goes diagnostic on me!

A close (brother-close) high school chum visited me from Colorado this week. I haven't seen Jon for maybe two decades. We spent not-enough time in the 50 hours we had together, passing back and forth stories of characters we have known and who are now long since gone, dead and buried - if not forgotten. One in particular is neither forgotten nor forgiven.

It's more accurate to say, I have never forgiven myself for a particular incident. Jon didn't remember because he didn't play football. But Tony C. should.

I remember it as clearly as yesterday. On a biting cold Colorado afternoon, my high school team was in Denver, on the losing side of a football game in the 3rd quarter. I was playing left line-backer, which perfectly fit my personality, then as well as now.

On this particular play, everything went to the right side. I immediately set off on a diagonal to intercept the action short of the end-zone. As it turned out, Denver's fleet half-back was eluding all tacklers and breaking loose. I was going to be the one to stop him in his tracks. Charging to cut him off on the sidelines, I had him in my cross hairs. In a nano-split second, I recalled that the cinder track encircling the football field was narrowly bordered by a concrete curb rising about eight inches above the field's surface.

In a nano-split second it went through my mind, that if I hit the Denver halfback where it was my calling to hit him, he was going to land on that curb. Taking mercy on him, I elected to hit him high with my hands and arms and just push him out of bounds.

Bam! I was struck fully in the face with the last straight arm I ever recall getting and it was I who fell, ignominiously onto the turf while the unscathed half-back in the end zone received the cheers of the home town crowd.

I couldn't forget that face and that smirk. A year later I recognized the halfback among new guys enrolling in my school. Tony C became a great addition to our team and I never told him about that incident on that cold day in hell (Denver) until a school re-union decades later. In his eyes there was no sign he remembered it at all. Of course not: it was not about my missed tackle; it was about his touchdown.

But I told Jon at the table last night to tell Tony C. that if I ever catch him in the Hereafter, running with the pigskin and wearing a uniform different than mine, I'm going to hit him with everything I got, equidistant between the knees and the shoulder pads.

Damn hell and high curbs.

Upon listening to this tale of an event from a half century ago, Trophy Wife leaned forward and said, "That explains everything!" And the when the laughter subsided, my co-resident clinical psychologist added, "Very diagnostic."

It was, of course, diagnostic. As I said above, I have totally forgiven Tony C. But I'll never forgive myself.