Thursday, September 14, 2006

Friday Night Lights

My Dad loved sports. He played high school football and was a walk on player for Texas A&M back in the Forties. Like his father before him, he was also a boxer. In his teaching career, he coached football and track. You should know that Dad was only 5’8". He probably only weighed about 160 – 170 at his heaviest. He was one tough guy. Dad felt sports were important to the development of a young person’s mind. He believed with the right coaching anyone could do anything. He loved working with young people, and he gave many a sense of accomplishment with his personal coaching. He loved going to all high school sports events, but football was his love. He kept up with all of the players. He loved seeing his old students at the games and keeping up with their lives.

Both my brothers were amazing athletes. They could play any sport from football to tennis and play it well. Unlike me, they were incredibly fast. I can remember Dad working with my older brother in the back yard teaching him the finer points of football setting up an old tire in a tree to throw the ball at. He also made hurdles for Craig to practice track. In high school, neither brother was any bigger than Dad had been, and sports had changed. Coaches were only interested in guys who were large. Wichita Falls High School had a football team that had been to the state play-offs. They played teams like Odessa Permian. The coaches were not interested in my brothers. The older brother gave up sports for the debate team. He did stay on the track team. The younger brother opted for other sports like soccer and tennis where size was not so important. At first, it was hard on my dad who thought every young man should play football, but Dad had other students to mentor. I think Dad came to understand that just because you wanted to play football and be on the team didn’t make it so. Times had changed.

This morning I got an email from my little brother who has three sons of his own. Once again, his sons are incredible athletes, but not very big. They play baseball, tennis, soccer and basketball (basketball will not last long due to their height). Soccer is the big sport for each boy. Like their dad, they are fast and agile. Last year, Oliver’s high school soccer team made it to the state play-off game (lost). In the email, my brother informed me that the football coach for Rider High School came to Oliver and asked him to be the kick-off man for the football team. Oliver has practiced this week and will be kicking off Friday night’s game against Stephenville. Go Oliver!

Dad loved going to see his grandson’s play sports, but soccer was not his game. He would go to the games, but he just did not "get" soccer. The truth is, I think my brothers felt they had lost a connection with Dad when they quit football. I know my younger brother was hurt by Dad’s lack of interest in soccer. I know my older brother felt like he had let Dad down. Who knows the depth of feelings between fathers and sons? I know Dad would have absolutely loved seeing Oliver play football. He would have been at that game Friday night come hell or high water. One of his grandsons is playing football on a varsity team, and Dad will not be there. How ironic!


Buck said...

What a lot to comment on! First and foremost, it's sad your father won't be there to see his grandson play. I feel for all of you...

Second, like your Dad, I never really "got" soccer - still don't, to this very day. But I played wing when I was in junior high, while overseas in Ankara, Turkey. Our team didn't win a single game...we played against Turkish kids who grew up eating and breathing "football." The ate our lunch. Dinner, too.

Third, when I was in high school in Southern California my school district and most others in SoCal had varsity, JV, B, and C football teams. The Bees and Cees were especially for the smaller kids whose size basically made them ineligible or unable to make the varsity teams. I thought that was a great sports program and wonder if it still exists today.

I wanted to try out for B football. Like your Dad, I'm a small guy (still 5' 8"). The kicker (no pun intended) was my father wouldn't sign the standard legal release form, therefore I couldn't play. No amount of pleading would change his mind. I held that against him for a long, long time...part of it was a matter of popularity with the girls, ya know!

Bag Blog said...

Football is definitely about popularity, although us girls like most anybody in a uniform. WFHS had a JV team and a pup team.

I played left wing in my high school soccer days. I also played volley ball, and softball (both slow pitch and fast) anything to keep up with my brothers and dad. Thanks for the sympathy note.

semitough said...

It's funny, many of my best high school memories are of playing football. I have 3 sons, neither of the oldest played past 11-12 years old and my 11 year old has never played and probably won't. How cool that your nephew is getting a chance. I'm sure somewhere your father will be watching.

OPB said...

It's funny you wrote about this. Several times I have caught myself thinking,"Man, I've got to call Dad, he'll be so excited." It seems kind of empty because I feel like I haven't told him about Oliver playing.

Bag Blog said...

Our longtime family friend, Dale, sent me this email commenting on this post. Dale is retired USAF with three grown boys - he did well in life. I thought it would be okay to post his email here:

Lou Lou,
I remember your dad taking us to his high school homecoming games at Valley View, I believe it was. I don't remember much about the games but I do remember getting to go with the family, which meant I got to feel like I was part of your family, a functional family, Mom, Dad, Sister, Brother, the whole nine yards. I remember to tire in the back yard. I remember playing football in the back yard till it was too dark to see and your mom putting a stop to it and either sending me on my way home or feeding me and then sending me home. There were many nights when I would be invited to put my bony knees under your table after a hard fought backyard football game, what a blessing that was. A lot of time, not really know to you guys, but that was my only meal of the day. I think you mom had a pretty good sense about that though. There were nights when your mom would send me on my way and I really didn't want to go. Or I would call my mom and asked if I could stay and she would say know for fear that I was "wearing my welcome out", as she would put it. If I ever got close to "wearing my welcome out" your mom and dad never let on that I was doing so. Anyway, thanks for the flood of memories once again. Knowing that your dad started working with Craig when ya'll were in Electra, lets you know how early he started with his boys, all of us. Of course I was so much smaller and slower then Craig I was usually just something for him to get used to running over when he was carrying a football. We had fun though. Thanks for the memories!! Once again!


Bag Blog said...

Here is another email that commented on my post. It is from Jesse:

Just this morning, I was eating a chocolate sheet cake that one of the girls brought in. It was just like the kind Pa always made. It sent me back to summers in Red River staying with Grandma and Pa and all our family get-togethers. Pa always made that sheet cake! I was getting pretty emotional sitting there in the break room, until everyone started making fun of me crying in my sheet cake. Then I read your blog, and that brought back a flood of memories. I’m just falling apart in my little cube. Every time I watch a football game, I think of Pa saying, “Football is a game of inches…” What did he say after that? Do you remember?

It’s not very busy here at work. I’ll be in late tonight.

Ciao Luca