Are you ready for some (flag) football???
I signed up to play flag football in Fairfax, starting on Monday nights in mid-March. For the longest time, I’ve wanted to play a game of pickup “two-hand touch/stop tackle” football (or what’s known these days as the NFL Pro Bowl), and for the first time in 31 years, I’m finally fulfilling my dream.
My love of playing football goes back to my grade school days, throwing the football with my brother Lee in the front yard….I was his John Stallworth to his Terry Bradshaw. (The Giants were truly awful back then, so Joe Pisarcik to Earnest Gray just didn’t have the same inspiration.) I vividly remember the summer of 1980, running across the yard to catch a deep pass, totally forgetting about the Japanese Beetle trap my dad had put in the yard. BAM!! I hit that thing at full speed, but I’ll be damned if I didn’t catch that ball, bloody nose and all!
Because the son of my mom’s best friend died from a ruptured spleen playing JV football, my parents were totally against my brother and I even thinking of playing football. The “jocks” who played football at our high school made fun of us, because we were just “music geeks”…these same football players almost set a New York State high school football record – for INEPTITUDE. Over the course of two seasons, the team scored a total of SIX points (one touchdown, missed extra point). In 1983, the team went 0-8 with eight shutouts, and in 1984, they went 0-8, one aforementioned touchdown, one forfeit…..who says there’s no crying in football? At least I learned how to play “Taps” very well while in the marching band.
I used to love playing football games with my friends in the neighborhood. Our friend Bill Hughes had the perfect Yard for games, and we even put up a rope between two trees one time so that we could kick extra points and field goals. If we didn’t play at Bill’s house, we played at Shokan Park. The best games were the snow games. During my junior year of high school (Winter ‘85-‘86) we had some of the BEST games. We had one game at Bill’s house where Mark McNulty threw me a TD pass, and then I ended up getting covered by all the snow on the shrubs by the garage when I fell into them, and one game at Shokan Park in about 8” of snow where we could barely run because the snow was so deep, and we could barely see, because of the snow blowing in our faces! The best game (which for me became the worst game) was the game I played in my front yard. We had early dismissal from school because of a snowstorm, and we still had about 6” of snow on the ground. Remembering the treacherous footing from the game at Shokan Park, I thought it would be a brilliant idea to use my dad’s snowblower to “clear the field”….the ground was still frozen, but between the snowblower and the game, the grass took a beating. I still can hear my dad stomping up the steps to my room saying “Goddammit!! What the hell did you do to the yard???” Good times!
In college, I met a lot of fellow music majors who shared my love of playing touch football. On any given school day or weekend, you’d see a game of football being played on the quad within the Terrace dorms at Ithaca College. I remember playing with my friends Rob Wrate, Rod Wascisko, my brother Lee, my brother-from-another-mother Rob Collins, my roommate Chuck Wilson, and many other friends from my classes and ensembles. Whether sun, rain (mud!) sleet or snow, there were football games to be played. The last game (one of my all-time favorites) was when the Phi Mu Alpha music fraternity was challenged to a game by the Delta Phi Zeta sorority (and their boyfriends), because they were seriously convinced that they could beat a “bunch of wimpy music majors.” This was two weeks before I graduated in December of 1990. Even though Chuck (my roommate at the time) and I weren’t in Phi Mu Alpha, we were more than glad to help our fellow music majors, and we showed NO MERCY. As Chuck and I were addicted to Tecmo Bowl, we created a playbook (ok, we photocopied the plays from the video box playbook instructions), and we took this very seriously. We didn’t care that these frat guys and sorority girls were hungover and obnoxious. All I remember is that I lost count of the score, and that Chuck and I had a blast!
So here I am, 52 1/2 years old, getting ready to do something I love, but that I haven’t done in years…am I concerned about my body not being as spry as it used to be? Absolutely! I signed up for the co-ed beginner league, which is strictly for fun and not competitive league play. Do I expect to go out there and score a lot of touchdowns? Nope, not at all. Am I gonna rock my new Nike Vapor cleats, my Neumann receiver gloves and my Deion “Primetime” Sanders do-rag, listening to Hammer’s “2 Legit 2 Quit” to get psyched up for the game? HELL YEAH! I just want to have fun, get back into shape, and make some new friends. The friendships are what I remember more than anything else from back in the day.
Let the games begin.