Center

Fort Collins High School, 1955.

I liked to play football. I had played it at the city park when I was in 8th grade last year and I knew what position I wanted to play: center. I remember fighting for it then.  It was a popular  position.  I viewed it like the quarterback in esteem and rank among the positions on the team.

When I went out for football the next fall, my freshman year at FCHS I told them I wanted to play center.  THey said Okay and gave me my first real football stuff.  I had shoulder pads, helmet, shoes, pants with thigh protectors and… No wait, I had to get my ‘cup’ from the store.  My first athletic protector, ‘jock strap’ came as much a surprise to me as most boys facing a similar introduction to high school sports. Unlike other jock straps I had  worn this had a hard shell cup that fit in it where it neede ot be to protect my privates.  I was ready to go.

When we practiced Coach always had me tackling Bud Buderas, the biggest, meanest farm boy on our team.  He was huge and I was not.  Maybe 130 lbs soaking wet. I tried and tried but I could not tackle him.  I was happy to return to scrimmage where I could hike the ball, what I felt was my job on the team, like the punter Diva who  comes on, kicks, and exits till mext time.  Athough I knewfootball was a contact sport, I didn’t think I had to contact anyone or vice versa.  Even during scrimmage I avoided anyone wishing to contact me or simply brushed them off and waited till the play was over.

Looking back on this now, it seems a lot like my daughter Ashley’s first soccer game.  She liked the uniform, and kicking the ball, but she didn’t like that the other girls wouldn’t get out of the way when it was her turn or that they were continually trying to take the ball away from her.  Ashley, I totally understand now.

So I didn’t play much football.  I only remember one game, against Loveland, the next town over.  I didn’t get to play until late in the game.  When the coach pointed to me and sent me out I was ready.I dont remember if the quarterback was always back from the line of scrimmage or just to punt, but anyway he was back there now.  I hiked the ball …. right over his head.

Now I have had years to review this moment.  Where others who live in the past reprize their award winning performance at some critical juncture of a championship game, I review that hike, over the quarterback’s head.  The best I can do to explain my perception about the center as the hiker of the football is that I had little understanding ot the game, the positions, and the responsibilities.  Now I understand those BIG centers are a part of the line of tackles and guards who must create holes, protect the passer, or just hit the shit out of the guy standing opposite you.  (In my defense, there was often no guy standing opposite me on the line of scrimmage.)

So I wasn’t the best center on the Lambkin team, nor the second best, nor the third.  I was fourth string center on the freshman football team.

So when my sons faced the decision to play football, they demured.  John played soccer his senior year and lettered in it at Jefferson High in Portland where I taught.  Jim went to the TV production magnet program at Jefferson and did not participate in sports till he got interested in cycling. Jacquari went out for track and went out for long jump, triple jump and high jump.  He was so good the coach would call other coaches over to show him off.  Teddy played soccer where he was full of endurance he gained playing basketball for Salvation Army where the coach spent most of the time running the players from one end of the court to the other.

I am so happy my inability to perform as center didn’t wear off on my children.

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