Sunday, August 28, 2011

Pony League Football

I was a sorrowful, ridiculous sight standing on the football field with uncomfortable shoulder pads and an oversized jersey soured from years of too much sweat and too little washing.  And pants two sizes too big.  A coach had tried to tape the pads and pants around my thighs to hold them up, but the tape couldn't hold once I actually moved.  So the pant legs hung around lazily.  The dirty white adhesive tape hinting of some vague injury.  One leg caught somehow on my calf and hung jauntily at my knee.  The other leg was loose, hanging open toward my foot.  A scrawny ankle disappeared into the gaping hole like a fragile clapper in a big bell.  Luckily, my mouthguard was the one piece of pristine equipment I had been issued.

Pony League Football was one of my very few forays into sports.  It had all sounded cool, but I didn't burn for the game like the other guys.  The ill fitting, used and abused, league supplied equipment did not make me feel like Spartacus.  I felt like the Tin Man and moved with all his pre-oil-can grace.  Dad and I had watched a lot of football but I didn't grow up in a sports family.  Thankfully so actually, my life has been rich in other things.  I quit even watching sports on purpose long ago.

In the practices and bull sessions, the ill equipped, volunteer dad coaches talked strategy and tried to build a team with what they had.  Finding that I matched a lack of grace with a stunning lack of speed, the coach assigned me as Defensive Tackle.  Whatever deficit I had in grace and speed, I hid it in a stature not quite as big as most of the other lineman.  I was pushed and shoved, jostled and punched.  But it was football; it would make me cooler.

From the coaches, I had gotten an embryonic idea of what me role was.  I was to penetrate the Offensive Line.  The Quarterback and the ball, however briefly, were back there somewhere.  I would lunge and roll, fake and push, and shove trying to get past whatever meathead they had put in front of me.  Unbeknown to me at the time, the Quarterback, and especially the ball, were never back there for long.  And the Offensive Line was supposed to tie up the Defense as long as possible to help the ball get from behind the line down the field.

When the ball was snapped, I would lunge and roll and push and shove and . . . then the whistle would blow.  Turning around usually, I would walk down the field to wherever the Offense had got and we would line up again.  Ball snap, jostle, whistle, walk.  If the other team scored, or somehow used up their downs, I would walk off the field and our Offense would give it a go.  Sooner or later, the Defense and I would go back on the field.

It never occurred to me, until years later, and nor did any of the dad coaches mention, that I should have kept my head up to watch the overall action.  I never knew what was going on or where the ball was going.  I was just trying to break across the line.  Rarely, my Offensive opponent would drop his guard, or if he knew the real action was long gone, save his energy, and I would make one last triumphant shove and roll and . . . get by him!!!  I was actually standing in enemy territory!

. . . and looking around, no one else was still back there.

I think many of us live out lives like I played Defensive Tackle.  We keep our heads down.  We push and shove and blindly work only on the problem right in front of us.  If you keep your head up and watch the ball, you can adjust; stay in the game.  You can do something productive and contribute, rather than just wasting your energy on some smaller problem that doesn't affect the overall game.   Of course, we could also quit pushing and shoving and play a different game, but that is a topic for another day.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Kitchen Table Drunk

I was digging through my notebooks to find something else, but ran across this strange verse.  Its either just an angry poem or the germ of a country song.  Not sure how it came out this way exactly, but there's some juicy bits in there. Some food for thought.

It was written some lonely night on the road when I was truck-drivin' - who knows when.  Probably propped up on one elbow in the bunk of a semi cab sleeper in the rain. Actually, I like the rain and I don't feel like this anymore.  I'm still looking for the other story, but in the meantime here's a lame ramble.    Here's to unfulfilled potential and ex-wives.







Kitchen Table Drunk



I never did nothin' that carried my weight.
But everything I started was gonna be great.



I've always been good at spinnin' big plans.
Never stopped to wonder if I ever took a stand.



Then you came along, like a bird on a fence.
And I went with you without meaning or sense.



To you, I gave it all, there ain't any left.
So we bide our lonely time, kitchen table drunk, bereft.



I was orange, yellow and red, you were tan.
Still I could have been a better man.