28 August 2012

On Sport and the Young

My ole Dad was team physician for the Houston Oilers when I was in high school. The family would have players over for dinner from time to time (great for stories at school) and they were uniform in their opinions:  Don't play football.

From time to time I have run into some of the old players, and it would bring tears to my eyes. It wouldn't be fair to name names, because some are still alive, ,but let's just say that drug use is not just common but ubiquitous.  The guys HURT, all the time.  They move like punch drunk boxers because of successive concussions and joint damage.

I played with some of these cats (not football - Scrabble, maybe, but I'm not that stupid), helping them on some routines, doing long snaps for FG or punt practice, taking long snaps for FG practice (the FG kicker is ALREADY MOVING when the ball is snapped - you've got less than a second to grab and orient the ball.  It ain't easy.)  I did long patterns for the QB, just so he could find my hands at 65 yards, while throwing from a flat-footed stance.  Might not have the chance to move, about to be sacked.  Not that I actually caught the damn things.  Dan Pastorini (to choose a name at random) could stand flat footed and launch a football 90 yards, and even at the end of its arc it would still leave bruises on your hands.  Some of the players on the team would come have dinner.  Every one said "stay out of this game, it's bullshit".  My mother would gasp and clutch her pearls at the word, but revel in the idea.

In the Houston area every Fall (to the extent we have Fall, the temp tends to run near 95 degrees f.) there is at least one death in the high schools during football practice, usually from previously undiagnosed cardiac conditions, during the two-a-days. Bullshit, that is.

I'm minded of when I was young, and wanted to play youth football.  My mother was appalled, and suggested that basketball (a non-contact sport) w3as a batter idea. I was a tall kid, so it made a certain amount of sense, but I did both.  In football that ended up with me being put in the unromantic position of right guard, and after one too many antiperspirant jokes I quit. Being tall I was given the position of center in the basketball team.  Being gawky, I didn't enjoy the running from end to end of the court quality of basketball, but when I started being cited for goaltending (me, a 5'6" 11 year old).  Basketball is a non-contact sport, right?  Bullshit.

I said fuck it, and went for track and field. 
I actually set a (Catholic Junior High) record on the Broad Jump - a good pastime for tall gawky dudes.  It was later rescinded for, I don't know. Bacon? Fuck if I know, but I won that meet by 14 inches.  Bullshit.

Summers in Mexico I'd play futbol with the rest of the kids.  Helped me with my Spanish, and with my geometry.  "The goals aren't straight!"  (Explanation follows on the fact of 2 points defining a line, and that we really can't move that big cactus to make the goals even and no they should be parrllel and even drawing it out in the sand like Euclid won't work with anyone fixed upon sport.  30 years later, I now find that sonme of those same kids are senior engineers.  Maybe I did do some good, even as a kid).

Coming back on this post after letting it set a while, I do have a conclusion.  Kids compete.  The extent to which it is organized is the extent to which it is harmful.  

Until you start singing , that is.

And dancing.  That's right out.  Gotta draw a line somewhere.

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