Friday, August 27, 2004

Cue Hank

Part of the fun in trying to write everyday is having to create new and semi-interesting things to talk about. These things might have actually happened to you the way that you tell them, or they might not have. It's all part of the mystical entity known as "Glen."

So, you can choose whether or not to believe whether or not any of the following story is true. No animals were harmed in the scribing of this incident.

Back in the fall of 1988, I was about to begin my Freshman year of High School. I, as well as just about every other "young man" in our school, felt that it was very important to try out for the Football team. For me, it was one of those father/son things. My dad was an All-conference Tight End when he played back in the day, so I felt that I must have had that sort of ability trapped within me somewhere, and decided to try out for the squad.

I should have known right away that football was not the sport for me. Most of my close friends had quit within the first day or so because they couldn't take all of the running and yelling that we had to endure during the two-a-day sessions. (For those of you that aren't football fans, this meant that for the few weeks before school started, we had 2 2-hour practices a day. One in the morning, and one in the afternoon.)

One of the issues that should have slapped me in the face right away was the fact that I was not as physically or mentally tough as the other guys that were out there practicing or at least that I wasn't able to compete with them when I was 13 years old. I'm man enough to admit this now, seeing as how 15+ years have gone by, but I was so emotionally wrecked by the football experience (and the fact that my sister had just moved away to start college) that I actually began to cry on the field during one of the first few practices. Thankfully the head coach was somewhat merciful and didn't single me out to the rest of the team as the kid that just couldn't take it.

I think the only thing that kept me going was the fact that I thought that I believed that I could be good at it eventually, if I kept at it. Sadly, that just wasn't going to happen, I was just too much of a late bloomer to actually make anything of myself, on the football field, that year.

The coach of our freshman team was a sadist. He was a very angry man that pushed each and every one of us to our physical limits, and then pushed us until we couldn't do any more. One of the things that was stressed to us when we began playing that year was the fact that we "do not lose." Our Junior Varsity Football team had not lost a game in approximately 132 years. The numbers seemed a bit unrealistic, but when a coach tells you that they had never lost and then makes you run for two hours in full pads, you tend to just give in eventually.

One of the entertaining moments of the season was when I made the swift transformation from a wide receiver/defensive back to being an offensive/defensive lineman. People don't make this transition unless something is really wrong with them. It's not like you'll see a star wide receiver in high school go to being a tackle at the college level. I honestly think they might have felt bad about the fact that I wasn't going to get on the field playing wideout, not that I would have cared about playing time, and decided to put me on the field in a position where not as many things could go wrong. I mean, come on, when you play lineman as a freshman in high school all you have to do is hold the person in front of you while playing offense, and try to run past the person that is trying to hold you when you're on defense.

Like most other high school sports, I really struggled at football. I just didn't have the foot speed or the strength, at the time, to play the game well.

The season went on, as all sports seasons do, and eventually we got to the last game of the season. Unfortunately, we didn't play well and lost the game. Remember how the coach said that we "do not lose?" Well, that came back into play on the next day, our last practice of the season.

When you get to your last practice of the year, especially one where you're already done with all of your games, and there is nothing to play for. So, you just tend to show up, expecting to return your equipment and go home. That's not quite what he had in mind though.

We dressed like it was any other practice, except that mentally we were already done for the year. So, we walked out onto the field with no idea of what the coach had in store. It was a very hot day. Man, was it hot. I remember reading the paper the next day just to find out how hot and humid it actually got. At 3:00, when practice began, it was 95 degrees. The humidity was in the 90+ range. It was an awful day. It didn't get better.

Once we were all out there, the Marquis-de-Pigskin decided that we should have played better during the last nights game. We all agreed silently, since that was the only sort of response that was allowed when he was yelling at us. So, to let us know that he did not approve of our performance, he had us line up at the endzone line on the practice field, and sprint to the other enzone line, 100 yards, and then back to the other line, another 100 yards. When we got back, we were allowed to rest for a few moments, then run again.

I'm pretty sure that he was a pretty big Herb Brooks fan, because this whole thing was almost straight out of the story of the treatment that Herb gave to the 1980 US Hockey team when they lost a game.

I honestly can't remember how many times we had to run those sprints, but I do remember one of my friends collapsing to the ground and not being able to get back up. He had a heart condition, so at that point, they gave him some water. Those of us that didn't fall down, didn't get any.

Each year, when football season starts, I think about how great it would be to play football every day. How great it would be to be out there in front of all of those fans. How great it would be to be able to play a game that you love and get paid for it.

Then I remember running those miles of sprints and think, "You know what? I'm glad that I decided to play video games competitively the next year."


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