There’s something about football that is very special to me. It brings me back to my younger days, so very long ago.
I remember walking down to the local park on a Saturday morning to play in the flag-football league of which our team was a member. The fresh-cut grass, the white-chalk lines just laid out, marking the end zone and the boundaries.
Everything was clean. Not a worry in the world. All the worries rested on the shoulders of my parents. I was just a kid ready to play a game for fun and for free. To play for the sake of playing.
I was 11 or 12. We were the best team in the league. I was the league MVP. We even had local newspapers covering us because we had these two college coaches that devised a spread offensive scheme that bedazzled the other teams. It was my first experience seeing my name in the newspaper and for something positive. That would not always be the case. But that is another story for another day.
We were undefeated in league play. And I don’t remember exactly how it worked, but we were part of a division and as league champs, we went on to play other league champs throughout the region.
These games were played outside our beloved city of Santa Monica. I remember being intimidated by the other locations and teams. They were fast. Much better than us in natural talent. But we had these schemes based around me as a running back, believe it or not, that kept us winning.
Here’s how it worked, if memory serves. The QB would be under center with a guard next to center and I would be spread out behind three blockers. We played seven on seven, so you had the center, the quarterback, the guard bunched together in one space. Then spread way out to one side, you had three blockers with me set-up behind them. The QB took the snap, turned and tossed me the ball, and I took off. It worked time and time again.
But some of the other teams in the division were huge. God, I remember that. Huge. Flag football quickly turned into tackle football without helmet and pads. We did alright but eventually lost in the finals, I think.
I went on to play football at Palisades High School, the mighty Dolphins. Then in private school at Oakwood High, we didn’t have a mascot, and even in a collateral league with the University of Pacific Tigers. Football has always represented the good in my life.
I recently remembered all of this as I walked out on the football field at South Pasadena High School to talk with coaches and kids about the upcoming season. I watched the practice as the kids sweated through the conditioning exercises, the wind sprints, the blocking dummies, and the sled pushes.
I know times have changed and so many other sports have grown in popularity. Most notable, of course, is soccer, among others. And that’s terrific.
I am so grateful that I once played a game just for the fun of it. For fun and for free, I played to play. Talk soon.