Wednesday, November 24, 2010


They say true champions know when to quit and always go out as champions. Well, maybe they don't say that, and maybe it seldom happens, but that is the way it happened for me.
In the 9th Grade I was the smallest, slowest, and worst player on the football team. I didn't know the signals and had not a clue as to where to line up. Underneath my helmet I wore my black glasses, which had to be readjusted after each play.. It was for these distinctions that the coach nicknamed me "The Phantom".
"The Phantom". It was not a compliment.
I played on the "B" team, with other slow and ungifted athletes. We mainly served the purpose of being as cannon fodder for the "A" team during practice. We were "live" blocking and tackling dummies and 100% expendable.
We referred to ourselves as "The Guinea Pig Squad".
But we did get to play in games, against other Guinea Pig Squads from other schools. This story is about my last game.

The coach put me in during the 4th quarter. The lower your skill level, the later in the game you went in. There were two minutes left. I adjusted my glasses and settled into my defensive safety position. The quarterback barked the signals while I prayed they would not run a pass play. This was unlikely, as they were guinea pigs just like me and the odds that they could complete a pass were very low, even if the receiver were to be wide open, which he surely would be if I were to try to cover him.
They did not run a pass play. They ran the ball right up the middle. The back broke through the line, through the 'Backers and was headed straight towards me! I put my head down and moved forward. We collided and went down in a cloud of dust. We got up and went back to our huddles.
Second down.
Once again the quarterback barked the signals while I prayed, The running back came up the middle, I ran forward into him, and he and I went down in a cloud of dust.
We both got up and ran back to our huddles. I adjusted my glasses and tightened my jock.
It was third down.
Again, they ran the only play they seemed to be capable of running. The back came up the middle, broke through the line, it was just he and I and he was heading straight for me. I lowered my head and braced myself and BAM! we both went down in a cloud of dust!

I jumped up, dusted myself off and began adjusting my glasses. It was then that I noticed that my counterpart DID NOT GET UP!
The crowd went wild!
I ran to the sidelines where the coach was waiting. He grabbed my facemask the way coaches do, and slapped me on the butt with the clipboard, and for the first time all year he called me by my name:

And that is how my football career ended. I never played another down.

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