Don't Play Football

Album Cover: The Bends

"All your insides fall to pieces; you just sit there wishing you could still make love."
Radiohead / High and Dry

Posted on January 20, 2007 2:33 AM in Sports
Warning: This blog entry was written two or more years ago. Therefore, it may contain broken links, out-dated or misleading content, or information that is just plain wrong. Please read on with caution.

I remember when I was younger and still living at home with my parents, our neighbors across the street invited my family over to a birthday party for one of their toddlers. When we arrived at the party, I quickly noticed a very tall, old man who was sitting down with a cane by his side. He later got up to introduce himself to me, slowly limping across the room, aided by his cane. He told me his name and quickly followed with the fact that he had once played football for the Cleveland Browns. And by Cleveland Browns, I don't mean the Baltimore Ravens, I mean the original Cleveland Browns.

More important to him than stating that very noteworthy fact, however (especially given that I was in my early teens and probably wearing a plethora of football-related merchandise at the time), was the advice that would follow. "Don't play football," he said, in a very calm yet stern voice. "Promise me you'll never play football."

That this was an older man whose mere presence demanded respect combined with the fact that I had been raised to respect my elders left me no choice but to nod with acceptance of his request. I'm sure in my mind, though, his command did little to stir my passion for the sport of football and the premise of one day playing in college and one day, if I was lucky enough, in the NFL.

As it turns out, I eventually played football as (the equivalent to) a freshman and then again as a senior in high school. My greatest achievement the first year was recovering a fumble (and subsequently experiencing a true dog pile). My playing time was limited, but I enjoyed every minute of the experience nonetheless. My playing time was even more limited as I moved on to a very large high school. My senior year saw me playing at the tail end of games where we had taken a significant lead and the fear of defeat had long waned. I did, however, manage to catch one pass. I ran 35 yards after the catch and scored a touchdown — easily the most memorable moment of my football career (if you can call it that).

As it turns out, the advice I got from that old man never left my mind. I still think about it often, and part of me feels lucky that I didn't pursue (and/or wasn't qualified for) a college football career. While I still experience the aches and pains of hitting one's late-twenties, I know I'm not feeling the same aches and pains I'd be feeling if I had played four years of football at PLU. A choir career made that an easier choice anyway.

After reading a surgery-update on the Seattle Seahawks tonight, I couldn't help but think of that old man's advice.

"Don't play football."


Ugly Face (II) on January 20, 2007 at 12:37 PM:

I clearly recollect this football game. Perhaps, the coach should have played you more often. However, then again, you might too be walking with a cane today. Incidentally, it was only a few days ago that I spoke with the RHS QB (Turner) of which you ran for during that particular game. He told a similar story - "Throw it to Bernie, throw it to Bernie."

Mr. Ugly Face (II)


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