Editor’s note: With the NFL Draft just completed, football season is not as far away as you’d think. To get you in that football frame of mind, take a peak at the following excerpt from an essay I wrote for USA Football: “Football Fever: Reflections of a Football Fan.”
My love of football began by watching football games on TV with my dad and brother. We watched Notre Dame, which was on seemingly every week of the season. Apparently, game broadcast scheduling hasn’t changed much since then, and we never missed the Army-Navy game. Which team to root for was never in question as my dad served in Patton’s Third Army during World War II. Go Army!
Our hometown team, the Kansas City Chiefs, were at the peak of their success during the late 1960s, and we never missed a game. Curly Culp, Buck Buchanan, Johnny Robinson, Willie Lanier and Len Dawson were names we knew well. Our weekly ritual of watching the Chiefs made the daily grind of school days, homework and household chores all worthwhile.
At some point in the broadcast, my dad would remind my brother and me that he played both offensive line and defense line for his high school team. Implied in this message was that it took a certain strength and toughness to be able to play the entire game. It seemed that players had softened up quite a bit since then, as we seldom saw any two-way players. By the way, it’s a constitutional right of every American dad to talk about past football achievements with their children.
At halftime, we’d head out and play catch. Having received highly coveted Chiefs’ helmets for Christmas, our favorite pastime quickly turned to a game where we could put them to use. We called it “goal line stand” and set the garden hose down as the goal line. Four of us, equipped with the helmets pictured, would line up on our knees three feet in front of the hose – protecting the goal line from an on-coming rusher. The down never changed, as it was always fourth down and one yard to go. There were many “did-the-ball-cross-the-goal-line” disputes, but without the benefit of instant replay and review the games moved on after spirited arguments from both sides.
We played pick-up games in our backyard, in the street and at the school playground. Nearly any creative process, leadership skill or decision-making ability that we applied later in life was honed during these games. To play pick-up football successfully, there are a few things you needed to know. First, all players on your team are always open and want the ball thrown to them. You learned to be fair and involve everyone yet recognize who on your team could actually catch. Quick decision-making is needed because the “3-Mississippi” count to start the defense’s pass rush was rather hurried after the first Mississippi. “1-Mississippi, 2-sippi, 3-ippi.”
Read the rest of the story: http://usafootball.com/blogs/michael-o%27halloran/post/8615/football-fever%3A-reflections-of-a-football-fan
–Michael O’Halloran, Editor of SportsFeelGoodStories.com