CHURCH OF THE BRETHREN NETWORK
Continuing the work of Jesus : Peacefully ~ Simply ~ Together
Why I Played Football
Now is your big chance, Stud. You've got all the ashes out and one hour left to put into words your most prized and sacred thoughts, next to God Himself of course.
Why did I ever play football. Oh darn, how should I begin? Why of course just be honest, boy; after all, this is only a letter to yourself, not to Mr. Leffel at the downtown paper.
I played football for "glory." Yea boy! All the glory I could get, that's why I put on the pads for mostly, I think. And don't think it didn't bring glory. Ask anybody on campus, they'll tell you how wonderful it must be to be on the team. It's status, prestige, and ego-builder; now man, ain't that glory? Now that I think on it, there's a heck of a lot of reasons why I played football. Some are positive, some are negative, but with God's help they're all honest.
I played football because I was forced to. Not quite literally of course. I naturally do as my big brothers do-so if the big Studs, Lowell, Ron, and Gary, play the game, then so does this Stud. It's just tradition at our house. Also, it was just the thing to do at ol'M.U. Kid, you're not with it if you don't get out there and crack. I figure people can force you physically, and people can force you mentally, but the greater of these is mentally.
I played football because I gotta show people I'm a man, or at least a pretty strong boy. You can't be a weakling like Alan Elifritz and play this sport unless of course you go out for Q.B. When a boy gets through two weeks of summer practice, I'give him the title of man without any questions asked. He deserves it.
I played football because it's fun, sometimes, but usually it's not fun at all. I guess it's mostly only fun when you're raking in glory. It just ain't fun to work under the smiling sun in late August till you start imagining cool springs and cold lemonade, or maybe you wish you could faint or get hurt or just plain die. Anything but to continue the dehumanizing experience of football practice. Personally, I spend quite a few of my many hours of football practice in hell and that ain't fun. that is unless, of course, you look back on it later and call it suffering; then it's O.K.
I played football because it takes what 90% of the kids I know ain't got. Coaches call this quality various names: intestinal fortified, desire, ability. I'd just rather call it "guts." It's got that masculine connotation, don't you agree? I just thought, I got it and they don't, or do they and they'd rather use it on something else. Anyway, I'm in the elite 10% when it comes to playing football and that makes me a hero of sorts by most standards.
I played football because if I'm good enough, I'll get enough quarters in to get that long-sought-after letter. Judas Priest! Measly letter award could buy a new car if work, sweat, and mental strain like that were transferable into money!
I played football so I can act as some kind of an athletic expert and shoot the bull with all the guys when those all important social conversations commence. Now there's some real satisfaction if you've got the right names and statistics in your head at the right time.
I played football because Mom would let me and Dad thought it was foolish. Anyway, Mom rules at our house. Besides, I'd rather be gaining glory on the grid-iron than slopping shoats or shoveling Sh..! or manure!
I played football because, dadburn, I just can't deny it anymore. Because I want the girls to notice. I often daydreamed about pulling some fantabulous interception or making some earth-shaking tackle that would win the game for us so all the nice-looking girls, sometimes special ones, would notice and then I'd have to "fight 'em off." Or I wished I could have a flying tackle to knock a ball carrier out of bounds and in the process we happened to knock down a cheerleader or two. Why, I'd pick 'em us and say, "Excuse me," and then run back to the huddle while they stared in awe. How assainal? How stupid to think those thoughts! It would never happen in a million years!
I played football because I hate it. but you see, I like to suffer for righteousness and self-discipline, it's what keeps me going. So even if I hate it, I love it, because to suffer for righteousness is next to Godliness and that sounds good to me. I've learned a lot about self-discipline through football, and that came through suffering. Thus, I say, I hate it, but I really love it, see?
I played football because I always wanted to get injured and I got my share alright. but I was kind of disappointed because getting injured didn't bring me all the glory I thought it would. I don't know that I ever broke a bone, but I can think of about $200 worth of doctor bills that football insurance had to shell out for me. They even bought me a $5 jock and my mal-formed vertebraes. That's what I call real support. Oh yea, I gave the ice packs, the tape, the cremagesic, the atomic balm, and the whirlpool pretty good use, too. Heck, I might be sterile by now for all I know. They tell me if you stay in the whirlpool too much it tends to put the quietus on ya like that.
I played football because if I ever meet a true friend, chances are he's gonna have to have played football first. Look at Buck, Kyser, Harms, even ol Schmitzy.
I played football because I want to hurt people, and I've done it too. I've put men out of the game, but I've also been put out myself. You can't call a brotherly love conference when they're running a power sweep on your end with a guard and a halfback leading. So I try to hurt.
I've got ten minutes to close. I could probably write all night before I would exhaust all the reasons why I played football. Dadburn, I blocked and I tackled, I hit and I cracked, I sweat and I hurt, I won and I lost, I cried and I laughed football for nine years under an organized team. I swear right here before God and myself that it was the greatest experience I ever had. I memorized those four signs and I do believe that the best way out of trouble is through it, and that there is no greater immorality than to occupy a place you cannot fill, and that if I fear God I need not fear any man. I was a Bulldog and I was a S Apartan ?????. I was a Guard and I was a Linebacker. I put on the pads and I used 'em. I kept my body in shape and it hurt, but it was worth it. I won and I lost, I found personal glory and success and I found ridicule and failure. I lost contacts, but I spent money and kept 'em replaced. I did the best job I knew how, I got my rewards and only I know what they are.
Now it's all over. I'll never put on the pads again. but nobody will ever take these thoughts of why I played football away from me. I prayed to God to let me play and he did. Now I can finish my life with a feeling of intense personal pride, a sense of great accomplishment, a sensitivity and humbleness toward others, and a whole heck of a lot of self-discipline and it's all because I once played a game called football.
(Written in January 1967 after my last football season, from the heat plant)