As the days get shorter and the nights a lot cooler it’s time to put our ball gloves aside and pick up our pigskin preoccupation. I’ve been fortunate to spend a good number of seasons on the sidelines at a high school football game even though the last time I played was in my freshman year in the fall of 1974. I’ve been there with a camera or notebook for the last three decades.
God didn’t bless me with speed and though you can’t tell it from looking at my pudgy frame today, I really wasn’t quite big enough for the front line. That didn’t stop me from trying when I was younger.
We played neighborhood football that was not at all unlike the game Bill Cosby described in his routine “Street Football.”
In that comedy routine, the quarterback drawing the play up in the huddle tells one kid to cut left at the black Chevy and another to run his pattern “down to my house and hang out in my living room.”
On our football field, which stretched across the Terry and Blue front yards, we drew the plays in the dirt or on the palm of the quarterback’s hand. Landmarks such as trees, sidewalks and bushes were the places to which we ran our patterns. Those same landmarks along with moving traffic became the course hazards.
It was full contact tackle with no helmets or shoulder pads allowed and we started playing as soon as we got home from school or paper routes in the evening and kept the game going until it was so dark that one of us caught a pass in the teeth or someone’s mom began hollering for her offspring to come inside.
If we didn’t have enough players to make two teams we had a game called “tackle the man with the football” that we played. Basically we would throw up a jump ball in the middle of the yard and the guy unlucky enough to catch it suddenly had to avoid being tackled by the other three guys without running out of bounds.
The highlight of all the years of frontyard football was a punt play we all still remember. I took the long snap and boomed off a very high spiraling punt from deep in my own front yard. The ball slowly drifted off course and came down atop the Blue’s roof. That was no problem, unlike our flat-roofed house the football would come right off the Blue’s pitched roof. We checked the back yard, we checked the side yards we checked the alley and couldn’t find the ball anywhere. Finally next-door-neighbor Benton suggested that it looked like the ball went down the chimney. We all laughed at his na