So, I'm passing the time last night reading the internet. While at the end of the information superhighway, I finally succumbed to a piece Matt Mosley had written on espn.com. The article led me to the ESPN 103.3 website where I found and perused his bio (http://stations.espn.go.com/stations/espn1033/story?id=hashmarks), which included the name of his dog, Trooper Taylor.
Ah, memories. I played (and I use that term loosely) against Trooper and his equally talented brother (not to mention the other Baylor behemoth, Robert Strait) back in the day. “Played” might be an overstatement, so let's just say that I was on the field that evening, one of the few times I managed to do so.
Perched on the sideline in my stainless white road jersey still smelling of cheap laundry detergent, I heard Coach barking my name over the cheers in the background, "When I say Luling, you say Eagles; When I say number, you say one," (ignoring the fact that we had yet to win a single game that season). Despite the fact that I had the same line of vision to the scoreboard as the girls in green, the squad of seven failed to notice what I thought was fairly obvious. With one minute and fifty-two seconds left to play, we weren't going to stage a come-from-behind victory. On the metal board that stood on the end line of the field, 75-watt bulbs surrounded an outline of a Thanksgiving turkey and flashed the score of the ballgame. The electricity of the bulbs was only slightly higher than the score the Gobblers had hung on the visiting team that night. From the corner of the end zone, the Friday night lights read, Cuero…72, Luling…zip; zilch; zero…a big fat turkey egg. (Do turkeys lay eggs? I know firsthand that Eagles do.)
Perhaps the fact that I hadn't made it into the game was due in part to my cracking jokes with a fellow benchwarmer as we ambled toward the locker room down 42-zip at the half. Maybe it had something to do with my shenanigans earlier in the week. Just prior to our afternoon practice on Monday, I had noted the fact that my kelly green helmet was balding and absent of any “pride” stickers awarded by the coaching staff for individual accomplishments on the gridiron. (At 0-9, it’s a wonder anyone on that team had earned a star decal.) Thus, I made a decision to do something about it. I suppose I should have channeled my inner-beast, but knowing myself better, I reached for a few supplies of my own…a sheet of scratch paper nearby, athletic scissors, and a roll of clear tape. I carefully cut out an outline of a bench, taped it across the backside of my helmet, and trotted out to calisthenics line the rest of the team had formed while I constructed my personalized helmet sticker. Despite the fact that I was quite popular in the locker room for drawing the ire of the coaches and taking the heat off the team, the team captain wasn’t amused as he frowned in apparent disapproval. Bending my knees in an effort to reach my toes while stretching, I turned and glanced over to see El Capitan (oh, he-of-many-stickers) reporting my indiscretion. I could see the coach profusely sweating while swearing in my direction, “[Insert my name and descriptive expletive here]!?. You are going to run until I throw-up!” Or, it was remotely possible that I hadn’t played yet because I had told the coach, whom taught (and I use that term loosely as well) my business class, that it wasn’t going to matter in ten years whether I was a good athlete in high school. (And guess what, exactly ten years later, I was in my second year as principal…I could have been his boss! He he.)
Nonetheless, with 1:52 left in the ballgame, I jogged onto the field with fresh legs ready to take on the best the Gobblers had to offer. (Although, after the half, I think I saw spotted their junior high students suiting up and going into the game to spot their starters some much needed rest (en route to their state title). After all, they had run up and down the field so many times, they had to be winded.) As the clock wound down, my football career came to a close with a stat line that read:
- [My name], Center;
- 1 career game;
- 1 minute 52 seconds played;
- 3 false start penalties;
- 1 great story to tell.