My Fabulous Football Career

In the fall, a young man’s fancy turns lightly to thoughts of football. And an old man’s, too. At least my fancy. In my very small Arkansas high school, every boy who could walk was expected to go out for football. Otherwise, we assumed the pretty girls would ignore us completely. Playing quarterback, I rather hoped one of them might think I was both tough and smart. The nice thing about my present memory is that I am now the hero of more games than I actually played.
Our fullback, Billy, really was a tough kid, but could never learn that even-numbered plays ran to the right and odd-numbered plays ran to the left. Billy ran wherever he thought he saw an opening, which meant that you had to block your opponent straight up. The only time I ever saw Billy slowed down was when he swallowed his entire chew (past tense chaw) of tobacco.
I was never all that keen on getting knocked around, but I really did want the girls to notice me. One night I tackled a guy by lifting him completely off the turf. Trouble was he kept running and kicked me in a spot which immediately put us both on the ground. Limping off the field, both groaning and groining, I got an injury cheer, but I hoped our cheerleaders did not know its precise cause. In the same game–remember this was in the days of 130 pound fullbacks, leather helmets, and no face guards–some kid bloodied my nose with his elbow. Unfortunately, this time I got no cheer because the bleeding stopped before I could make my way to the sideline.
Football fans my age will remember the single-wing formation. We ran the “Notre Dame box” most of the time but experimented with the new-fangled “T-formation.” One problem with the “T” is that moment when every member of the team is looking up the field except the quarterback who is looking down the field. This meant that only I could see that somehow I had handed the ball not to our halfback, but to the other team’s defensive guard. This guard was huge, fat, and slow, but only I knew he was shuffling toward the winning touchdown. He was way too big to knock down with a normal tackle; so I ran up and jumped on his back. This move slowed him down not at all. Thinking with the lightning speed for which I was already becoming famous, I realized that he could easily carry me across the goal line. So I snaked a leg around in front and tripped him, being careful to remove my own leg before he fell on it.
Only once did I come near to the athletic appreciation I felt I deserved. When the gun sounded on a big victory, our exultant female fans came pouring out of the stands. Since quarterbacks always think ahead, I whipped off my helmet in order to participate more directly in any expression of gratitude that might come my way. I braced myself when I saw our head cheerleader heading toward me, but to my intense disappointment she veered away allowing the coach’s wife to grab me instead. Being wildly kissed by the coach’s wife was not what I had in mind, and did absolutely nothing for my 17-year old heart.
Perspectives do change over the years. So, if you know some 35-year old coach’s wife who wants to bestow a kiss on me, tell her, “What the dickens, Partee is willin’.”

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