Football: The glory years

I played two organized sports as a kid: hockey and football.

As for hockey, I can quote myself from an obituary I wrote on Facebook for Howie Meeker: “I was fast but not an agile skater, never a great stick handler, and while I have an accurate shot, it has never been powerful. But I think I’ve been a positive on every team I’ve played on thanks to the lessons I absorbed first from Howie Meeker.”

But football? I started playing in 1975 and by the next year I ruled the football field as a halfback and a safety. I was never the biggest kid – shocking, I know – but some combination of my skills made the game mine.

This lasted until 1980, when I aged into a new division and a new coach. Even though I excelled in drills against these larger 14-year-olds, the coach refused to let me do anything except cover kickoffs. I assume he felt I was too short. I was incredibly frustrated.

One game, I got a penalty for not wearing my teeth protector. Martin Salomon, the quarterback, grabbed my jersey and yelled at me. A lot. The coach did nothing. I quit the team, although my school friend Patrick Philosophe would fill me in on its progress.

I always said I played organized tackle football until the other kids grew up, which is true but not the whole story.

After I quit organized football, I continued to play. My school friends would organized pickup games of tackle football every once in a while and I was always picked first. At Camp Walden‘s summer games in 1982, I think, one competition was flag football. Again, our coach would not let me play despite my constant haranguing. We were losing at half time. He put me in for a play and called a handoff to me, probably to shut me up. I scored a touchdown. I kept on scoring. We won – although the highlight of that game for me was ripping Burt Podbere’s sweatpants waistband as he scored against us so that as he celebrated, his pants fell down.

As an adult, I played flag football through CMSS, until I tore a hamstring six years ago. I no longer ruled the field but I was still pretty good.

My youngest brother has digitized all the family home movies my father had shot and inherited. One is of my first year playing football for Hampstead. I’m nine years old here and not yet dominant, although the signs are there. I’m number 20. My seven-year-old brother is number 31. Here’s the video. My favourite shot is at the end, when I slam the ball down in frustration. I always hated being stopped at the line of scrimmage.

I never could throw, though.

Bonus footage:

The Concorde on approach to Dorval Airport.

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