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.

It’s back

In 2000, wargaming took a bold leap into the future with Combat Mission: Beyond Overlord. Initially an unofficial software port of the classic Advanced Squad Leader board wargame, Combat Mission brought battlefield fidelity and the revolutionary WEGO system of simultaneous plotted movements and commands.

Later releases in the Combat Mission series abandoned the Mac. Combat Mission: Afrika Korps was the only reason I used a Windows XP laptop. In 2007, Combat Mission Shock Force came out in 2007 as an entirely new rebuild. Its subject matter, modern asymmetrical warfare in the Middle East, didn’t appeal to me and I gradually lost interest in the games.

Until this week, that is. Combat Mission: Battle for Normandy is out. The improvement in graphics evident in the following video pales in comparison with the improvement in game play.

The new release brings to the World War II battlefield considerations for command and control, radios, spotters, and a whole lot more. Best of all, it’s back on the Mac. You can play with WEGO or in running real time.

Here are a few of the incredible scenes players have captured in two days of play.

A Panther lights up the night.

A day at the office for a 60mm mortar crew.

Be vewy, vewy quiet.

What an 88 does to a thin-skinned Greyhound.

Bazooka away!

Dismounted German tank crewmen find a machine gun to play with.

The game costs $55, and those are weak American dollars. It’s a download so there’s no shipping charges (unless you want the DVDs and printed manual). Not convinced? The demo is free.

The family that games together

After completing a comprehensive two-hour tour of Charlottetown, PEI, we went looking for a game of Bohnanza to offer as a gift to our hosts.

Between the two gaming stores in Charlottetown, one had the fan edition of the game, which we bought along with Monty Python Fluxx. As we were leaving, I spotted a tempting box: the Dungeons & Dragons Roleplaying Game Starter Set. The price was $20.

Elvi and I met because of a AD&D campaign we joined, and we played for six years, until our young spawn became too numerous and antsy to allow us the hours required for a session. When we quit, the AD&D world was in its second edition; our collection of books, modules, and knickknacks filled a bookcase.

Since then, AD&D has reverted its name to D&D and upgraded its mechanics to fourth edition, an entirely new system – and the one in this boxed set, with characters and adventure ready to go. I had to buy it. Once I bought it, the family and our hosts had a plan for rainy days.

Our impromptu group has had so much fun playing this that we’ve wasted a few sunny afternoons, too. Our girls love the game. Child One is a precocious halfling rogue and Child Two uncharacteristically chose a dour dwarf fighter. They are really getting into the game, and have created elaborate backstories for their characters. (Child Three enjoys it but the game is a little slow for him. He and Elvi are teaming to play a dragonborne paladin)

As a DM, I have to say that this edition is much easier to play and manage after adjusting to the new rules. The rest of the group had never played before but Elvi was little bit amusing as it took her longer than me to adjust to the new rules, like the fact that Magic Missile no longer hits automatically.

I’ve downloaded some free low-level modules, and maybe we’ll get the full-fledged rule books. I’m not sure I like the plethora of player character races, but meddling can wait a while. For now, it’s great to have found an activity a family of geeks of varying interests can enjoy together.