Football Career Extraordinaire (Or Not)
Final seconds of the fourth quarter of the biggest game of my life and I feel fantastic. Nothing can get by me for I am a rock, not an island. I feel no pain, only the thrill of evading and inflicting it on others. I am the best linebacker that this college has ever seen. I may only stand six feet one and a half inches tall, but the killer instinct that lay dormant within me for the first fourteen years of my life has made me a beast. 240 pounds of powerful biceps, shoulders, forearms, calves, hamstrings, and pectorals, sculpted by my unscrupulous dedication to the game. I put Brian Urlacher to shame. The field is my cathedral, my mosque, my temple. All we have to do is stop the offense of our rivals. They have been using the wildcat offense constantly, throwing my teammates off. But not me. I’m having the game of my life because I see the play happen before it starts. Those desperate fools are going for it on fourth down on their thirty-five yard line. I smell a wildcat and indicate such to my guys. The quarter back has taken a thrashing from me today, but he is still in, taking the snap. What? Not what I expected. Did he just grin a little bit? I head towards the cocky bastard with a burst of speed and power. The quarterback sees me coming and launches the ball towards the end zone. The whistle is blown before I reach him. That damn cornerback! Cover your man! Touchdown, game over. I look down at the grass, fists clenched, heavy and angry breathing heaving from my mouth. They run to the end zone to lift up the receiver who made the winning grab, the quarterback following with one finger pointed to his God. Something snaps within me. My caveman instincts are taking over. I’m Bruce Banner turning into the Hulk. I sprint at the QB, my teammates getting out of my way. His back to me, I sack him with every ounce of strength in me. It feels fantastic. Needless to say, I am ejected, fined, and am banned from collegiate football.
Of course, this never happened. I’ve never played a real game of football in my life. But I do find it interesting that in my wildest fantasy I still never make it to the NFL. I would have been amazing though. Even my cynical older brother agrees with me. However, I was not allowed to play football by my parents. It was my desire to lose weight and get big and strong when I was in 8th grade. High school football would be my ticket to fitness and subsequent popularity. When I was fourteen, I weighed over 200 pounds and was less than six foot. A rolly polly kid. My parents deny that I ever asked to play, but this is just a clever cover-up of their memory trying to protect themselves. Regardless, I did get fit on my own accord. I worked out with the football team in the off-season of my sophomore year and became quite the athlete…in gym class anyways. My class was filled with all the real jocks though, and I help my own in everything from running the mile to badminton. Nearly ten years later and I am close to the dimensions I described my linebacker self to be. Just add a lot more fat and a little less muscle and pounds. I still have the urge to join some sort of amateur football league, but I know those places are full of guys who weren’t good enough for college, but were still stars in their own right. It’s not for guys who have only played pick-up games and have never run an actual play. My understanding and love of football is above average, but I have zero confidence that I would be able to make it.
I think I will always hold a grudge against my parents for not letting me play football. My life could be profoundly different, or could not. But not knowing is a little painful in and of itself. When I have children I will encourage, but not force them to play. I need to give them the opportunity I never had. I would have been amazing though. But whether it would have been from injury, lack of talent, or from gross misconduct (such as sacking a QB when the play is long over,) I wouldn’t have made it to the NFL. So it goes.