From The East Wing

From the EastWing, The Way We Played The Games

Greeting to all and welcome new friends to the EastWing.

Did you ever meet someone and hit if off right up? I do that a lot.  Of course it also goes the other direction from time to time.  Twenty seconds into the conversation and you know, this is not gonna be a lasting friendship. I’m being kind there, it’s more like I don’t like this person and hope they go away forever. The first way is more fun.

And so it was recently I was talking with a new friend and he said “I bet you played a lot sports in school”.  I just said no and we talked of many things.  Afterwards I got to thinking there was a great story there, and all I said was “no”. I can’t let that go away and remain unsaid. What I should have said to my new fried was:

I’ve tried my hand at being a sports jock. Then  later realized  I was better suited at being a spectator than a participant. In the high pressure world of 7th grade basketball, my greatest achievement was being selected as the 5th man (boy) on the second string of the school “B” Team. The following year I had the high honor of being selected as the 5th man (big boy) on the second string of the school “A” Team.  I was on my way, or so I thought.

The skills required to play basketball are quite extensive. Your must be able to bounce a basketball and move at the same time. Ideally be able to move fast, very fast all the while bouncing the basketball.  While in the possession of the basketball should you move and not be bouncing the basketball, they take the basket ball and give it to the other team. Which don’t seem fair to me but the rules were established before I starting playing so I guess I’m stuck with unfair rules. An passing, oh my goodness you have to be able to pass the basketball very very accurately else the other team will  catch your misplaced pass. The shooting skills require you to throw the basketball 10 foot in the air and fall thru a hoop which is 18 inches diameter. Now the basketball is over 9.5 inches in diameter so there is very little room for error putting the thing thru the hoop.

Of the three major skills to become proficient at basketball playing, I did not excel in any particular one. And was just starting to master that bouncing and running thing as the season came to a close.  I was glad they did not give letter grades for basketball performance.

The close of the 8th grade basketball season signaled the start of the baseball season and I had my sights on making the baseball team. Baseball is played with nine members on each side and the rules in place at that time meant each team would have a total of 14 on each side.

The numbers assigned the players were in the order chosen to be on the team. I was hoping for a low number. My number was 14. It was in the spring training that I developed an extraordinary ability to miss the ball when pitched my direction with me standing at home plate with a bat in hand. I was so proficient at missing the ball, the coach recommended my parents have my eyes checked. Sure enough, I needed to wear glasses to improve my vision. In short order the new glasses arrived and upon my return to home plate the new glasses did nothing to dispel my ability to miss the ball. But everything else looked really good.

It was on the defense side of the baseball game that I truly thought I had come into my own. After all, I had an average of stopping 1 in 3 ball batted in my direction. The way I looked at it was a .333%  average. At the time there was another baseball player by the name of Ted Williams, he too had an average just slightly higher at .336%  It was somewhat later that I discovered the Ted Williams average was hitting the baseball and my average was stopping the baseball. But until I realized the difference in the two averages, I walked with swagger.    

With a highly successful elementary school sports program behind me, my attention turned to the next challenge in the sports world. High School Football.

Upon entering high school someone told me being a football hero was the sure fire way of becoming a Chick Magnet. Not knowing what in the world a Chick Magnet was and having visions of glory on the gridiron in the cold Friday Nights of October, I figured I needed all the help I could get at becoming a Chick Magnet. So I put on the uniform of combat, struggled under the weight of the armor of the game,  knowing full well this suffering would lead to Chick Magnetism at the highest level. 

All my hard work paid off, I made the Team!!! The fact that only 12 people came to try out for the team did not bother me in the least. The fact that the team was to have 16 players also did not bother me in the least. I was a high school football player, with an assigned number, an assigned uniform, which was way too big for me, that my Mama was to wash every time I got it dirty, an assigned locker, and shoes,  yes, they even gave me football shoes to wear. I was a decked out football player well on my way to magnetism and we had yet to play the first game.

ToTo Indiana, a hot bed of  hillbilly activity,  had produced its first foot ball player and at the same time a Chick Magnet in training. But more importantly there were two other team members who had higher numbers assigned than mine.  In the training part of the program  the football coaches were relentless in screaming my name in order to point out what skills I needed to learn to achieve the Chick Magnet level of Football Heroism.

One coach in particular must have taken a likening to me. He paid me a kinda round about complement when he said I was the worst football player he had ever seen except Ron Pellgrenni. That statement made me think I was at least better than some, and so I dug in and played even harder at becoming Mr. Chick Magnet of the High School Football world.

It was an 8 game schedule for the season. By game six  I’d come to realize the coaches were depending more on players other than myself to win or lose the games we played. Game six came and went and so did game seven. Going into the final game of the season we entered with a record unmatched by any prior football team in the history of the school.

The final game was played on a Saturday Morning in early November when the winds blew cold off Lake Michigan from the north. By now I was accustom to occupying my spot on the bench. Sitting there in my sparkling clean uniform which my Mama has altered to better fit and make me look even more like a football player, I was ready for combat at a moment’s notice, much the same as I’d been for games 1 thru 7.

Three minutes had not gone fully off the clock  and one of our players went down and didn’t get up. “HOWARD GET IN THERE”  came the command for the coach. I sprang to me feet and just so I didn’t look foolish, looked around to make sure there were no other Howards standing up ready to play.

The huddle part was kinda scary. I didn’t have a clue what they were talking about. But I didn’t tell anyone. We all lined up and then they snapped the ball. All of a sudden I was knocked to the ground and a very large person was laying on top of me laughing.

The second time we lined up an snapped the ball the same thing happened. I thought My God, These people are trying to kill me and I’m letting them try over and over. The next snap of the ball I ran a different direction.

I never saw the person who hit me from the side but for sure felt what had happened to my right knee. Never had so much pain in my life as up to that day. As two players helped me off the field I heard the coach say SMITH GET IN THERE. I knew smith, he was the one of the two who had a higher number than mine. 

When the final gun had ended that morning our football record was still intact.  A perfect 0 and 8  was in the record books.

It was while setting on the bench the remainder of that game, on that  cold  overcast windy  morning in November with the dreams of Chick Magnetism slip sliding away,  and with a giant ice pack strapped to my knee that I realized  I was better suited at being a spectator than a participant.

After all they try to kill ya out there.

From the EastWing, The Way We Played The Games

I Wish You Well,