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what…where

December 19, 2018

“It’s RIGHT, RIGHT Cross 1-14, on set – ON SET”

BANG

I clap, with all the others, snap around and get to the line.

Where am l?

With no thought, movement and sound and pain explode as bodies launch, careen, collide, fly by. I am driven into the Buffalo mud. Hard.

I pop up.

Run back.

No gain.

I look ahead. A face I had not seen in 60, no 70, years looks in my eyes smiling. “Well that sucked!” We all laugh, bend low, pull in, looking at him. 

The smell for a moment is nauseating. I see the guy next to me – has relieved himself, again, in his pants. I know it is “again” I know, but I do not know him, or where I am.

“OK OK, LETS GO – RIGHT 2-45 Z Counter, Duo – you have to get the backer if he comes – On 1 ON 1 – BREAK”

The voice barks his gibberish and we tense awaiting his count

This time the sounds are deafening. Screams, yelps, the kind of human noises made when bad things happen. 

I take the rocker step, deep, pivot and a mass to my left blows by the tackle but it’s RIGHT, RIGHT and I have Inside Responsibility.

How did I know that?

Amid Snapping Bangs and claps of noise, I push it, come into the guy ahead, recognize him from 1972: he, as he had before, comes under and pops me up, I drop to a knee and grab his jersey, hard, he follows me down, on top of me, and I feel the center brush against me, then the screaming whistle.

“Dick! You got it man!” 

“LETS GO LETS GO” we gather to the center, breathing, some wheezing, hard. Blood is running down my arm. Is it mine?

For a second it is silent, I am with myself, nowhere, but here, now. I was, where? just before. Lying down. Lighter. I could not focus.

I know I was somewhere but where am I….

It does not matter, nothing matters, we have the first down, we can breath while the chains move. Someone spits hard before me. A loud belch and fart made everyone laugh, and look up. “God, you are a disgusting pig!” Says the running back who I last saw in 1979 at the football banquet in Branford.

I see the haze of fall, a tiny, but huge crowd standing away. Laughter. ‘BLITZ BLITZ BLITZ’ gets yelled at us from a coach with a mustache as we sprint to the line, and to my right is the man who coached my son looking me in the eye, “YOU GOT INSIDE INSIDE”

I know what he means..

Why?

The snap, we pop, hard, it’s pass, so I hit and recoil – left leg back on my toes, down, as the safety, – from Cheshire? – is screaming, running at the gap to my left, but the roll is right, I let him go, get smashed by the tackle before me, who goes no farther, and somehow, behind me, I see the running back crosses to chip the screaming safety away as the quarterback throws an incomplete pass.

Rolling up, my left hips hurts for the first time in 70 years, the same deep twinge I forgot about, until now. Gimping over to the ring of men others look up ‘

‘Shake it off – Shake it off” 

“LETS GO”

My son’s coach murmers close, “You OK?” I nod, We squat. The sear of pain blurs my vision of the mud below, sweat pouring down my face, stinging my right eye, and I see some tape, blood and a gum wrapper and feel better.

“OK OK SECOND DOWN. BLUE JET, JET, 3-45 ON SET ON SET”

We clap and pop as one, I see those before me eyes wide, some on a knee, some tattooed, others in high tops, one does not have a face mask. But it’s Toddalink – we look at each other through the same double bar helmets and retrofitted “U” guards above our eyes – below our orange helmets –

“Sorry to hear, that you…”

“It’s OK, Cap, I am gonna kick yer ass,”

“Again?”

We both laugh, hard…

It is a sweep, I have to pull, right (WHY ARE WE SO RIGHT HANDED?) Gulping air, I drop hard pivot, here the center, who coached at Yale for 22 years, make a squealing sound as he blew up the surprised tackle who thought I was hitting him,

I scramble out, trying to stay low, and the outside linebacker is breaking inside me, I get on him, and push, pump my legs, let go a wad of snot in my nose, he punches my side, grabbing by pads, but I ride him, hard, hard, hard

BANG

Something blasts me into the air and I end up full face in the large puddle outside the sidelines…

A familiar voice, laughs, as I look up, “Well, That didn’t go well!” I look up the field, and look back, I respond “first down” I smile…

“love you”

“love you”

10 yards away, a man with glasses, and a cap looks sideways at me, with a slight smile – my heart, beating hard, stops –

“I saw that.”

“yessir”

As I turn, I see another man in a raincoat, farther away, far away, wearing a hat, not smiling, staring at me, then draw on a cigarette…he was 30 something, but..

“LETS GO LETS GO LETS GO”

Heaving men come together, one voice gets deeply low in our ring, “See what happens when you crackers block a little?” I had not seen Ivan, in well, a lifetime… – I respond

“I thought there was no justice for a black man in this world”

The group explodes in laughter, including Boo Boo. What? I had not seen him for, forever, – the shortest tackle I ever saw, benched over 400, coached him for 4 years –

“Hey, coach” he murmurs…I nod.

“COUNTER BLUE COUNTER BLUE 1-98 – 1-98: on SET on SET”

Play BANGS, I block down, flat step right, as I had done 5,000 Times before, 80 years ago? As expected, the Tackle comes into me trying to follow Boo Boo, but I get in his way,

Then the sound of things hitting so hard that you feel it happen, cries of pain, one of joy, I get wrecked, again, but we get some yards…the trap worked, again…

And Again, And Again, And Again.

We come out of being together each time, I see different faces, uniforms, voices. New people who are old people, all of us different ages. In different uniforms. But the same. The same. The mist was all about us, heavy, cool, the sounds were quiet until deafening, music maybe, the laughter, often…

Wait, the mist is Love.

I feel it, fully, I look around, we all feel it. We are it.

Amid the cursing, blood, sweat I feel all those around me. Even on the sidelines. Is that music? Even my brother, who is taking pictures.

We are together. Again. For the first time.

Wait, no.

Wait. Shit. No.

c’mon…,…this is heaven….

Oh..

in my ear “This is heaven….huddle up.”


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