I got up at 5 a.m. this morning and smiled at that teenager who had to threaten himself to get out of bed for a 6:00 a.m. two-a-day football practice a few years ago. Ah, the joy of putting on cold, smelly, sweaty pads from the previous day’s 6:00 p.m. practice and stumbling over to the field to be greeted by Draculas disguised as coaches. “Hurry up! Git with it! We’re burning daylight here and it is already nearing 90 degrees.” This was the refrain from the Knute Rockne wannabes who had a vision of our high school team being immortalized in the pantheon of pigskin glory.
Actually, my senior year at Pawhuska Oklahoma High School our coaches devised three August weeks of three-a-day practices: full contact pads from 6:00-8:00 a.m. then skull practice from 12:00 noon to 1:00 p.m. followed by limited contact and play drills from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Out of an overdose of humanity they only required wind sprints at the end of the evening session.
These pleasant memories arose early this morning after I heard that numerous colleges and several major conferences such as the Big Ten and Pac-12 had cancelled their 2020 football seasons due to ’Ole 19. My first selfish thought was why hadn’t that happened before my fellow galley slaves and I had to crawl out of bed before the sun got up. My next selfish thought was I sure hope the whole country’s football season is not lost. Peg and I are rabid fans of high school and college football, not so much pro. We have spent hundreds of enjoyable hours in front of a big screen TV sipping beverages and eating guacamole as we watch young men risk their bodies and psyches for our entertainment. And the best part for me is, no wind sprints. Getting out of bed at 5:00 a.m. does not cause the angst it did when I was sixteen but I am fairly sure my attempt at running forty yards now would not be pretty.
Our son and two of our grandsons played high school football but they have matriculated onto other pursuits. Still, we enjoy watching and cheering on other young athletes who have shown the character to endure the month of August and drill sergeants passing for coaches. Of course, each school and each parent and each athlete must have the right to decide these issues for themselves. And if Peg and I have to forego a season of football we completely understand and support whatever decisions others make. After all, for us it’s entertainment. For others it could be something else.
Regardless, at least now when 5:00 a.m. rolls around and I am lying there wide awake I know all that awaits me is a cup of coffee. And instead of putting up with coaches who make Captain Ahab look saintly all I have to put up with are the prattling heads of cable news.