Archive for October, 2006


When the air gets crisp outside and the trees of New England cut off the life support for their leaves, this 30-something year-old man’s mind turns to football.  Not the uniform-wearing, big-bucks variety that is high school, college, and pro football, although those are an acceptable way to spend your weekend days.  The football that I remember is the pick-up football I played with my friends when we were kids.  No uniforms, no pads, no money; just time to kill and a patch of open grass. 

There weren’t always a bunch of people around to play when I was growing up.  I always listened with jealousy when my brothers would talk about the 40 kids who lived on the block when they were kids, but when I was growing up there was a more limited supply.  Many of our games were 1 on 1 with another one of us playing quarterback for both teams.  These games were usually two-hand touch, but if we were feeling frisky we would play tackle.  Trying to tackle another guy in the open field on every single play does sharpen up your tackling skills…and sometimes it does a bit more than that. 

I distinctly remember one of those games that three of us played in my backyard.  I was playing automatic quarterback and threw a short pass to my friend Jim.  Jim caught the ball and began to run when my other friend Cory – in this case representing the entire defense – grabbed him.  Jim continued to run two steps with Cory hanging off of him and then Jim apparently decided that he didn’t want Cory around any more.  Jim swung around violently and Cory literally went flying through the air headfirst…right into my picnic table.   

Pulling a Greatest American Hero into a picnic table with no helmet or pads (or cape for that matter) is never a good idea, but Cory lucked out with only bloody gums and an ugly scar on his shoulder that is probably still there.  He was a bit concerned about the bloody gums at first because he was wearing braces – Direct quote:  “My parents are going to kill me!”- but it was only a small cut and his gracious parents allowed his continued survival. 

QUICK RAMBLING STORY ALERT:  Cory’s bloody gums remind me of the story my parents tell about my brother Mike.  Less than a month after getting his braces removed, Mike came home from a high school soccer game and greeted my mother with a wide smile.  It was then that she noticed that one of his now fairly expensive front teeth had been broken almost in half.  Rumor has it that she cried for three days.  Later, when Mike was asked by my father why he hadn’t been wearing a mouth guard, he replied, “None of the other kids wear them…but I’m wearing one NOW!”  School of hard knocks, indeed. 

Anyway, let’s bring the focus back to pickup football.  Sometimes when we really needed a player, we would invite Dan, a gutsy but smaller kid who was a grade or two behind us, to play.  Dan would usually say no, but once in a while he would ignore his better judgment and join the game.  One time, Dan jumped for a pass and got hit hard in the legs, flipping him literally head over heels in the air, helicopter-style, before he landed on his back in the dirt.  Had Dan landed on his head, there is no question that he would have been paralyzed.  For some reason, after that play, he never seemed willing to go against his better judgment and play with us again. 

There were times, however, that we played football on a larger scale.  10 on 10 tackle football after school on the playground.  This was basically violent chaos – with a football.  One quarterback would be throwing to 9 receivers running random patterns, and Godspeed to the guy unlucky enough to actually catch the ball.  The amazing thing about these games was that, despite the wanton violence, I can’t remember any serious injuries.  Sure, there would be the occasional sprained ankle or bloody nose, but through some minor miracle, nothing requiring hospitalization. 

There had to have been some minor concussions, but back then we didn’t know that they were concussions; we called it “getting your bell rung.” 

I imagine that if kids tried a pickup game like that today, they would be crowded off of the school’s field by the pack of lawyers waiting to sue the school when little Eddie gets his bell rung. 

The pickup football games of my youth certainly weren’t the safest or the smartest thing I’ve ever participated in.  The opportunity to get hurt was always there – for both the players and for the picnic tables – but we had fun.  There were no uniforms, there were no painted lines on the field, and there were no coaches.  There was just football.

The Day to Day Grind Tim 26 Oct 2006 No Comments

Hot Flashes

Random thoughts from the eternal sunshine of a spotless mind: 

There was bad news waiting for me when I got home the other night.  Not the type of BAD NEWS that everyone stays up at night dreading, but bad news nonetheless.  Her laptop computer was giving the Blue Screen of Death every time she tried to turn it on. 

This should not have been the end of the world because, after all, I am a Computer Weenie.  Computer Weenies do not stay up nights worrying about the Blue Screen of Death because they have devised a number of backup systems just in case the Angel of Blue Screens comes to visit.  Of course, I had not created any backup systems or fail-safes.  I fear that the men in taped glasses will be along shortly to confiscate my pocket protector. 

I tried a few things to fix the laptop, but no soup.  Which means that I am now stuck trying to enlist the help of my coworkers with this issue; because everyone knows that the IT people at work LOVE to help their coworkers with home computer issues (please note heavy sarcasm here).  To get their help, I’ll probably end up shoveling their driveways this winter.  Oh and please don’t tell them that I called them Weenies; they hate that… 

…I am sad that we live in the era where David Ortiz hits 54 homeruns and no one wants to go too crazy about it because there is no way to know which players are clean and which players use designer drugs to pump up.  I liked it better in the 80’s:  A bunch of the players may have been trying to snort the first base line, but at least their homerun totals were beyond reproach.  Or were they?  See what I mean?… 

…Autumn is a beautiful time of the year, even when, like this year, it starts in July.  I’m actually in favor of autumn starting earlier so that I can enjoy it before the wretched month of September shows up.  Why is September wretched, you ask?  September is the month in which my 45-minute commute to work each way turns into a 1 hour and 30 minute commute each way.  That works out to seven and a half extra hours per week and just over a full extra day per month spent in the car.  I like my car and all, but that seems a little ridiculous.  September should be outlawed… 

…When I was studying William Shakespeare in high school my English teacher, Mrs. Cottier, forced our entire class to memorize Portia’s “The quality of mercy is not strained” speech The Merchant of Venice.  I stayed up all night memorizing it.  Of course, now when that speech could do me some good, in my graduate class on Shakespeare’s major plays, I have forgotten it.   

I have, however, noticed something very interesting that I didn’t notice when I was reading the plays in high school:  Willy Shakes was a bit of a dirty bird.  His plays, the ones we’ve studied so far at least, are chock full of dirty jokes and puns.  What shocks me is that my high school English teachers were able to slip these references past the 15-year old version of me – a 15-year old bundle of trembling hormones on a hair trigger, ready to laugh at even the slightest hint of sexual innuendo. 

Is it possible that my English teachers were somehow about to use the Jedi mind trick whenever they wanted me to distract me from the fact that Shakespeare worked blue?  I suppose it is possible that they just acted in a very professional way about it without focusing on things that would have sent their classes into a giggling fit.  Given the choice, I would say that they were just professional about it, but I can’t discount the possibility that they were professional Jedi.  That’s got to be the only way that Mrs. Cottier could have convinced me to memorize that speech.

The Day to Day Grind Tim 19 Oct 2006 No Comments