Growing Up With Football Dreams
I saw an interesting study the other day that sug gested only 6 percent of us grow up to be what we wanted to be when we were young. Six percent, that’s all. Perhaps that’s not surprising — I mean, how many ballerinas or superheroes can the economy actually accommodate?
Still, it did get me to reminiscing, and that’s always fun.
In the second grade, my teacher asked all of us to write a story about what we wanted to be when we grew up. I said “pro football player.” Perhaps it was because we wrote the story in the fall, or because I had watched another great game with my dad (a tradition that still goes on), or perhaps it was because I was wishing for a shiny new Rams helmet. Whatever the reason, the dream of playing “pro football” was right there at the top of my future job list.
On weekends, Dad and I ran up to the nearby neighborhood park where there was a wide-open grassy field. Sometimes, a friend or two, or a friend and his dad would come along and we would play football games of two-on-two touch. If we wore some grubby jeans and an old T-shirt, some of those games soon turned to tackle.
Dad, a former college player who eventually coached high school football, often drew up the plays — the button hook, the slant, the stop and go, the fly — and when we wanted to have some real fun, the hook and ladder. Catching passes became a science: “Always look the ball all the way into your hands,” he reminded us. And if catching was a science, then throwing the football was an art form. Dad showed us how to hold the football with our smallest fingers gripping the laces in the appropriate spaces. Letting go of the ball with the proper spin was the key — and watching it spiral perfectly, without a flutter, became the goal.
Soon, I could throw a football farther than most of my friends. So, Dad taught me the skills of punting and kicking, too. When the citywide Punt,
Pass, and Kick contest was announced, we signed up. On an overcast Saturday morning, dozens of dads from all over town showed up with their sons (the contest now encourages both boys and girls to participate).
When it came my turn to show my stuff, I kicked and punted the ball with all my might and did fairly well. The passing skill was my forte, and I let loose a whopper of a throw — feeling a little too confident that I was in the running for the Rams jacket that would go to the winner. But then, as the competition was wrapping up, another very athletic-looking boy showed up — he didn’t come with his dad, and it appeared he might just have been passing by the field. In any case, he kicked and punted the ball so far, my head was spinning, and his throw was very strong — meaning his combined yardage beat us all by a mile.
I finished a distant second — not bad for a citywide competition. My prize made up for my disappointment in not winning,
though; a Rams football helmet went to the runner up. I’m sure I wore it out playing in those weekend games in the park.
Despite the fact that my dad was a coach, I never played a lick of organized football after elementary school. By then, my dream job had switched to baseball and eventually to sportscasting, something I was proud to do for more than 20 years — including a dozen years in Hawaii.
Now I’m a college sports commissioner running all kinds of sports for PacWest. And in my spare time, I get to write about sports for MidWeek. I never would have dreamed I’d be so lucky so many years ago. Who cares if I’m not part of the 6 percent?
What did you want to be when you grew up?