All my life I’ve tried to write literature. I am aware that like Stan Musial or Ted Williams at the bat most of the time I’ve failed. But the critical word is ‘try.’ That effort has been a wonder of my life.”
–Roger Kahn – American sportswriting icon.
By Terrance Gavan – Highlander Sports
Bah! Humbug! When it’s raining, cold and a ruddy gale is blowing offHeadLakeonto the Brohman Memorial Field? You can have it.
On those days? I get cranky. I have to wrap my Canon T3i in plastic and expose my trigger finger to that harsh autumnal splendor. I huddle on the sideline, shivering and cursing. I listen to comedy on my iPhone. Lewis Black and Russell Peters.
I love fall football. Watch me shivering on that cold goshdarn sideline. You will see a smile on my schmoosh. Roger Kahn once wrote. “Football is violence and cold weather and sex and college rye.”
I’m old. Sex left my fall football checklist back in 1978. CollegeRyewas erased from the realm of possibilities onMarch 20, 1998.
Now? I have the violence and the cold weather. And my Red Hawks. So I watch. I curse to myself a lot. But I diligently process the battle. Fumbles, shorn tackles and passes; caught and missed. Cold sideline shots. Grainy muffled shuttered captures of muddy jerseys. I wear my Wellies – rubber boots – and I watch these kids. For moments.
These kids I know. Not well. But I watch them giving it up on the delinquent mud of Gary Brohman Field. Every one of them offering their best for the school they love. The play for their coaches; and the fans who line that sideline; for mom’s and dad’s who sit on those abominable hemorrhoid-inducing metal stands.
Red Hawks lost last Friday Sept 30 to Lindsay’s CVI Spartans.
Our Red Hawks? Well, both junior and senior teams went into Friday’s Red and White homecoming opener logged in at 0-2.
When the final crazy siren went apoplectic on the solar powered scoreboard on Brohman Field, just before6 pmon Friday afternoon?
Both Red Hawk football teams were 0-3. Nuff said.
The Hawks played wonderfully inspired football. Problem is? That when the wind is blowing a ton and the rain is coming down, turning the pigskin into a greasy version of that snout nosed truffle digger? We are treated to a version of football that resembles but little the game that adjudicates on firm turf, under a hot fall sun; and the measured cadence of deft cuts, well-thrown spirals, and the 40 yard punt.
Punting. Yes, by all means let’s look at punting against a goshforsaken devilkinHeadLakeblunderbuss. When a ball is booted high in the air with a knife edged spiral one would expect – considering the laws of physics et al – the ball to advance down the field.
One does not expect it to go up, reverse direction and come down on the punter’s head.
Welcome to Friday afternoon football at Haliburton High.
Let’s just say that we got to see “a” version of football at the home-openers on Friday. Not the pretty version. Not the one we like to watch. Under friendly autumn skies. Where cleats grab turf and find purchase; running backs hold onto the football; and wide receivers are actually able to feel their fingers; and Quarterbacks are actually able to pivot and throw. Not pivot and divot, slip and topple.
Do you know what Coach Bruce Griffith’s juniors were doing on the last three plays of the game? In clamoring darkness? And biting cold?
They were cheering. Loudly, exuberantly, in spite of a foregone conclusion. They were chanting on the sidelines as hell was busting loose overhead. And hey ran to centerfield to shake hands with LCVI.
At the end of the senior game?
A Haliburton lineman went over to the Lindsay CVI kid who had blocked him all game.
“Man,” he said, tired, mud-stricken and cold. “Was that you? Out there? Pushing on me all day? That’s a great job you did out there… great job. Nice game. You’re good buddy.”
Go ahead and measure that against 36-13 or 20-12.
Kahn says he tries to write literature. I started reading Roger Kahn long before I knew what the heck I was doin’ with my life. I knew I wanted to express myself like Kahn or a guy named Frank Deford. Just once or twice before I kicked it.
Because Kahn and DeFord knew that this job; this sports granola; this beat means more than score. This life behind a keyboard entails finding something deeper than statistics.
Today, on the birthday of The Highlander? I just wanted to leave you with the moments.
Football is still violence and cold weather and sex and college rye.
But beneath the trope of that colloquial melange?
We know that football is players and coaches and mentors and battles.
And life jumbled toward grudging respect for our enemies. And leaving it all on the field. Including the grudges and the disappointment.
Football is really about knowing where to draw the line; and above all, knowing how to handle the endgame.
I love football.