A recent shocking study of 111 NFL players that showed 110 of them had some signs of CTE (who was the 111th guy, a kicker?) has just hastened the end of the sport as we know it for kids. Football’s already at an all-time low for youth participation as it is, and nowadays, what mother is gonna send her little son to get his brains turned into scrambled eggs? That’s understandable of course but it still sucks for the kids. Because when I start thinking about my own youth football days they weren’t about head injury hooey—all I remember is how fuckin fun they were. The memories of youth sports in general stay with you forever, but for me football’s are by far the most vivid.
The first Pop Warner tale that sticks out to me is Mikey’s Big Run. Against shitbag Falmouth, who our coach hated so much he literally asked us to win in a solemn Gipper-like speech before the game, down less than a touchdown with seconds to go around the forty yard line, our best player Mikey was supposed to fake a sweep and toss a last ditch Hail Mary. Instead, rushing defenders swarmed and Mikey was forced to improvise, escaping a game-ending sack and then weaving his way through defenders for an impossible TD run, leaving the field littered with would-be tacklers and somehow crossing the goal line after the clock had already struck zero.
Then there was The Parking Lot Game. Against every adult involved’s better judgment, we played a “scrimmage” against hated and similarly hooded Wareham on what was just a long, skinny strip of grass at the end of a parking lot. There were no yard markers, no downs, and no refs. Only two coaching staffs who had hated each other since their own days playing for the same cities. Though not on an adult scale, prison games were less violent, and there’s no way it would have even taken place if any parents were present. I don’t know who won since there was no score—there were no fuckin end zones for chrissake—but the two coaching staffs each loudly declared victory and the parking lot resembled a World Star video in a matter of minutes. Moral to the story: we re-matched the fucks in the playoffs and won in overtime. And don’t let drunk coaches arrange games.
And what stroll down memory lane would be complete without the self-indulgent? The Big Hit took place during my first week of practice when I was only in second grade. Taunton only fielded older teams at the time, so I ended up playing with a lotta fourth and fifth graders. You can see where this is going. During one Oklahoma drill, fate decided to match up against literally the tallest fuckin fifth grader on the whole team. I heard snickering from the players and maybe even a few coaches as we took our positions. Then the whistle blew and all I know is it felt like I went through a bead curtain. Meanwhile the coaches went absolutely bat shit watching the smallest kid on the team snuff the biggest. They were laughing and carrying on to the point where the next practice the tall kid searched me out like a pride-wounded and angry heat-seeking missile every kickoff drill. Thanks coaches.
There were blowout wins and humiliating losses, we were one game away from going to Florida before we lost on a phantom fumble, I broke my arm and my foot, there was a hot chick on our team who had the nicest ass ever—but overall when I think of youth football I think of the fun. Not concussions and other horseshit. Just some little kids having pure fuckin fun.
It’s a damn shame that’s going away.