Category Archives: football

Sitting at a grade school talent show, inspired by a rousing piano rendition of Ode To Joy, skits written by fourth graders, and a boy bouncing on a pogo stick the whole four minutes and three seconds of Van Halen’s song Jump, I had a flashback. Not like a Van Halen type flashback, but a nostalgic one. As the emcee announced the ensemble of two, third grade girls on the violin and saxophone and Jackson Brawner on the trumpet, the same butterflies started flapping that always surfaced when Jason Brawner’s name was ever announced.


For Jackson, this was serious business and he didn’t miss a note of Bugler’s Dream, better known as the Olympics song. I was amazed and instantly felt that sting behind my nose signaling tears are next. Honestly, keeping it together at an elementary school program should not be a struggle. Why is it things connected to childhood stir emotions in even the most stoic adult? Something about the setting took me on a memory trip to high school. Where did all this come from?


That I was stronger than some of the guys on the real football team and could even out-run a few of them wasn’t glamorous, but it did get me the fullback position on the powderpuff team. My friend Ginny who, on the other hand, was petite, beautiful and defined femininity, shocked everyone with her throwing arm so she was named quarterback. What impressed me more than her arm was she cut off her perfectly manicured nails to get a better grip on the football. For Ginny, like Jackson, this was serious business.


Because the big game was a fundraiser, parents, teachers and the student body came out to see how much the cheerleaders actually knew about football. Trailing by a few points with just a few seconds left on the clock, Ginny called one of the secret plays we had only run in practice. Surely this was the magic. Ginny would hand me the ball as I went opposite of the flow of players and hopefully they would be fooled.


Then it happened, our semi reverse worked! I took off like never before. Now it had become serious business for me.


When I was about five feet from the goal line, the referee’s whistle blew. Confused, I stopped because no one had my flag. No one was near me so why was the whistle blown? Then a girl from the other team flew past me like The Roadrunner snatching the flag off my belt. The sidelines roared and I was still confused.


As I headed to the sidelines, John, the coach who was one of the real football players, pointed to his watch. The whistle I heard was to only signal time had expired off the clock. I stared at him in disbelief as tears leaked. I had stopped 5 feet short of victory for my team. How could the girls ever forgive me? How could I ever forgive myself?


My friend John, in all of his 17-year-old wisdom, hugged me and said what I have always remembered, “It’s OK Suzette. Just remember this: Next time don’t stop until you get to where you’re going, even if you hear a whistle.”


How many times do we stop five feet short of the goal because we are worn out, or distracted, or confused? We give up on projects, we give up on dreams, and we give up on people. What’s really sad is, if we give up, we’ll never know how good it feels to do the victory dance in the end zone, even if it’s only in our minds.


The applause, cheering and whistling brought my attention back to the school auditorium. Jackson had the victory dance going on in his smile; satisfaction of a job well done. Oh, the things you can be reminded of watching a grade school talent show.


Don’t stop until you get to where you’re going.

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I’ve never really been one to want autographs or a chance to shake hands with someone famous. If the highly unlikely does happen and you get to meet that type person, then what? I guess you have the bragging rights that you met them, but that’s where the relationship ends. They won’t be calling you later to meet at Starbucks to catch up over a cappuccino.

It’s fascinating how we put those in the spotlight on a stand like a piece of fine artwork, almost like they really aren’t in the same category of humanness as the rest of us. Some of them take it in stride and live as normally as possible. The other half aren’t so nice. Pressure affects people differently.

Jim worked his way though college playing football at the University of Arkansas. We once figured out the value of his college education broken down into hourly wage. It was equal to sweat shop pay in a third world country. Dollar wise his time would have been spent better flipping burgers and his achy body parts would have probably aged slower. But, he wouldn’t have been a Hog.

In Arkansas, Razorback football players are celebrity-like. Kids, especially, swarm the team after practices and games. They might not even know the player’s name, but because he wears a jersey with a hog on it, the coolness factor is upped.

One afternoon after a long, hot practice Jim was leaving the field when a man in jeans and a tee shirt stopped him to ask some questions about the team and what it was like to play Razorback football. Jim assumed he was an off duty reporter. While they were talking, trucks, dollies and lifts were moving all kinds of sound equipment and cars were already filling up the stadium parking lot.

After about five minutes of football conversation, over the noise Jim said, “ All this is because there’s a Neil Diamond concert in the arena tonight. I think his people were not happy they had to wait until the football team finished workout before they could finalize their set up. Man, the traffic is going to be a mess with the crowds and the parking lot construction and it’s supposed to start raining. I wouldn’t pay a plug nickel to fight all that to see the concert,” Jim said honestly.

The man in the tee shirt nodded his head in agreement and smiled. Another man approached them who Jim thought probably had football questions too. Apologizing for interrupting he turned to the assumed off duty reporter and asked, “Mr. Diamond, where would you like…”

Jim didn’t even hear the rest of the question. To turn and run to the locker room would have been too obvious, so he dropped his head, smiled, and said, “I need to reword my last sentence. I wouldn’t pay a plug nickel to fight all that to see ANY concert.”

He quickly scribbled a mental memo … careful, you never know who might be striking up a conversation with you. Mr. Diamond grinned, shook Jim’s hand, saying he knew what he had meant and sure had enjoyed the visit. And, no, he didn’t call later to see if Jim was free for coffee.