A swagger isn’t far from a limp
His ancient pickup had undergone more oil changes than any vehicle in Iowa.
That’s what legends are made of.
I knew him because his son and I had gone to different schools in adjacent states together. He was a leaning man due to a limp and wore bib overalls as his garb of contentment. “How’s your good self?” I asked. He took it from there. He was typically a man of few words, but this day his mouth had no lid. I hadn’t asked, but he told me he’d been the fastest boy in three counties. He was so fast, no one could beat him. No one was even willing to race him. One day, he carried firewood home from a treed hill. On the peak of that hill perched a large rock. He decided if no one would challenge him, he’d challenge that rock. He’d never heard of anyone racing a stone or trying. He teased the rock as he often did his slower opponents. He made fun of its slowness. He decided it needed a push. He rocked the boulder back-and-forth until it began to roll down the hill. It still moved slowly. He figured the rock was stiff from not having stirred for many years. He ran past it, turning slightly as he ran downhill to mock the rock. He tripped over a small stone on the sidehill. The large rock ran over his leg. That did him no good. His days of winning races were over. So were his days of making fun of others. I figured he was making a point, but only he knew for sure what it was.
It probably wasn’t a true story. It was likely one he’d heard. Stories are like shoes, they travel.
I blew out a knee in high school football. Unfortunately, it was my knee. It was a great unpleasantness. I still made all-conference in the poor-poor-pitiful-me position on the defensive team. It ruined a promising career as someone who raced large rocks.
I wanted to play, so I got cortisone shots from needles only slightly shorter than yardsticks. Did you know they’re not making yardsticks any longer? I digress.
While in college, I enlisted in the Army. I had three physical exams before being declared unworthy (classified 4-F) because of that knee, denying me a career in KP. That process lasted longer than medical school.
Everyone suffers injuries. Our pain thresholds vary. A nasty paper cut might hurt one more than a broken leg does another.
In football practice, we had a drill where 47 (maybe more) players were on one team that kicked off to the two players who made up the opposing team. The 47 (maybe more) tried to tackle the ball carrier while the rival player without the ball tried to block all 47 (maybe more). For the runner, avoiding all those tacklers was like hitting a ground ball through the infield when I played in a baseball game at The Field of Dreams in Dyersville, Iowa. There were 47 (maybe more) players on the infield. I hit two fly balls into the corn. OK, I hit two pop flies into the corn, but they counted as home runs. I told my wife that they were massive blasts that everyone who’d witnessed them would be talking about for the rest of their lives. I said it modestly. I didn’t tell my wife that the cornfield was close enough I could see it had pierced ears. The woman has enough on her mind, without bothering her with minute details. Back to football practice. The 47 (maybe more) tried to tackle the ball carrier and they were always successful. I didn’t need a canary in a coal mine to know that getting tackled by that many was dangerous. It was like getting run over by a truckload of pugnacious, rolling rocks. They piled on prodigiously. I saw a teammate break a leg. It was one of those serious injuries that never healed properly. He has a limp.
A doctor told me that every injury I’d sustained would revisit me one day. Sort of in-body haunting.
Why did we do it? It made us tough. It would have made us stupid, but we were already stupid. Our coach was good. He had the manipulative techniques of a cult leader.
Many people have hitches in their gitalongs. We are the walking wounded for as long as we can walk.
If a day limps along, the best thing we can do is limp along with it.
© Al Batt 2020
1. Name the Major League Baseball team that played one season in 1969 before moving to Milwaukee and becoming the Brewers in 1970.
2. How many offensive snaps did lineman D’Brickashaw Ferguson miss during his 10-year career with the New York Jets?
3. Two-time Indianapolis 500 champion Emerson Fittipaldi hailed from what country?
4. What golfer became the first woman since 1945 to play in a PGA Tour event when she teed off at the 2003 Bank of America Colonial tournament?
5. What short-statured Atlanta Hawks star spectacularly won the 1986 NBA Slam Dunk Contest?
6. What Hockey Hall of Fame goaltender had his No. 33 jersey retired by both the Montreal Canadiens and the Colorado Avalanche?
7. The South American Football Confederation is commonly known by what abbreviation?
1. The Seattle Pilots.
4. Annika Sorenstam.
5. Spud Webb.
6. Patrick Roy.
© 2020 King Features Synd., Inc.
With this lingering pandemic I knew a college football season, regular or shortened, would be a roll of the dice. Now it’s been rolled right out the door by those that run the Big Ten conference. The Pac-12 followed suit and there’s no guarantee the SEC, ACC or Big 12 will open in early September, but good for them that the effort is being made to have some football on Saturdays this fall regardless of where your allegiance falls. Several major concerns led to the postponement for the
1. Thousands of students returning to campus for class.
2. Contact tracing of those that test positive.
3. Recently surfaced heart ailments in players related
I understand the hand wringing and sleepless nights by the medical profession. I just wish they’d all get on the same page. The many different messages and signals sent, only confuse and upset the masses more than they have.
Where does college football go from here? Brain trusts will focus on a spring and fall schedule for 2021. I like Purdue Coach Jeff Brohm’s hypothetical. Brohm proposes an eight game season, February 27th through April 17th with no byes. There would be six weeks of training camp beginning January 16th with limited full practices. Focus would be strength and conditioning, walk thru sessions and plenty of film study and meetings. Playoffs would be held in May followed by up to three months off with no mandatory workouts. Preparation for the fall season of 10 games would start in mid July with kickoff the first Saturday in October and ending in mid December. Six teams, the Power 5 conference champions and one wild card would have a playoff starting the first week in January. Sounds plausible and worth a look. Here’s hoping there’s a vaccine discovered long before then.
“30 Seconds Later and We Would’ve Missed the Train!”
Do you know what snow shoes are Maury? They look something like tennis rackets and Eskimos wear them as shoes to walk on top of the snow. You can’t move very fast on them. You’ll see why Grandpa is explaining this to you later!
An ex-Cardinal pitcher, Max Lanier, had formed a traveling team of ex-major leaguers who had jumped to the Mexican league, which had folded, and were currently barred from the majors.
The night we played them it had rained all day. Playing conditions were bad but the ground crew did their best anticipating a large crowd. The outfield grass was wet and the infield treacherous!
Well, Maury, they were leading 3–2, with two outs when Grandpa got on first base with a walk. Our next batter hit a line drive to left field. The left fielder tried to force me out at 2nd but overthrew the bag. Their right fielder was backing up the throw and threw to 3rd as I was trying for it. (Each time – going for 2nd and then for 3rd – it took me an “hour to get started” and then slide into the bag to stop because it was so slippery!). The throw to 3rd was high, caromed off the left field stands with our 3rd base coach yelling for me to go home! I got up the 2nd time, started for home and fell down three times! Grandpa’s knees buckled and the ground came up to meet me! Falling the 3rd time, six feet from home plate, I crawled on my stomach. I could hear the crowd yelling louder as they sensed a close play at home as the left fielder was throwing to the catcher. Well, Maury, while on my stomach, I reached for home plate, about 6 inches away, with my outstretched hand when I felt the catcher hit my head with the ball. I WAS OUT!!
After the game we went to a favorite bar & grill and the bartender, Roger Bertsch Jr., who had been to the game greeted me saying: “You could have made it home faster on “SNOW SHOES!!” And after all these years a few people still call me “Snow Shoes!”
Much love, Grandpa.