Oct 29, 2006


The last time I will probably ever see him play ball was yesterday in driving rain. 42 degrees and a handfull of colored umbrellas. The field was no better than Verdun in the winter of 1917. It was a tie game through regulation, then double overtime and on third down in the second overtime they finally threw to him, but by then it was like catching a cinderblock and through a maze of defender's muddy black hands the kid was distracted and dropped it. One more down and the Bobcats were done; the Mules got it and kicked a field goal and that's 0 and 6 for you, folks. In a D3 program where the Bobcats once went for years without a win. In a program where the college radio wouldn't broadcast the game if it was the league championship. In a program once described as the worst football in America. In a program where sometimes older players, after a couple of beers, tell recruits, "If you're serious, don't come here."

Coaches are good, but in the end it's a vicious cycle; you don't win, nobody wants to be part of that. So often you're left kids from the backwater who don't know the first thing about it and while they have all the blue collar enthusiasm you can imagine, heart from here to the horizon, they just don't have the stuff to block, tackle or catch for 60 minutes. The coach yells in the post mortem every Sunday, "What is it? You can't understand what we're saying at practice? You can't grasp the system?"

Whatever it is, they can't. They don't. And now most have become like soldiers who don't want to get out of the trench.

You can only go so long like that. Even if you've had some games lost by a field goal, or an extra point; nothing helps. Look at those fans in New Orleans and Phoenix and San Francisco before "The Catch". Or Detroit. An Indiana University study of the relationship between NFL football and domestic noted, "the more the team was expected to lose, the greater the number of domestic violence dispatches on game day."

But what if you have only yourself to take it out on...


He was always the go-to kid, could catch anything, and really believes, or did, that if you can touch it you can catch it. And he always did when he was just a kid, running down toy balls and disappearing into a cedar tree to do it. The day he decided this was for him was when he went against another kid his own age, just the two of them, 9 and 8 respectively, at the Polo Fields, in fog and drizzle. The other kid couldn't catch and drove up and down the field. I was all-time Q; Dylan dropped some balls in the rain, just like yesterday, and fell behind. Eventually, he got as angry as I've ever seen him. 'How could this be? How could someone that didn't know the game and couldn't catch a ball get ahead?' From his anger he dropped the passing game and went to running, and then the contest got primal. He didn't try to run around the other boy, he ran through him, again and again, until the other boy called it quits. If you'd seen it you'd ask why I let this go on. I did because it's in our blood. But after that game, with his nose bleeding and his lip cut, he was happy beyond compare; he'd come back, he'd tasted that sport and wanted more. He's had some great moments, and so it was sad to see it end back in the rain but no way to get even....

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