Reading and Football – Week 6

I set the coffee to brew automatically hoping that the aroma would be enough of an incentive to get me up and out of bed before the rest of the house awoke, but I only beat Olivia by an hour. We were up late as we are most Friday nights in the fall. It is high school football night and our Tigers won, again. They have a solid team and so far they are 6-0 and ranked number one in the area. The Tigers have a lightning fast offense and a swarming defense which has allowed no more two touchdowns in any of their games, while at the same time they have averaged over 40 points on offense. The games are fun to watch and Beth and I find ourselves standing in the end zone along the fence watching the action and keeping an eye on William and Olivia who come along, too but for their own interests: friends and picking up the field after the game. In a tradition that began several years ago; William helps the groundskeeper collect the yard markers, chains, and clean off the field after each home game. Adam, the groundskeeper, drives the tractor and William follows behind collecting the yard markers, end zone markers, and the chains along the way. Olivia joins in as well, but she mostly just rides in the tractor dressed in her tiger outfit which she wears to every game. So far this season, she has been to every game, the rest of us have missed at least one. It is always great to see people’s reactions when they see her in her Tiger suit, the ticket takers give her a pass, but it is hard to charge when I ask for tickets by saying, “Two adults, one student, and one Tiger,” with Olivia proudly standing before them smiling for inspection in her Tiger suit. But by now, she is part of the experience and has her own following.

I have always enjoyed football. I played in junior high and high school but quit when it became evident I had little talent and would have to work really hard not to play. It was not important enough to me and I stopped. Like so many things from my youth, I have regrets about what I did not do or should have done, but it is too late. This past week I have had opportunity to think back to growing up, football, and reading; as if I do not already have enough to think about.

I grew up in Sugar Land, Texas and our next door neighbor was Tom Regner, who played for the Houston Oilers. As a third grader having a professional football player as a neighbor is impressive but he was a regular guy. He and his wife had two kids: Carol Anne and Kenny who were younger than us, but we played with them and were neighbors for years. Being a professional football player, especially and offensive lineman, was different forty years ago and his career was cut short by knee injuries. As a teenager I would work for him as a busboy in his restaurant. But, as a kid, time after school and spare time on weekends in the fall were spent playing pickup football in our side yard until we got tired, it got too dark to play, or our moms called us home for dinner. These games often got in the way of homework and I would eat, cleanup, and finish my homework before falling asleep.

For my ninth birthday my dad got me a book; Star Quarterbacks of the NFL and I was hooked. I think I read that book several times, too many times to count. Just this past week, I re-read the chapter on Joe Kapp, the quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings. Several years ago, mom gave me all of my childhood books she still had and it was in the pile. I have gone back and leafed through them and remember reading about players from the sixties and seventies. This past week a player from the era passed away, George Blanda. Actually, he was from the era of the late forties and fifties and played an incredible 26 seasons for the Bears, the Oilers, and the Raiders. I remembered him playing and winning a football game by kicking a 52 yard field goal in the same season as Tom Dempsey of the New Orleans Saints kicked the longest field goal in history – 63 yards to win the game on the last play. Reading though George Blanda’s biography made me think and I did some research and discovered that both field goal were kicked on the same day 11-8-10, two days before I got my birthday book. That book led to several more books and a lifetime of reading. I was hooked. Until that book, I had read Ferdinand the Bull, Yertle the Turtle and other books, but I had never read a real book, or I just do not remember, but regardless a lifetime of reading was launched. I can remember many a night keeping the light on as long as I could, reading b flashlight, or falling asleep reading a book. Today, I try to read but finding time is difficult and I have to pick and choose.

This past week I have seen readers in my classroom and in my home. Olivia is reading Charlotte’s Web and William is reading a book for school. Beth is reading and so am I. It has been a good week and reading has been a part of it. I have more to write and add this weekend and in the coming week. Stay tuned: Making the Days Count, one day at a time.

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