Football has gone soft since my day.
The NFL in particular has added so many rules to protect their multi-million-dollar investments that it’s not even the same game.
Back in the good old days we had a name for a quarterback that couldn’t take a hit — PANSY.
Of course back in that day all we had was a heavy wool uniform and a leather helmet to protect us. No, actually I’m embellishing a bit here for dramatic effect. They were no longer using leather helmets in junior school football but some of the older coaches still had their cowhide coconut preserver on the shelf behind their desk.
One of those coaches delighted in belittling us by matching our pushup numbers with an equal number of one-handed pushups or hand-clap pushups. For fun he would line us all up and have us run at him one at a time, us in full pads, he in sweats. As he of us ran at him to try and knock him down he would just laugh like a maniac and shed us like a rag doll.
In junior high football we were issued helmets and shoulder pads but they were old and usually fit badly and it often hurt more to wear them than if you had just gone without. Try to trade in the helmet that fit like a vise around temporal lobes and the next thing the equipment manager would hand you was one that would twist on your noggin with every contact on the field. I spent the seventh grade viewing my opponent through the ear hole of my helmet.
We grew up playing at home without all that equipment but we rarely played touch or flag football. Most of the games in the Terry/Blue front yard were full contact, rub your opponent’s face in the dry grass tackle football.
Once in a blue moon some new kid to the neighborhood might show up to one of our pickup games in the pads and helmet his mommy had given him for Christmas but he would soon learn wearing that stuff was a mistake. We made sure this pansy got to carry the ball often and usually on off-tackle stuff. Shoulder pads in our game assured you that you would regularly be at the bottom of a very large dog-pile.
At the annual Turkey Bowl game played Thanksgiving Day on Lamb Field in Portales no-pads tackle football was showcased. The teams were bigger, the guys were older and occasionally old grudges reappeared. With sometimes as many as 15 to a side, this game wasn’t for the faint-hearted.
I can’t help thinking that Tony Romo would have been an even better quarterback if he’d tried to drop back and pass at the Turkey Bowl. Head-to-head contact was never flagged nor was body slamming the quarterback. You got tough or you went home to momma.
Karl Terry writes for Clovis Media Inc. Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org