It Isn't All Glory
are flying through the air, just like they do every fall in America.
From peewees to professionals, guys are seeking glory on the gridiron.
millions of Americans, I love football. I love watching it, and
I loved playing it. People from all walks of life and every social
strata play football. Presidents, supreme court justices, and
criminals have played football.
learned a lot of valuable lessons playing football: teamwork,
leadership, pride in accomplishment, and humility. Humility?
Thats right. Football isnt all glory.
not as famous as the player who ran the wrong way and scored a
touchdown for the opposing team. Im not as famous as the
guy who jumped from the sidelines to tackle a player, in effect
giving him an instant touchdown. Heck, Im not even famous.
when you make a fool of yourself in front of thousands of people,
thats hard to forget. You cant even hide. You have
this big numbermine was 51on your shirt. Everybody
knows who you are. They wont let you forget.
I was a lineman, it was not my destiny to get a lot of publicity.
Thats just the way it is. They say football games are won
or lost in the trenches. Linemen play in the trenches. Quarterbacks,
running backs, and wide receivers get all the glory. The skilled
positions, they call them.
did, however, have moments of glory, but they were few. The one
that stands out for me was the first game I got to play. Martin
High School was playing the Milan Bulldogs. The blue and white
against the purple and white.
purple and white kicked our butts in the first half, and we were
behind 18-0 when the coach sent me in at defensive guard. He didnt
send me in to save the game, he just didnt want the starters
to get hurt, figuring wed just get more of the same in the
second half. But what did he know?
surprised him. On the first play, I tackled the quarterback for
a loss. I tackled him again for losses on the next two plays.
Milan punted the ball to us.
coach was so shocked, he left me in the game to play offense.
On the first play from scrimmage, our fullback ran right past
me up the middle sixty yards for a touchdown.
I didnt make a key block; I just ran along behind the fullback
jumping up and down like a crazy person and acting like a cheerleader
in shoulder pads. It was 18-7.
there were no coaches in skyboxes in those days to figure out
what went wrong, so I just kept tackling the quarterback for losses.
We won the game 26-18. It was a great night for the Martin Panthers.
was a bona fide American hero (at least on my block in a tiny
town in Tennessee!), and I loved it.
earned a starting position with that performance, but it wasnt
long before jubilation was replaced by faded glory.
many games later, the place kicker shanked his kickoff and sailed
the ball directly to me. I made a dazzling catch and took about
three steps when I was hit by a Greyhound bus, I think. The ball
shot straight up high into the air, like a pop foul.
the ball came down from orbit, the opposing team covered the fumble.
So much for a big lineman running the football. They dont
refer to players having good hands for nothing. How
I was playing linebacker, and I stared at the opposing quarterback
so hard he threw a pass right to me. I was so grateful that I
immediately batted the thing into the ground. How embarrassing!
there was the time we were playing McKenzie, who had the states
top running back. I was determined to show him a thing or two.
I dropped to my hands and knees and scampered between that guards
legs right into the backfield at the same time Mr. Big Shot got
his hands on the ball.
was dead meat, but he didnt know it. He thought he was Mr.
Big Shot. Just as I lunged at him, his knee smacked my chin. My
hard body instantly mutated into a soft noodle. He hit the line
for a big gain. I hit the ground like a sack of feed.
Big Shot had something to tell his grandchildren, and I had a
headache for a week. How embarrassing!
the coach called me to the sidelines for a play or two, to talk
strategy. While Coach gave me instructions, his arm encouragingly
around my shoulders, the officials came along in front of us with
the yard-marker chain. Unknown to either the coach or me, the
chain was across my feet.
the play was over, the coach shouted encouragement, slapped me
on the back, and shoved me onto the playing field. Tripping on
the chain, I fell over like a six-foot domino, landing face down
with a thud. The collective laugh from the crowd was the most
noise they made all night.
L. Gardner is an author, columnist,
speaker, and consultant. He is a former newspaper editor and publisher
and has authored two books. He writes a popular human interest/humor
column, "Tantalizing Trivialities," a mixture of fun,
frivolity, nostalgia, inspiration, humor, love, marriage, tall
tales, work, and other absurdities. He publishes "Harvey
Gardner's Marketing Tips," an online newsletter. He lives
in White House, Tennessee. His website is www.harveygardner.com.
Harvey L. Gardner