When I was in fifth grade my dreams were as close to coming true as they’ve ever been as I got the call that I was going to play football for the Cowboys. Unfortunately it wasn’t the Dallas team that I had grown up cheering for but rather a team in Bryant, Arkansas, just outside of Little Rock. It wasn’t an ideal situation. For some reason that is over my head I was pulled from the league in Little Rock I’d spent my first two years playing, the league where all of my friends were and was forced to play in a place where I knew nobody but what got me through was knowing that I was representing the star. I wish I could say it was a season full of friendships that have lasted to this day and great memories and while it wasn’t like a life shaking terrible experience neither of those things are true.
I only have two specific memories that stick out from that season both of them bad but one clearly worse than the other. This was back in 2001 and I remember on September 11 being at football practice that afternoon. My fifth grade teacher had the TV turned to the news all day for us to watch so I wasn’t oblivious to what was going on and I remember as I ran laps around the overgrown field where we practiced that if there was ever a good day to cancel a football practice it was probably that one. Honestly I was probably just wishing I could’ve gotten out of running that day.
The other memory I have playing for the Cowboys came in the next to last game of the season, but for all we knew it was the last. We were in the playoffs and needed to win that Thursday night game to get into the Championship game the following Saturday. Early in the first quarter I hurt my right hand which was unfortunate because I was the center who used my right hand to snap the ball back to the quarterback. I was in so much pain that I physically couldn’t even grip the football with that hand let alone pick it up and hand it back to the quarterback before jamming that hand into the chest of an oncoming defensive player I was supposed to block. I wasn’t a doctor but I knew I couldn’t do all that so I ran over to the sideline and explained it to the coach who looked at me with sympathy and reason typical of all football coaches and told me to get my butt (He actually said another word but I’m cleaning up the language for younger readers, you know kids who might be the age I was then) back in the game and quit complaining.
I didn’t know what I was going to do because it was impossible for me to do what was being asked of me with my hand in that condition. It just seems so absurd now looking back that a coach of an elementary school football team would completely disregard the physical health of a player in order to win the game. It wasn’t like he was getting paid and was on the hot seat where his job depended on getting to the championship that year. I did the only thing I could think to do and started snapping the ball with my left hand. It was uncomfortable and I wasn’t very good at it but I didn’t have another choice. I grimaced in pain every time I had to make a block but I did my job and contributed to winning that semi-final playoff game. Everybody was so happy that we were going to the Championship. No longer would we be playing on the crappy outfield at the local baseball park. No sir, we were headed to the Championship held on the crappy Bryant High School football field.
Unfortunately I wasn’t able to play in that game (which was fine with me because we got destroyed) because following our playoff win because my mom like any good mother whose son was in pain took me to the doctor that Friday morning. My hand was broken and my coach was an idiot for leaving me in the game. Ha, both of my suspicions confirmed by a medical professional! That was the only time I’ve ever broken a bone in my life but I was playing for the Cowboys, where unfortunately injuries are commonplace.