As it should be, so much has changed in football, a game I grew up with and learned to love.
Yes, learned to love.
You see, when you hit a baseball, shoot and make a basket, run and win a race, there is instant gratification. There is little of that in football.
Being part of the smaller group of kids, I took a beating in my first several years of football. The days after World War II, the equipment was very bad, no face bars, no teeth protectors and pads made out of a very light, cheap material. Players today are loaded down with equipment. There seems to be a pad for every part of the body.
Today, with most of my molars missing, three broken noses, and a knee that hurts all the time, I am reminded daily most of my equipment was bad and I got hit very hard before I learned that hitting back was more fun.
I found out early, it takes time to learn the game of football. I played 14 years of football and coached another 28 years. Several broken noses, many Ace wraps on different parts of my body, band-aids, iodine, and probably a lot of concussions are my only trophies.
Football has become a game I still watch, and the older I get, the more I see changes that really jolt some of my memories.
I don’t ever recall dancing in the end zone, taunting an opponent after a hard tackle, formations that stretch from the field to the men’s room.
I never wore a face mask until my first year in college. I was given a helmet without a face mask and the coach said they were ordered and to stay out of contact drills.
I will never forget our first practice. After we ran a mile in full equipment on a cinder track in August, we “warmed up” for another 30 minutes.
Our first drill was two lines, single file. One line would somersault and come up what the coach called “chicken fighting.”
I stayed out as the head coach told me to because of my face mask-less helmet, but the assistant coach said, “Get in line.” When I tried to explain about the face mask, he paid no attention.
So when I came to the front of the line, I looked across at what seemed to be a 6-7, 240-pound senior and the coach yelled “Go!” I rolled over and came up to a forearm that cost me another broken nose.
As a future coach that chicken fighting drill was one of the things I put on the list to never use. I also put on that list to never run a mile before practice.
Tony Lamke is a former coach and writes a periodic column for the News Journal. He can be reached at [email protected]