So, I've probably used this title before. But this time I mean it. For real this time. Seriously.
As I may or may not have mentioned before, I had some back pain a couple years ago. Went to the chiropractor, and the x-rays showed a nice interesting twist in my spine. Just one vertebrae in my lower back, was twisted left slightly and tilted. It pinches a nerve from time to time and causes a nice pain that travels along my pelvis and down into my right butt cheek. Pretty much a nice case of sciatica, going right along with that hip that pops in and out of place for most of my life. I'm sure its an even bigger deal than I make of it at any given moment when it hurts, but I just go with it as part of living. Although it did curb my going to the park and playing hardcore basketball and football with kids half my age. Figured I didn't want to ruin the rest of my back while I'm still just in my 30s. Now this hasn't stopped me from participating in some touch football from time to time with people of a variety of ages. I love football way too much to give it up.
A few weeks ago, I was coming back across the street with the dog, at full speed mind you while trying to unhook her leash for the rest of the run back to the house. Not paying full attention sometimes causes something to happen that forces you to pay attention. I slammed the big toe in my right foot directly into the curb and subsequently splatted my body out into the grass. I begin grasping my toe in pain, and realizing I literally split my shoe from its sole in the process. While it's nice to know the dog came back to check on me, I wasn't as amused with the fact that she took advantage of my pain and focus on my toe to start licking my face incessantly. It seems dogs are like mom's in that that think they can kiss the boo-boos away. I outgrew that understanding of pain management years ago. Anyways, that was a couple weeks ago. It is getting better, but there are still some moments of discomfort. I figure it will heal soon enough, and it doesn't really impede me from doing anything I wouldn't normally do.
Last Wednesday, I went outside after supper to play football with my 10 year old, his buddy and a neighbor kid. I had to tackle them, but all they had to do was touch me with two hands, since I am too big for them to tackle. Have to pretend to keep things fair at least. And of course, given my natural abilities and winning ways, I was well on my way to embarrassing them a little bit while I showed up. Then the youngest kid's buddy had to go home, and my 15 year old stepped in for him. Now for those that know my 15 year old, you know he isn't much for organized sports, but on occasion he will step in and play some. He is more into Parkour, bouncing and jumping and climbing whatever he can find. And while he probably isn't competition level yet, he is pretty good at it. I've seen him scale trees like a monkey and negotiate rock faces like a mountain goat. At 6 foot tall and 150 or 160 pounds he's wiry and pretty athletic. So with the boost of his big brother, the 10 year old starts showing a little flare, throwing good spiral passes to his brother who is clearly the tallest person in the yard, and almost as fast as me. One skill he has developed is good agility when it comes to cutting back and forth, to negate my speed and experience. He shook me more than once to get open and catch some well placed throws by his brother.
I was however very impressed by his concentration on one play in general. I played behind Josh (the 15 yr old) and when Corwyn (the 10 yr old) threw the ball to him, I broke in front to intercept or knock the ball down. However it was higher than I anticipated, just going over my fingertips, hitting his hands and going up in the air a bit higher. In the past this would've meant incomplete pass, but the boy made his dad (that's me!) very proud when he snagged it out of the air, and he stiff armed me off wrapping him up and turned up field running it in for a touchdown. In that moment I realized I wasn't the top dog anymore that could stop these kids at will anytime I wanted, only letting them score when I chose to let them. He honest to God outplayed me when I was confident I was going to take the ball (first) and then tackle him with ease (second). I was definitely put in my place on that particular play.
Later, Josh caught a pass in front of me. I had the boy dead to rights. Back when we were kids playing at the infamous Witte's Yard in Sac City, he would've been smeared to the ground. But, instead I was a good dad and decided against spearing him into the sidewalk and possibly the house. So I just wrapped him up, turned him and dropped my weight. I brought him down on top of me, and his bony little elbow hit me with his entire weight right between a couple of ribs. Now I've been speared, landed on, thrown to the ground, in the street, into thorny rose bushes, maybe a tree or two...and sometimes that shit hurt. But I have never felt the sting of getting my ribs bruised before. And here I sit, still sore, super stiff in the mornings when I get up. I'm just waiting the days and days it will take for the dull pain to subside, hoping he didn't actually crack a couple ribs. So far in life I've been pretty lucky that I've not broken any bones, and I'm kind of hoping that streak stays alive. Of course I'm not getting x-rays to confirm one way or the other. I'm just going to live with the pain while it's there and keep going like I do. However, I told the boy in no uncertain terms I am not playing tackle football this Wednesday when they come over for supper again, no matter how nice the weather might be. I MAY play touch, but I am still unsure on even doing that. Depends on how I feel I guess.
What scares me most is that I may have to finally retire from my super long career as a semi-pro football player in the Backyard Football League. I've stretched it to just a little under 30 years now, had my moments that created great on field memories. Not sure I'm ready, as a player and competitor, to let it go just yet and hang up my proverbial cleats, but maturity and old age coupled with increasing weird injuries from what seem like pretty non-violent actions may cause me to move on to operating strictly from a coaching perspective, and the occasional game of catch. I understand the struggle professional athletes looking down the barrel of retirement go through, even without their kind of money. Football is a game I've loved and lived most of my life.
But my legacy is my two boys. When Corwyn focuses, he can be a great thrower and a runner, as well as improving on his pass catching ability. Josh is proving to be quite the all-around athlete in his own right like his uncle Josh Burns, the retired great Backyard Football League player from our younger years, despite his lack of participation in the sports to the degree we did as kids at his age. They both make me quite proud as they grow up, even if they have teamed up to take me out of the game! I guess I can only hope we can do some light play together from time to time. Even if neither ever participate in football on an organized level or a regular basis, I'm always glad I have gotten to play the game with them some and have that bonding time with something other than video games, which I hopelessly suck at! My other hope is that maybe I can eventually get nominated into the Hall of Fame for my backyard football antics, like Josh Burns did.