A Coin Tossed

Morning Ramble (7)

Fall in America finds us watching competitors on fields marked off by ten yard demarcations. In communities big and small, families flock to watch their children, little boys and young men square up against each other giving their all to get a brown pig skin ball across the goal line more than the opposing team does. In America, we like to win.

It all starts in second grade. There are no helmets or tackling, just learning and flags pulled off of a waist belt. Oh, and a healthy dose of competitive spirit is taught on those small fields, too. Get out there and win! To a random observer, it might seem this is more important to the parents on the sidelines than it is to the competitors on the field, squaring off against classmates, friends and neighbors.

In fifth grade, it’s show time for real. Kids — mostly boys, are weighed and measured. They’re assigned a position. You are big and heavy — lineman. You are small and quick — running back. You are medium, fast and pretty sharp for a fifth grader — quarterback. Here are some pads and helmets. Get out there and be tough! Win!

In ninth grade, you become part of the big time — a high school football player. You don the school colors and take to the high school field on Thursday nights. You wear your jersey to school all day so that your peers can easily identify you as part of the team. When you complete the season, you’ll get a fuzzy letter or number to take home for your letterman’s jacket. Those went out of style years ago — so, you’ll just throw it in a drawer. Quite a prize.

In a year or two, you’ll make it to varsity. Friday night lights — so incredibly popular, a TV show thrived on the premise.

A select few will go on to play in college and the pros. Imagine the joy in that! Famous, big money, dare I say success? You’ll be on TV — fall weekends in America — football.

In the span of years from second grade to adulthood, there are wounded warriors left in the wake of the sport. Concussions, broken hands, torn ACLs, dislocated shoulders, a stroke caused by a twisted neck breaking a vein and carrying a clot to the brain.

It won’t happen to me — the young men think.

It won’t happen to my kid — the parents think.

When it does, you get the surgery, have the bones reset, wear the cast, use the crutches. You endure months of rehab and feed the health care industry.

You’re tough and brave, and although your body will never be the same again your goal is to step back on the Astro Turf. The first question everyone asks is if and when you’ll be able to play again.

It’s what we do here in America in the fall. Compete. Play the game.

Be safe.

Don’t get hurt.

Nobody cares about your pain and rehab except the family who took you to your first game in second grade.

You knew the risks, didn’t you?

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