An English teacher at the University of Virginia provides a thoughtful reminiscence about both the pros and cons about playing football based on his experiences as a soft, shy boy growing up in a blue-collar Boston suburb in the 1960s.
“What was I doing going out for football? Why was I trying to join the team that the year before had gone undefeated and won the Greater Boston League title? I’d always been drawn to the game and happy to play at the park. Slow as I was, I loved running with the ball. Heavy as I was, I wasn’t always easy to tackle. But this wasn’t going to be a slapdash affair with my buddies. Now I was placing myself under the iron law of the coaches. I’d be blocking and tackling in ways that scared me to think about.
“But there were no doubt deeper reasons for me being in that locker room with all those guys tricked out in white on that first day. Somewhere in me there had to be the memories of Sunday afternoons with my father. Somewhere there must have been the image of Jim Brown, the perfect football player and perfect man. But more important were surely memories of Y.A. Tittle, the guy who had built himself up a brick at a time. I needed some building up then – I needed it badly."