My return to the gridiron almost ended on the first play from scrimmage. Wide right, I faked to the sideline, planted my right foot, and cut back across the middle underneath the coverage. A split second later I was lying flat on my back seeing more stars than I have seen in a long time. Felt like someone had hit me on my left temple with a sledgehammer.
This morning our little country church held its annual Youth vs. Adult flag football game. I haven't tried to play in an organized football game since #2 son's Hawaiian buddies used me for a tackling dummy ten years ago on the beach at Kailua. But, when the youth pastor asked the congregation for a show of hands from the adults who would come Saturday to play, my twenty-two year old hand shot up before my fifty-two year old brain could catch up. Miss Brenda didn't let me forget about the commitment, and with reluctance made even greater by the sight of twenty teenagers zipping around the field at the speed of youth, I trotted out on to the field and lined up.
When the stars faded, I got to my feet and stumbled over to our sideline. When I got there, I noticed a teammate with a bloody nose. "They're playing rough aren't they--who busted your nose?" He reached out and tapped my head where a large knot was welling up nicely. "You did."
On the next series, I went back in to see if I could salvage a little bit of my self-respect, figuring that I'd at least run a couple of routes for appearances sake and then act my age on the sideline for the rest of the game. On the first play, I ran a short route underneath and the pass went deep and incomplete. On the way back to the huddle the flat-belly playing quarterback asked if anyone was covering me. I shook my head and he said, "Run it again." On the snap, I gave a head fake left to no one in particular and cut across the middle. The ball hit me in the gut at about the same time I turned my head to look for it. I was only ten yards from the quarterback and the ball had enough zip on it to cause me to wrap my arms around it purely on kinetic reflex. I turned up field and turned up the speed. Miss Brenda said she had never seen me run so fast. Truth is I was so open that there was no one running anywhere near me with whom to compare speed. My furiously pumping arms and legs gave the impression of a velocity much higher than actual. Several minutes later I reached the end zone, pitched the ball to the ref, and headed for the sidelines.
At my age, one sprint per game is all they're getting out of me.