grape kool-aidPosted: November 8, 2012
This was the first year of tackle football. It was summer of going into eighth grade, probably 1969 or so. Everyone could make the team, but the practices were so hard many kids just stopped coming, cutting themselves from the competition. Two a day practices in the summer heat, to toughen us up started at 09:30 and ran for two hours, with a one hour lunch and back out for two hours more.
Each night our moms filled a plastic gallon jug with kool-aid ( my favorite flavor was grape ) and mom would pop it in the freezer. At morning we would trudge up to school walking or on bicycles, milk jug of ice and lunch in a big brown grocery bag. We donned our gear and off to running and jumping and battle. I was so small that they could barely fit me, and I stumbled around in oversized gear with a helmet so big that every time I tackled someone it rotated until my world view was framed by the helmet’s ear hole.
By lunch, sweet lunch, we would have a gallon of slushy grape flavored icy cold delight. How we savored the chill rushing down our throats. One bite of sandwich, one drink of heavenly slush, the finest meal a boy could ever want. Then it was back out to learn how to growl when we collided, and monkey roll or slam the handoff into your buddies gut so he wouldn’t fumble it.
Even then, Jimmy R was as big as a man in the eighth grade and everyone was afraid to tackle him. I was so small that he kept tripping over me, and everyone would look over as I got up, my oversized pants that should have been at my knees hanging around my ankles, my helmet turned all around. They put me on the first team, and he still kept tripping over me, day after day.
One morning the head coach called me into his office. I was terrified, I never even looked at him ( I was still trying to figure out how to growl ). I remember how large he was, and how in his office there was a big sign that said “Through These Doors Walk the Toughest Players in the NEC”. He handed me a pair of pants that fit and a helmet that was just right. They were both used, and the pants were patched up. That was the day I started growling when I tackled.
May your summer days be full of icy cool grape kool-aid.