Flashback to October 1986. It was a Friday afternoon the day before my 12th birthday and I was walking home from school on a nice cool fall afternoon. I turned the corner onto my street and noticed that my grandparents motor home was taking up my drive way. I ran the last 100 feet or so home because I was thrilled that they had drove the 24 hour drive down from Pittsburgh to see us as we never really got to spend much time with my grandparents in Texas. Well after getting home and talking to them I found out that they were down here for my 12th birthday and to also watch my little league football game the next day, which made my day as they have never seen any of my games before.
On Saturday afternoon we all (me, my mom, my kid brother, and my grandparents) headed off to my football game in town in which I was playing our rival cross-town rivals, the Cowboys. My dad even showed up which shocked me because since my parents had divorced a few years earlier, he had been in a bottle of scotch and had been rarely active in my life to say the least.
A little background on my little league football life, the league I was in had 14-20 teams or so evenly split into two conferences. Each “team” was comprised of 4 teams, a freshman (3rd grade), a sophomore (4th grade), a junior (5th grade), and a senior (6th grade) team. My freshman and sophomore years we won the Superbowl of the league and my junior year we lost in the Superbowl. The kids on my team and I had a history of winning, as most of the team stayed together through our 4 years together playing for the Oilers. And my senior year was no different. So to say that this league was competitive was an understatement. My first three years of playing little league I was a little chubby and always got stuck playing either guard or tackle on the offensive line. But sometime between 5th and 6th grade I went through a huge growth spurt and suddenly became tall and lanky, so I was moved to offensive end.
So the game gets going and we were up 7-0 through most of the game. Now most of the time we did not pass very much as we had a NFL-like running game, but from time to time we did pass the ball. And on this day we had trouble running the ball (hey it was a rivalry game and you know how those always turn out). Now normally as left end I had to line up next to the tackle, but on pass plays I was split out off of the line.
Sometime in the 3rd or 4th quarter we are in the huddle and I hear that the coach called for a pass play. I was happy because it meant I didn’t have to block the fatass across from me on the other team. I was so happy in fact that when we broke the huddle I ran full speed out to the left side. I asked the ref (like you are supposed to do) if I was lined up correctly and he said I was. I then out of now where told the ref, “You might as well go ahead and put your arms up for a touchdown because I am about to score”, which I probably said because no one of the defense noticed I was lined up for a pass. So the ball is hiked and I run down the field with no one covering me, and I turn around to see the quarterback throwing the ball to me. About 10 yards later I caught the ball (now all of this is in slow motion at this point in time) and I kept on running for what seem like a damn eternity. I got down to about the 4 yard line and felt a tug on my leg which was the safety who had finally caught up with me and was trying to bring me down. I struggled and struggled but kept trying to get the last 3-4 yards to heaven. I felt like Charlie Brown always getting denied the chance to kick the ball because that little bitch Lucy kept pulling the ball back. But I was not going to be denied on this day because I kept trying to get to the end zone. I ended up tripping and losing my balance and I fell across the goal line into the end zone flat on my stomach. I had just scored my first TOUCHDOWN ever!!!! And on my birthday!!!
I looked back to see the kid who was trying to keep me from my date with destiny and noticed he was holding my shoe by the laces. My dumb ass self had just ran a 60 yard touchdown pass with untied shoes, story of my damn life. So I got up and handed the ball to the ref and reminded him that he was going to need to put his arms up, and he said, “Good catch and run kid”.
I was on cloud 9 as I ran back to the sidelines and all I could hear was cheers from the crowd and my family. Later in the game we had the ball and we right in front of the stands and I was lined up in the 3 point stance, and the guy on defense jumped offsides and knocked me over before the ball was snapped. Being in such a good mood, I immediately got up, turned to the crowd, and pretended to be the ref and acted like I pulled the flag out and shouted to the crowd, “encroachment on the defense, 5 yards, replay first down”. Everyone in the stands was laughing as well as my team mates and coaches.
We ended up winning that game with our cross-town rivals 14-0. After each game the home team would have a raffle drawing to raise money for the teams and they would raffle off the game ball which was used during the game. So after the team meeting and drinks, I get to where my family is gathered up and find out that my grandparents had won the game ball. My mom had been trying for 4 years to win a damn game ball and my grandparents won the game ball which I scored a touchdown with. How fucking more awesome could this day get?
Well after the game we all went for lunch together and everyone (my dad included) came and everyone got along (which never happened). My dad and mom fought all the time before and after marriage. And my dad never got along with my grandparents. Gifts were given to me and there was also cake.
So to give you a brief summary of my 12th birthday: My grandparents drove 1200 miles to see me and also my football game on my birthday. I scored my first and only touchdown ever in my 10 years of playing organized football. My dad was at the game and sober. Everyone got along. I ended up getting the game ball.
It was like the stars/planets were all aligned, karma was in my corner, lady luck had visited. Everything that could go RIGHT that day happened. It is a shame that I lost the game ball from that day when I moved out of my mom’s house. I am pretty sure that the game ball would have been a good one to use for my ashes to be put in when I am gone.
I can’t tell you (because I honestly don’t remember) what I got for my birthday that day, but I got the best gift I could have been given and that was some of the best memories of my childhood for my 12th birthday.
And yes this picture is really me from that season in 1986.