When I was 12 years old, my mother, for the first of many times, forbade me to play football. She was afraid I'd break my teeth.
In my neighborhood, there wasn't such a thing as Pee Wee or Pop Warner football for little tykes, so we played tackle, without any semblance of equipment, in the back yard of a house owned by this old man down the street.
Well, at least he called it a back yard. Even though there were rocks and boulders scattered across the playing surface and the whole thing was cross-hatched with drainage ditches. But nevertheless, it was still the best place available, despite its primitiveness.
The big faat rock in front of the apple tree was one goal line. At the other end of the field was a ditch (not a big ditch, grant you, but very distinctly a ditch) full of water. That was the other goal line. Down the middle of the field ran another ditch, which subdivided the field lengthwise, splitting the playing surface like a tommy's sub.
This ditch was particularly useful. A heady runner (as heady as 12-year-old runners get) could pick his course over the ditch, and if he was very heady, maneuver his assailants into it. It was an effective ploy. And a devastatingly useful one.
My mother wasn't awfully enthused about the ditches. Or about the rocks, for that matter. In fact, she wasn't awfully enthused about this childhood football fetish of mine in any aspect. "You're going to break your teeth on those rocks," she told me. But I never did break my teeth, even in high school. I think secretly she never forgave me for that.
With this terrain to work with, plays were set up like military maneuvers. "Okay, Stretch, run a slant out to the sideline, then cut back to the ditch in the middle. Run your man into the ditch. Maybe he'll break something." Or "Curl in around the rock, but watch out for the bramble bushes--they scratch like hell" (we always used "hell" in the huddle because nobody could hear us there).
The old man was pretty good about letting us use his back yard for a gridiron--except for the pumpkins. He was always worried about his pumpkin patch, or rather, that we had a nasty habit of running through it on long fly patterns.
"You can't play here if you run through my pumpkins," he told us.
"But that's how a fly pattern works."
"Not when it runs through my pumpkins," he said. We invariably ran through his pumpkins anyway. When I was 13, he gave up trying to grow pumpkins.
Well, if I were playing for Harvard this weekend, even my mother wouldn't have to worry about me getting hurt. You see, the Crimson's opponent is this team from Boston University. And there are serious doubts about whether they could hurt anyone even with rocks and ditches to help them. Harvard Stadium doesn't have either, so the Crimson should have fun.
The weekend action:
PRINCETON-COLUMBIA--Last weekend the Lions and Bucknell played in the "Egg Bowl." I call that partly because the final score was 0-0, and partly because neither team could have broken an egg blocking or tackling. Princeton bombed out against Rutgers. This contest is the null set of the weekend. Princeton 10, Columbia 7.
BROWN-PENN--Last year the Bruins thumped Penn, 28-20, fucking over the Quakers' title hopes. They did not make many friends in Philly with that one. Harry Gamble's squad isn't likely to forget. Penn isn't likely to forget last week's 16-14 loss to Lafayette either. Brown is on the upswing, but not this week. Penn 24, Brown 17.