Archive for category football

Amazing Flamenco

I just spent a week in Spain and became caught up in football (America calls it soccer) there. Learned about the success of FCB (Futbol Club of Barcelona), watched my first match on TV, while rooting for my new team, bought an FCB jersey that I already wore playing tennis–the other players said I looked like a stop sign.

But I was constantly impressed with how dextrous soccer players are with their feet and legs…a talent I lack completely. It has been 45 years since I was in Barcelona admiring the architecture of Gaudi, and 25 years since I was in Madrid watching and loving the sensuousness and foot skills of flamenco dancers.

But I have never seen the varieties of flamenco that I discovered in this video: there are eight different kinds. Breathtaking. Sexy. Romantic. Revealing. Unabashedly passionate and vulnerable. Enjoy this mastery of the body by humans I cannot relate to. You too will be inspired to practice more leg exercises and foot movements to put us in touch with the lower half of our physical self…after years of indifference and distance.

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Our New Year’s Day Football Tradition

Another New Year's Day football game—1/1/2012

Another New Year’s Day football game—1/1/2012

Dave Nichols has spent a lifetime examining sports as an athletic director, professor and teacher. He just sent me this heart-warming story about an annual football game he and his buddies have been playing for 45 years. And he says he is working on his abs. In the group shot below, Dave is wearing a red hat and standing seventh from the right.

On a crisp winter’s day in 1969 Massachusetts, a group of Medford High School students met after partying the evening before to play tackle football in the morning’s snow. The student’s consisted of high school athletes and dubbed themselves the “Fast Guys.” Across the park that New Year’s morn, the Fast Guys noticed another group of young men who lived in the vicinity of the public park playing football as well. A verbal challenge to a game ensued, and the rivalry of the Park Boys versus the Fast Guys began in what would be called their “Snow Bowl.”

For 45 consecutive New Year’s mornings at 11 am, the two teams of seven men each have met to play not for crowds or glory, but simply for their own amusement, regardless of weather or life’s situations. Conditions have run the gamut. During the 1973 game, temperatures climbed into the 60’s, while the 1997 game was played in single digits. The turf has been muddied, iced, and covered with over two feet of snow, and the men—now in their 60’s—simply play on. The rules remain the same as the original contest: centers are still eligible, three consecutive passes warrants a first down, and the field sides change after each touchdown. Protective gear is not allowed, and uniforms simply don’t exist.

The games used to last for hours, but get shorter each year. Basically the length is determined by what the men can stand. When someone who is exhausted says “How about two possessions each,” that is what happens. The Fast Guys dominated in the early years, but the Park Boys have made recent gains, as the Fast Guys are simply not that fast anymore. Snow is a great equalizer. The total record is always in dispute.

The Medford, Mass Snow Bowl Gang

The Medford, Mass Snow Bowl Gang

Players know which team they are on, as many participants have been together since kindergarten, and “If you don’t know me by now, you will never, never know me” is the sentiment that prevails. The men travel from all over the east coast to come to their game and do so because they simply love to play.

During the off season (the other 364 days of the year), players harass each other, suggesting their superiority, arguing about the total won-lost records, and glorifying past performances. Sometimes they get together for other athletic endeavors, and other times it is a “Same Time, Next Year” event. No calls are necessary as it just happens.

One guy got married the night before and showed up the next morning. Needless to say he got the game ball. Both teams were hung over in the early years, but knowing what is coming the next day deters serious debauchery. One of the players has actually had surgery three different times the day after the game. Children seldom play. Last year one of the teammates passed, and his son came to take his spot. Families sometimes come by, but generally the fans consist of a passerby walking his dog. Most of the wives don’t really understand why their men do this, and the mantra when guys depart for the game is generally “Don’t come home if you get hurt.”

The only concession made to age is that the men greet each other with a hug instead of a handshake and have come to actually appreciate their opponents. They also hang on to the thought that they may not be as athletically gifted as they once were, but for a moment, just one more instant, they might be as good as ever. To a man they believe that playing together with friends outside in the snow is not just for children, but for men as well, and they are determined to play as long as they can put one foot in front of the other. It is a revolution of sorts, spawned by the spirit of a society of aging men who believe they are exemplary in their pursuit of athletic longevity.

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Marc Sokolik Keeps On Winning Medals

softball throw

Marc Sokolik has done it again. In his latest St. Louis, Memorial Day, Senior Olympics competition, with 1800 competitors, he placed sixth or better in all 11 events he entered: four golds, two bronzes, one fourth, two fifths, two sixths. I love the different events he competes in. I mean this guy is 71 years old. I bet he could beat many people half his age! You can read about him and his earlier achievements by typing his name in the search box above right.


football accuracy

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Johnny McEntee’s Tricks Throwing A Football

Here is a link to a video I couldn’t embed. So just click on it. This college kid has a skill throwing a football that is pretty amazing and at targets not in a game. Very amusing and impressive…

Johnny McEntee's football passing tricks

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Though Ernie Davis’s Life Was Unfair And Short, He Made It Tall And Inspires Us All

Ernie Davis with his Heisman Trophy—12/61

I woke up pretty pissed about how unfair life was for Ernie Davis. I never heard of him until last night, when I bumped into a movie about him called The Express, because he was so fast and so good. Coming from a dirt poor childhood, he wins a football scholarship to Syracuse and becomes the first in his family to go to college, the first African-American to win the 1961 Heisman Trophy, which is the most prestigious award in college football given to the most outstanding player, and then in 1962 Ernie becomes the first African-American to be the number one pick in the NFL Draft.

It was late at night, I was tired, so at this point I stopped watching the movie and took a quick trip to the internet to see how his life turned out. Dammit. He never played one pro game, because he was soon diagnosed with leukemia and died a year later…he was just 23. Snuffed out.

If I could interview him in heaven, he might tell me that he had more fame and success and satisfaction in his few years alive than many people who live three or four times longer. He might tell me that all the racism he encountered was painful, but he helped inspire other black people to strive for their best and not back down. If one part of the movie is accurate, he also convinced white folks, like his coach, teammates, and classmates, to be more accepting of black people and see that the differences between the races are not as great as they were raised to perceive.

After the Heisman Award Ceremony, President John F. Kennedy, who had followed Davis’ career, met him and congratulated him personally. Later in 1963, Kennedy sent a telegram, reading:

“Seldom has an athlete been more deserving of such a tribute. Your high standards of performance on the field and off the field, reflect the finest qualities of competition, sportsmanship and citizenship. The nation has bestowed upon you its highest awards for your athletic achievements. It’s a privilege for me to address you tonight as an outstanding American, and as a worthy example of our youth. I salute you.”

So what’s my point? Clearly Davis was not an ordinary person. But he did face enormous obstacles—no money, no connections, bigotry, isolation, social pressure to not cross over conventional lines. Yet he overcame them. If you and I can’t make such big leaps, if we are never going to be written about in papers and national magazines, or documented in movies, we can still be inspired by his example to make smaller achievements than his, but the biggest ones we are capable of.

Ernie Davis wearing the same number 44 as Jim Brown did before him

I once asked a philanthropist I met if she agreed that people were mean-spirited, jealous, self-centered, envious, evil, corrupt, greedy, power-seeking? She reminded me that some people are noble, creative, altruistic, dedicated to improving society and the lives of their fellows, unselfish, humble and happy. I could focus on either group, or be aware that there are these two groups. But I shouldn’t forget about these good people, whenever the news stories concentrate on the mis-deeds of the bad guys. A great lesson.

As I searched for information about Ernie Davis, I found this letter written to Syracuse newspaper editor, Donnie Webb from an elementary school teacher. Very touching. (I should mention that Ernie’s jersey number 44 was also worn before him at Syracuse University by Jim Brown, whom many consider the greatest football player of all time.)

I am writing you to tell you about how Ernie Davis’ spirit is alive and well at our school. We adopted him as our symbol of character three years ago. He is the symbol of our character education program. Each and every student in our k-5 building knows who he is, what he stood for and they try to act as Ernie would have. Each September we hold an assembly and show the 44 video (E.D. part) to all of our children. Then we talk about the type of person who Ernie was.

Then each month Bridgeport Elementary highlights a different character trait to study. During that month we ask the entire community (kids, staff, parents, grandparents etc.) to write letters that tell us how a student at Bridgeport has demonstrated the particular character trait. Then, at the assembly we give out Ernie Davis awards. Every student that ha a letter written about him/her receives a medal with Ernie’s picture, the number 44, and the trait of the month written on it. We pick 3 or 4 outstanding letters and read them to the audience. Those students receive an Orange 44 football jersey with the character trait of the month sewn on it along with their name. We literally have scores of kids that have won jerseys. We also have a segment of the assembly called “What would Ernie do?” We ask difficult character questions and then have children answer by thinking what would Ernie do. There is more to this than what I am writing here. He has become a part of the culture of our school.

Thank you,
Kevin Ellis
Character Education Co-chair
Bridgeport Elementary
May 25, 2007

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