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Life out here by Bret Kofford: "Singing in the Scrimmage"

August 15, 2001

My son will be going out for high school football this week.

I have mixed feelings about that. He has never played organized football, but he is a good athlete and a quick learner so it's likely he'll do well eventually.

I love watching football, and particularly like the hard hitting, but I'm just not sure I want to see my skinny little boy getting hit at all, let alone hit hard.

And with the recent deaths at football pre-season camps, I am worried about my son being pushed too hard, too far, although he is a tougher kid than I ever was and I played for psychotic coaches, so he should be fine.


I could be telling him horror stories about football and football practice, but the truth is — and here is more evidence of how twisted I really am — I loved football practice. I loved every drill, every hit, every "gantlet," every bruise, every abrasion, yes, every wind sprint.

My high school coach, thankfully, didn't believe in double sessions like these coaches nowadays. No, we did triple sessions, usually in tremendous heat. I loved it all.

I only got over missing football practice each fall about 10 years ago, which was about 13 years after my final organized football practice.

I loved playing football in a deep and spiritual way — really — and more than anything I have ever done in sports I loved running with the football, seeing the holes, the alleys, the rivulets unfold, then trying in my short-legged, average-speed, oversized-helmet way to make it through the spaces.

The varsity games were fine, but because I played in a big-time high school program and my playing time ranged from some to not much, I liked practice more. There was less pressure, less glitz and no cheerleaders around who ignored you all week but acted as if they loved you from 7:30-9:30 every Friday night.

And in practice, the guys who tackled you were not unfamiliar, weird guys with acne-filled beards who looked like truck drivers and convicts, had garlic breath and stuck their fingers in your eyes and bit you on the bottom of the pile. No, the guys who tackled you in practice, other than Frank McNally, were your friends, and other than Frank McNally, they generally did not bite. Football practice was pure football, fun football.

In practice one of my main duties was scout team tailback. The coaches apparently thought I was good enough to give the first unit decent tackling practice but not so good that it would be much of a loss to the team if the first defense broke me in two.

My favorite practices were on Thursday nights, when we would go "live" under the lights of the stadium in front of about 100 parents and booster club members who had nothing better to do on a Thursday night in a boring town. A big part of those practices had the scrappy scout team taking on the first defense. Sometimes I would do well, but never well enough to play in the games more than the one or two guys in front of me on the depth chart. That was because, well, they were better than I was.

Come Friday I would play on special teams, maybe some offense or defense if someone messed up or got hurt, all while my father, a former college football player and high school football coach, fumed about the injustice of it all.

Come Monday, though, everything was great because it was time for football practice again.

I liked practice so much that I often sang a happy tune. As the quarterback would drop back to pass I might be playing safety in a scrimmage, singing something along the lines of, "Me and Mrs. Jones, we got" … then, THWACK a violent collision involving the crooning free safety and a wide receiver … "a thing goin' on."

Our remarkably short head coach was a rare "double outtie" in that both his gut and belly button stuck out remarkable distances. I often hypothesized to my teammates that is why he was such an angry guy, because God pushed him out twice but never pushed him up.

Coach didn't appreciate my sense of humor or my singing in practice. He thought practice had to be an angry affair. I thought it should be more like a Broadway musical. Oklahoma, for example, was both a top football program and a fine musical. We conflicted on that theory.

"Hey idiot," he said, using his special pet name for me one day late in my senior season. "Are you singing during practice again?"

I had been singing, "(Everybody Was) Kung Fu Fighting," so I could not deny it.

"Go run the stairs," the coach said. "But before he goes, does anyone have any requests for Perry Como here?"

(I said he was disturbed. I didn't say he wasn't funny.)

Off I went, back to my familiar bleachers, where I had been run many times, although usually as punishment for punching Vampire Boy Frank McNally. Frank didn't have to run the stairs after our fights because he was important to the team and needed to practice. On top of that, his dad, Ol' Red, was president of the booster club, while my dad, Old Rug, was the head of the pain in the patootie club.

So while I am a chip off the old block in many ways, I promise not to be a pain in the patootie to the freshman football coaches in coming months.

I can't promise that my boy, also a chip off the old block in that he can find fun almost anywhere, won't be singing in practice.

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