Good news, U.P. football players! No matter what you do on the field in the next nine weeks, it is highly unlikely that you will produce the biggest blooper of the 2011 season.
So, go out there and play with abandon and no fear of embarassment. I've got you covered.
Last Friday at Hancock High School, I was watching Ontonagon and Baraga scrimmage at a safe distance behind the defense and making small talk about the storm that had made the field delightfully squishy when I saw that the game on the other end of the field between Houghton and Hancock was ending.
Hancock appeared to be leaving the field, which was no good, because I had to get a team picture. So I walked toward the sideline to flag them down.
Unfortunately for me, the Gladiators broke open a run to the left side as the play quickly cut off my escape to the sidelines.
At this moment, I was faced with what psychologists call a 'fight-or-flight' moment. It was a short one, since they had helmets and pads and I did not. But where to go? I couldn't just stop, for fear that a chasing defender looking the wrong way might mow me down. Cutting through the middle of the play to continue to the sideline was out, too. By this time, I was running out of options and the pack was closing in, so I ran alongside the ballcarrier for a few paces until the play reached its conclusion in the end zone. My dignity was not left intact, but my femur was, and that's all that counts.
Turns out it wasn't even the dumbest thing that I?did on Friday. One of these days I?will 'mastor' proofreading, but Friday wasn't one of them.
It looked as ridiculous as it sounded, which was confirmed to me when I talked to Ontonagon coach Dave Linczeski for our Kickoff 2011 edition, which will be in Friday's paper as long as I figure out how to squeeze all that vital information into just 16 pages.
While contemplating the life I had stolen back (and drying out my socks), I couldn't help but think that this episode was a little like football in general.
It's sensory overload, triggered by 22 people. While covering it, that sensory overload can be difficult to overcome, because it's impossible to watch more than a few people at the same time. Some day, I hope to have enough time to understand football better. Until then, I'll stick to the basics - there's more than enough on that front to write a 500-word story on deadline on a Friday night.
I've written quite a bit about my complicated relationship with professional football over the last few months.
With the scandals at USC, Ohio State and Miami (Fla.), I'm not sure that much of a difference exists between major Division I college football and the pros. Heck, as Sports Illustrated pointed out this week, most NFL owners won't buy their players prostitutes. Mike Brown won't even buy the Bengals a real quarterback. But at "The U," hookers were apparently "A-OK."
No such disconnect exists for me in high school football. I still know the words of my high school fight song, "Hail to the Varsity," mostly because we got a lot of practice playing it in the band when Danny Mettlach was the Gwinn High School quarterback.
When the scores come flying in on Friday night, I still ask if Gwinn's game is in yet.
I like guys shouting at each other on the sidelines to get their teammates up. I don't understand it, but it's passion, and passion is why I got into this business.
It all kicks off for 2011 on Friday night. Whether your team is home or away, 9-0 or 0-9, enjoy the season. It's so underrated, especially compared to what you see on TV Saturday, Sunday and Monday.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to raise some money to convince my friends in Ontonagon to keep a certain video off YouTube.
Brandon Veale can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.