Looking back on one foggy night

It’s a scene I’ve seen many times in my sportswriting career.

It’s a fall Friday night and the local high school football teams are playing as usual.

But on this foggy evening, which is not unusual up here, this was a game that had extra meaning.

Just who the teams were is not important. It was the game, actually one play in it, that stood out.

The two old rivals had played a particularly fractious game the year before, and you could tell the feelings were still a bit frayed.

Back in the day (when this game was played) the atmosphere at football games was totally different from what it is today.

For one thing, the conduct of fans was different. To say that rooters for some schools got overly involved in the game would be an understatement.

I can recall some nights when the fans from opposing sides would sometimes mix it up on the sidelines. True story.

There was a rumor at one hostile field that if an opposing fan wandered into the dark area outside the end zones, they could end up with bruises and contusions.

Those incidents, I’m happy to report, seldom take place anymore.

One of the teams on this night had a definite advantage in size and talent. And it wasn’t long before the game was lopsided.

Still, the winning team continued to pour it on and tempers began to flare as the game progressed.

A young running back from the winning team got into the game and began to show he had some excellent talent himself.

To make a long story short, the young tailback was speared viciously in the back late in the game. It was a play not many fans witnessed because of the heavy fog on the field.

But you knew when the ambulance came on the field to take the young back to the local hospital, this was serious.

The injury eventually ended up costing the young man the rest of his football career  and one of his kidneys.

He ended up on a dialysis machine for the rest of his life, which unfortunately didn’t last that long.

I can’t say for sure if violence on the football field began to decrease after that foggy night.

But it definitely changed my attitude toward the game when my own son, and later, a grandson, began playing football.

I understood then that one play on a field could change a life forever.