Just Hit Somebody

I see the journey, the path I have taken like the wake of a great ship.

I am afraid of places where there are lots of people. I love concerts but the crowds are intimidating so if I go it is to smaller venues. I was happy and even blessed to see Peter Hook and the Light. I am not a huge joy Division fan but I adore New Order. It wa at an old theater now a concert venue. They took all the seats out so they could pack people in and by the time he came on it was shoulder to shoulder. It was an amazing show. When it was over everyone headed to the exit. We were near the front so it was jut a swarm of people in front of us all trying to get out. I would have been happy to let the room clear but my friend was tired of standing and took off. Until we got outside I felt panicked and so afraid. I hate that feeling but such is the adjustment to blindness that people do not understand.

Late in my sixth grade year there was a group of teachers and coaches that came over from the junior high to more or less orient us in what to expect when we went there for our seventh grade year. Almost all of the boys gravitated towards the coaches who talked about football and if we wanted to play we needed to get our parents permission and a physical from our doctor. My father had taken me out of football after my fourth grade year because I was too small and he did not want me to get hurt. I had little chance of getting hurt since I played the bare minimum and after all it was pee wee. I knew that he was embarrassed of me and wasit  a waste of his time for him. It was one more thing that set me apart from others, one more reason for them to make fun of me. I wanted to play football. I wanted to belong. I attended the meeting and took the requisite forms. My dad said no, that I was joining the band and playing the Cornet. I pitched a fit, was smacked around and barely ate or spoke the next few days. I refused to play in the band. My sister came and talked to me, said if I played football I would get hurt. Getting hurt was not a big deal to me, not playing was a big deal. My mother against my father’s wishes intervened, signed the permission slip and took me to get a physical. Other kids in my class also told me that I was not good enough to play, was too small and un-athletic. Of that group of boys I would outlast them all. I was determined to play varsity football  in high school. That summer I wan almost two miles a day in the Texas heat to get ready.

There were a ton of kids playing and I was not quite sure where to play. I chose cornerback and wing back since we had to have an offensive and defensive position. There were four teams and I was on the D team (yep the last team). I played one game on fourth team and then in practice the next week got tired of being scared and started whopping people, hitting them as hard as my little body could. I was reckless and I did not care but my coach loved it and a day later I was moved to C team where I met Coach Tim Massey. Like everyone else on the team I soon hated him. He was mean and short with his players. He demanded a lot and it was his first year coaching so he had a lot to prove. For some reason he liked me instantly.

The next year with a lot fewer kids playing because of attrition the coaches in their infinite wisdom decided that my best positions were offensive guard and linebacker. I did like playing linebacker because we hit all the time. I thought I was escaping Coach Massey but he coached linebackers and the eighth grade B team. He was my coach again. During one game late in the season I was replaced because of two penalties and when I came off the field the kid replacing me called me a name and I hit him across the facemask. it happened quick and I was not sure if anyone had seen. It was the next day before Coach Massey said anything to me. He asked me what happened and I told him. I had a punishment but I forget now what it was but the worst consequence was seeing that Coach Massey was disappointed in me. For some reason this really mattered to me and I thought about it a lot. I wanted and needed his respect and approval. I had to face the fact that I respected and liked him.

The next year was freshman football but we were still at the Junior High. I bounced between A and B teams that year. It is my second favorite year of playing football. Some weeks I played both games. The B team won every game or nearly every game that year. One day during linebacker drills Coach Massey was in a particularly bad mood and we just did drills where one kid would run into a hole and the linebackers would pound you. It was nutcracker without the benefit of a blocker. Coach Massey sent the scrubs to push a sled after they lollygagged a few times into the hole. There was no way I would have done that because it would hurt too much so I ran as hard as I could trying to run over someone so the A team linebackers asked if I could be the runner all the time. Coach Massey agreed. So I ran into that hole as hard as I could for multiple reps. Coach Massey even played some games with the starters  pitching to me wide. H eventually gave me a rest but when practice was over he patted my back and told me what a good job I had done. I walked on air for weeks.

After the season Coach Massey asked me to be his aide but I had already committed to my favorite teacher. He still occasionally pulled me out of class to run errands for him. Having his respect meant a lot to me and it made a difference because I was increasingly lost, starting to drink on weekends and wanting to not be a part of the home life that was falling apart. Looking back Coach Massey would have been the perfect person to talk to but talking to people and telling them how I was feeling was a near impossibility for me. Looking back though I wish I had taken that risk.

I don’t know where Coach Massey is or even if he is alive and coaching or teaching and it does not really matter. It was his job to make a difference in our lives and I felt that, still feel it to this day.


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